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'A second best decision'

(02/25/15 8:22pm)

When Duke canceled plans for a weekly Muslim call to prayer, or adhan, from the Duke Chapel, many who opposed the cancellation claimed that the University had caved to conservative evangelical Franklin Graham and the financial boycott called for in a Facebook post where he called "on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed."

Serving with dirty feet

(04/22/14 11:25am)

Most of us “do service.” Sometimes it’s far away, at an orphanage in Kolkata with DukeEngage. For many, it’s here in Durham, tutoring elementary school students or building homes with Habitat for Humanity. Maybe you want to do Teach for America after you graduate, or maybe you simply plan to volunteer at a soup kitchen once you have a family.

Words to live by

(04/08/14 10:15am)

Every so often a quote changes your life. Much more often, a quote helps shape how you view your life or how you understand the world. Today I share some of my favorite quotes, borrowing another columnist’s idea. I hope one of these quotes offers you insight of some sort—about yourself, about your future, about the meaning of life.

The price of love

(03/25/14 10:28am)

I didn’t know Becky DeNardis. But many of you, so many of you, did. And many of you loved her. Some of you performed a song at her memorial service, a tribute from her friends and neighbors in Round Table. You played a soaring cello, a mournful tuba and an evanescent flute whose melody poured forth over the gathered crowd. Six of you sang, gathered in pairs at microphones. Your voices washed over everyone at the service like waves landing one after another on some far-away shore.

Hurrying past our neighbors?

(02/11/14 7:56am)

In 1973, two Princeton psychologists published a study that should give us pause amidst our hurry. The study subjects were seminary students, Christians preparing for a career in ordained ministry. They had signed up to serve in churches, help the poor, alleviate suffering and be “professional Christians.” Yet, when experimenters told the seminarians to hurry, they were much more likely to ignore human suffering that the experiment placed right in front of them.

The resume, the road and the dream

(01/28/14 11:07am)

At 10 a.m. last Friday, I sat down with an accomplished mid-career professional whom a friend had recommended to me for internship advice; I’ll call him Joel. After Joel and I got to know each other, I outlined my five-point plan for getting a summer internship that could lead to a job after graduation. I told him where I planned to apply and what I would say in my cover letters. He brushed aside my well-constructed plan with an unsettling question: “What do you actually want to do this summer?”

A matter of life and death

(12/09/13 9:07am)

Exam week is a great time to think about death. As wide-eyed freshmen forswear human contact and move into Perkins study rooms, I wonder: What will happen after I die? Not in the religious-spiritual-metaphysical sense—rather, what will they say at my memorial service? Will the service be short and perfunctory, or will they raise a toast to a life well lived?

In defense of DukeEngage

(11/19/13 9:58am)

DukeEngage makes for a woefully ineffective relief organization. After securing a $30 million initial endowment, the program’s leaders decided to help the poor, illiterate and hungry by sending a small army of Duke undergraduates across the country and world each summer. That’s like sending Coach K to be an elementary school literacy coach. Though I’d pay to see a guy named Mike Krzyzewski teach phonics, we’d make a larger impact by just hiring a good teacher.

Hidden costs of the shutdown

(10/08/13 8:05am)

The government shutdown is hitting close to home—800,000 government workers’ families are going without pay, many near my hometown in the D.C. area. Although they will eventually receive back pay, many families are limping along without a paycheck. Less important in human terms but more important in terms of cuteness, we can no longer watch pandas cuddle on the National Zoo’s Panda Cam. But there’s a bigger hidden cost that we would regret in 50 years: The shutdown could lead even more of the “best and brightest” young people to reject public service.

Watch List: Sanford School of Public Policy

(09/26/13 6:18pm)

Just a five-minute walk from West Campus dorms and a stone’s throw from Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Sanford School of Public Policy offers both convenience and a dose of good luck that comes from our nearby basketball temple. Hundreds of undergraduates visit the building for classes during the day, since Public Policy consistently ranks among Duke’s five most popular majors, according to a 2010 Chronicle article. But just a few Dukies know to return late at night to take advantage of an unappreciated study spot hiding in plain sight.

Have I changed?

(09/24/13 8:30am)

“When did you change?!” My hometown friend almost shouted the question at me. She and I grew up in the same church back home. We co-led our youth group and went on at least 6,000 retreats. She knows where I come from—geographically and personally, culturally and spiritually. If I’ve changed, she’d be the one to see it.

Listening to skeptics

(09/10/13 7:19am)

It’s easy to think that all Duke students would be happy to march in the annual Gay Pride Parade that passes by East Campus. The student body’s social liberalism means that we wait in line for hours to attend the Me Too Monologues and eagerly pick up our “Love=Love” t-shirts on Coming Out Day. My campus Christian group, for example, is having a fellowship outing this week—to the Fab Friday party at the renamed Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. A Chronicle survey in 2011 found that 85 percent of Duke undergraduates want gay marriage legalized. But what about that 15 percent?

Embracing ignorance

(08/27/13 7:01am)

"My father died when he was 103 years old. He died knowing nothing. I’m 76. I’ve studied capoeira since I was 12, but I still haven’t learned anything. I know nothing, and I too will die knowing nothing.” I was floored. The old man speaking had cloudy blue eyes that only come with old age and hair as white as snow—snow, which he has never seen during his long life in the tropical city of Salvador, Brazil. Mestre Curió is a respected master of capoeira, the centuries-old Afro-Brazilian tradition that blends martial art and dance. He has his own capoeira center that has flourished through decades of his leadership. Capoeira students young and old make pilgrimages to his center from all over the world. And yet he says that he knows nothing—about capoeira, or anything else. 

Boy scouts: inclusion or irrelevance?

(06/13/13 6:58am)

I’m a straight Eagle Scout, and I care about the Boy Scouts of America. I want the organization to survive so that I can be an adult leader for my own children someday. I want to take them on their own trips to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, the place where I truly fell in love with backpacking. I want the BSA to be vibrant for my kids like it was for me. But it will fade into irrelevance unless the BSA fully accepts both gay youth and gay adult leaders.

Drink with your parents

(05/23/13 8:39am)

I turned 21 last month. Not gonna lie: It’s great to be legal. I love a cold Yuengling or a drink at the on-campus bar (farewell, fair Dillo). I know alcohol can be a healthy part of social life. But when you look around campus on a weekend or Wednesday night, you see way too many people stumbling off the C-1 and chundering (a.k.a. vomiting in the bushes). We all know about the unbearably high costs of heavy drinking: car crashes that have killed our classmates, situations where sexual assault is more likely, the EMS calls that are routine on Duke’s campus. A friend once said something revealing at a party: “If I wasn’t in college, they’d call me alcoholic. Man, I love college.” He wasn’t making an ironic reference to the Asher Roth song. How does our drinking culture get this messed up?