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In 2014, Vijay Iyer delivered the keynote speech at a reunion of Yale Asian American alumni. Addressing a room of people who may as well have been Asian Americans from Duke, he contemplated on what it means to be “Asian American.” Iyer argued that “to succeed in America, is somehow, to be complicit with the idea of America—which means that at some level you’ve made peace with its rather ugly past.”
It is difficult to believe that it has only been a few weeks since I left Duke for spring break with the (perhaps naive) assumption that I would return. In that short time, with the shift to online classes, student evacuation/evictions and stay-at-home orders, our lives have been upended in the wake of the coronavirus.
In 2016, the first year I was eligible to vote, I was a very enthusiastic Bernie Sanders supporter. He made me, and millions of other people, excited about the potential for real progressive change in this country. His campaign exposed me to democratic socialism, so I owe him a good deal in my political development as a leftist. I was genuinely sad when I didn’t register in time to vote for him in the primaries. I held my nose casting my first ever vote for Clinton in the general election.
Like every senior, I’ve been receiving emails for the last few months about the Senior Giving Challenge, reeling me in with donor-exclusive balls and Chapel climbs in exchange for a donation to Duke. Last week, I also attended a “senior leaders dinner” with students, administrators, and other University officials in a two-hour exercise to encourage a euphemistic interest in philanthropy and alumni engagement. I made up my mind years ago never to donate to Duke, but I did get a free dinner out of this experience.
During the Vietnam War, student protests rocked campuses across the country, including here at Duke, condemning the “military-industrial-academic establishment” and their universities' involvement in the bloody business of war.
The Silent Vigil of 1968 and the Allen Building Takeover of 1969 have achieved—rightfully so—an almost canonical status in our institutional memory of Duke student activism during the late 1960s and 1970s.
Last Monday, Palantir Technologies—a company with a multi-million dollar contract with ICE—hosted an ethics tabletop exercise at Duke asking participants to wrestle with ethical dilemmas such as, “Can you save the lives of 10,000 people without jeopardizing the freedoms of 100,000?” Palantir also participated the next day at TechConnect, seeking to network with Duke computer science and engineering students.
Almost immediately upon stepping foot on campus, most Duke students pick up on a pervasive culture of “effortless perfection.” Many students have already commented on this expectation to work hard and play hard, get perfect grades, have multiple leadership positions, conduct research, secure prestigious internships and still have a thriving social life. It’s a culture that has a truly pernicious effect on our mental and physical health, imbuing a deep sense of alienation, inadequacy, stress, depression, anxiety, and so on.
This summer, like many summers in recent memory, was hot. July 2019 was the hottest month in recorded history. Greenland’s ice sheet lost 11 billion tons of ice in one day. Smoke from Amazon fires blotted out the sun in cities thousands of kilometers away. The ominous prognosis that we have only 12 years to prevent irreversible, catastrophic climate change, seems grim.
Students might not be allowed to keep pets, but hidden in the nooks and crannies of West Campus, some feline residents call Duke home.
Just 20 minutes off West Campus lies a forest clearing and an open sky filled with hundreds of stars for those visiting the Duke Observatory to explore.
A student-organized task force is examining the viability of an Asian American studies program at Duke.