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In an office-wide election last Friday, Breanna Bradham was unanimously elected to become the 114th editor-in-chief of The Chronicle. Bre, as she is known by many staff members, will succeed our current Editor-in-Chief, Likhitha Butchireddygari, on April 25, to lead our student newspaper. We congratulate Bre for being selected among an extremely talented pool of student journalists to helm the celebrated publication. Moreover, we would like to take this editorial space to reflect on the position, and what it means to occupy such an integral leadership role within the Duke community.
As chairs of the board, we don’t often get to write outside the confines of a 600 word editorial in AP style format. More often, our time is spent hurriedly editing and making final touches to articles before they’re shipped off for publication. Our time is spent browsing through The Chronicle, The New York Times and other reputable news sources for topics that we can collectively talk about during our meetings. As chairs, we moderate editorial discussions and try to locate the middle ground on which every member of the board—which is comprised of diverse, multifaceted students from all across campus—can agree upon. Consequently, we would like to use this editorial space to personally reflect on our time spent on the board for so long (which is about two years in the language of Duke students).
Beginning tomorrow, students will cast their votes for the next Young Trustee. Among the official candidate pool are four, highly qualified Duke seniors: Amy Kramer, Bryce Cracknell, Liz Brown and Chinmay Pandit. Each of the four candidates represents a unique voice on this campus and will bring to the Board their own particular set of experiences if selected for the position. Consequently, the process of voting, much less endorsing, a candidate for such an important position is by no means a straightforward process or discussion. As a board of student opinion journalists coming from a wide swathe of on-campus experiences, we ultimately could not come to a clear consensus on who to specifically endorse.
With social media news feeds flooded with campaign promotions and candidate flyers smiling out from every bulletin board, campus election season is in full swing at Duke. Over the next few months, the student body will elect peers to serve in prominent student leadership roles in the University, including the Board of Trustees and Duke Student Government’s executive board. While not all students will be galvanized into participating in campus politics, the student representatives we elect play a role on committees and bodies that shape consequential issues for University life, including academic curricula, the affordability of a Duke education and sexual harassment policy. Thus, ahead of elections, we encourage students to think critically about the ways they want to be represented and the qualities they desire in individuals entrusted to act in their best interests.
The 2018 Winter Olympics are set to commence this week in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Historically, the Olympics have acted as a biannual thermometer for international politics as well as an opportunity to cool tense international relations. Though the Olympics in principle is supposed to represent an unadulterated celebration of athletic achievement, the Games nonetheless have often serve heavily political purposes; we need only look at the controversial 1936 “Nazi Olympics” held in Germany during rise of the Hitler’s regime, or the U.S led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, to see such politics at work during the quadrennial games. These Olympic games are no different, and we would do well to acknowledge the unique political circumstances at play this year in Pyeongchang
Many current and former members of the Duke community were launched into online sparring regarding post-graduation donations after Steve Hassey’s column last week, Class of 2018, don’t write a check to Duke. Lost amid the indignant Facebook commentary touting Duke’s financial aid generosity was a broader conversation regarding Duke’s relationship to fundraising and institutional issues. There is no shortage of controversial points of budgetary contention on campus and—at a university where money speaks—there are ample opportunities for students and alumni to critically analyze their investments within this school. Specifically, the potential for unification in demands for action from Duke through our collective power as potential donors.
Earlier this week, news broke of a Duke Student Government Judiciary investigation which found DSG guilty of “flagrant misconduct” regarding Krzyzewskiville. The inquiry found that through a series of bureaucratic missteps, K-Ville had been operating illegally earlier this January and that line monitors had been holding their positions unlawfully. The latest dramatics surrounding the Duke undergraduate representatives have plunged the university tradition into controversy. While some of the language used in describing the situation appears to be, in truth, overly harsh, this supposed scandal does allow for a chance to consider the errors found and their implications for campus politics.
Last Tuesday, Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III delivered to a national audience the official Democratic Party rebuttal to President Trump’s state of the union address. A scion of the highly influential Kennedy dynasty, the New England congressman conveyed the official party response from the confines of a local auto-shop in Fall River, Massachusetts, a historically blue-collar community. Without officially referring to Trump, Kennedy lambasted the current presidential administration, delivering an explicit philippic against the current state of the nation under the ruling GOP government. Evoking the image of a diverse, egalitarian America rooted in historical precedents, Kennedy advocated for a new, seemingly utopian future under the Democratic Party that would harness the “spirit of a people united in defense of their future.”
As we approach the one year anniversary of the controversial executive order that banned travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations, it’s due time to evaluate its merits, or lack thereof. Crafted of course by none other than Duke alumnus Stephen Miller, the travel ban was promulgated in large part as a move to satiate the more xenophobic tendencies of a core voter base of supporters that secured President Trump’s victory. Beyond the moral and ethical implications of the directive, the ban is also troubling in terms of how out of touch it is with the realities of the contemporary terrorism. If anything, this move by the Trump administration was hugely detrimental vis-a-vis domestic counterterrorism efforts because it played directly into narratives used for radicalization.
As part of an annual series of distinguished speakers hosted by the Baldwin Scholars, activist Angela Davis is slated to speak at Duke Chapel later this month. Much like guests who have come before her, the professor emeritus and feminist icon has been a fervent advocate for social and economic justice for much of her life. During the height of her activist career, she was notably involved in a number of left-wing organizations like the Communist Party USA and the Black Panthers. However, what sets Professor Davis apart is the amount of state repression and demonization she has faced in her pursuit of a just society. While Davis’ life has been iconic in a number of fields, because her work—both inside and outside of academia—has largely been centered around race and power, it is poignout to ask how such themes can apply to Duke. In light of the timely Monday Monday column poking fun at Duke’s Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, the infamous administrator is the perfect candidate for an in-depth analysis on how race, power and punishment intersect in an inequitable society.
A 12-year-old black boy named Eric, his devastated parents and the police who shot him in the neck: in a story that seemed straight out of CNN, last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy featured a plot to which many viewers could relate. Episode writer Zoanne Clack has described the episode, titled “Personal Jesus,” as “an amalgamation of stories that were out in the media and personal experiences.” Clack’s goal, especially as an underrepresented female screenwriter in Hollywood, was to tackle “unconscious bias” in policing and how it drives the rates of police brutality when it goes unchecked, putting black lives like Eric’s at risk.
In recent weeks, late night hosts have been openly mocking Stephen Miller in a series of high-profile roasts. Miller (Trinity ’07) has become an instrumental part of the current presidential administration after having served under a number of key GOP leaders. Under Trump, Miller is thought to be the main architect beyond the administration’s controversial immigration ban policies. Late night hosts ranging from Samantha Bee to Saturday Night Live have mocked Miller, with Bee going as far as to label him “a political smallpox blanket.” Not surprisingly, most of these late-night roasts have referenced his time at Duke, particularly his biweekly Chronicle column. As a board, we condemn Miller and the gross intolerance he stands for. Nonetheless the case of Stephen Miller—his current role within national politics and late-night television—forces us to confront important questions regarding our institutional role in his creation.
In a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, 839 voters in North Carolina were asked to identify their political affiliations, as well as their personal choice between the Duke Blue Devils and UNC Tar Heels. Though the methodology of the poll leaves much to be desired, the results suggest that Trump voters marginally prefer Duke basketball over UNC basketball, with Clinton voters displaying an opposite trend—supporting UNC over Duke by a wide margin. Given Duke’s image as a supposedly “liberal” university, the results of the poll may come across as someone shocking to the average Duke student. Nonetheless, given the image of Duke as an elite institution, along with the role of sports as a greater unifier within American culture, the dual image of a Trump voter/Cameron Crazie perhaps is not altogether surprising.
Often, we hear from academics and students alike the pressing need for more debate and open conversations beyond the confines of a campus consensus. Although groups such as Duke Conversations and POLIS’ Bipartisan Leadership Team do provide some spaces for open and unfettered conversation, the problem at heart—the unwillingness to debate genuinely on political issues—still remains largely unaddressed at Duke. The conventional understanding of debate is one characterized by winners verses losers. The principal winner of a debate is one who can cripple the other side intellectually and thus gain the most support from a given audience. This framing of debate as an activity where one gains at the direct expense of the other naturally hinders the desire to converse politically with peers with differing viewpoints. Moreover, the stubbornness on the part of some students to hear views they perceive as wrong or amoral is particularly problematic when individuals have re-centered themselves to the left and right flanks of political belief, with both ends of the spectrum refusing to peer into the logic of the other.
Last Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced details of its ongoing overhaul under the Trump administration. Specifically, one of these new policies will introduce so called “conscience protections” for healthcare workers; in other words, medical providers will now be able to, under the guise of protecting their religious freedom, to legally reject performing certain medical procedures, such as abortion or gender-affirming surgery, on patients. Under its newly created “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division”, the department will protect such “conscience protections”—no matter how bigoted or prejudiced—under the umbrella of the first amendment.
With the recent publication of a detailed narrative, Aziz Ansari has become the latest publically implicated celebrity in a national movement against sexual assault that has been making headlines since October of last year. Writing anonymously, the victim described what she called “the worse night of my life,” only to see swaths of other women decry her experience as merely a night of consensual, albeit bad, sex. Amidst this latest controversy, it has become clear that the MeToo and Times Up movements have catalyzed incredibly difficult conversations around intimacy. But as more stories are shared, we are faced with the project of outlining nuances to these issues.
Last Friday, Democrat and Republican members of Congress failed to reach an agreement on congressional budgetary spending, resulting in a government shutdown on the one year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration. Although this isn’t the first time federal employees have found themselves furloughed as politicians locked horns in Washington D.C., this current funding bumble presents some unique circumstances that are worth considering.
The crux of the partisan disagreement that has prevented a new budget from being signed stems from the protections, or lack thereof, offered to immigrants brought into the United States as children who qualify for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program. Democratic congressional leaders and the Trump administration have been clashing on the issue of immigration—especially the status of the DACA recipients—since the president took office. In an effort to avoid adding this provision, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday to fund the government for four weeks and renew the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), forcing Democrats into a decision between two important and necessary programs. CHIP has long been a part of bipartisan social safety net initiatives and is now re-emerging in the House chambers after the Republican-controlled Congress failed to reauthorize the program. Nonetheless, Democratic members remained steadfast in their demand for a DACA renewal, leading to the current last-minute scrambling and deal-brokering going on at the Capitol.
While our last experience with a shutdown was a mere five years ago, there are numerous elements that have made this one particularly contentious. In the months leading up his election, Trump offered a host of campaign promises that were vital to his success, the most notable being the ones that centered on a contempt for immigrants. Trump has also been politically volatile throughout his first year, frequently changing his mind on issues important to his constituencies and struggling to communicate with his party in the House and Senate. Despite having succeeded in repealing the crucial mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act and passing a conservative tax bill, many Republicans still question the president’s political consistency and express concern over consistent administration infighting. All of this has made for a especially unpredictable congressional session. In addition, efforts to implement his key initiatives, like fortifying the border wall and restricting immigration, have contributed to a deeply vexing political gridlock. Democratic members of Congress have finally displayed a backbone and are now pushing back with all their might on a highly publicized issue while Republican members accuse them of having chosen to hold interests of undocumented residents over native-born Americans. With a concerning uptick in nativist rhetoric and white supremacist conceptions of citizenship since the Trump campaign, it’s no surprise that issues of immigration have become symbolic and emotional ideological battlegrounds.
Last week, a panel of federal court judges, in an unprecedented decision, announced that the North Carolina state legislature’s gerrymandered congressional districts were unconstitutionally partisan. The court ruling describes the state legislators responsible for drawing the districts as being “motivated by invidious partisan intent” and cites a violation of the 14th amendment, which guarantees equal protection of the law. Given that Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly were quite vocal about their partisan agenda, evidence for gerrymandering was apparent; Representative David Lewis—who drew the 2016 congressional districts—even stated that he believed “electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats.” Since the court ruling, the mainstream media has suddenly become abuzz with think-pieces and opinion articles on partisan gerrymandering and its implications for both parties.
On Friday, Senator Bernie Sanders will visit Duke’s campus for a public conversation with Reverend William J. Barber II, former president of the North Carolina NAACP. Unsurprisingly, tickets for the event sold out within hours, attracting attendees eager to hear thoughtful dialogue on policy issues as well as people flocking to snapchat a celebrity politician. While many know of Sanders for his decades-long advocacy on issues such as healthcare and labor rights, since the 2016 election season, Sanders has also become a pop culture icon, galvanizing a millennial fanbase attracted to his #feelthebern social democratic platform.