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On the United Methodist Church and making space for LGBTQ+ people

(04/08/19 2:52pm)

In February, United Methodist Church officials and members from all around the world—including a delegation from the Duke Methodist ministry—in a split vote decided to double down on its existing ban on LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriages. While Duke as a whole has not commented on the decision, despite the fact that it was founded as a Methodist university, others have spoken up. The Campus Minister of Duke Wesley (Duke's Methodist congregation), responded to the vote with a statement reaffirming LGBTQ+ people's place in the Methodist church. Greg Jones, dean of Duke's Divinity School, issued a statement saying that he and others are "grieving the deep wounds to the United Methodist Church." A columnist for The Chronicle, Nathan Heffernan, wrote an opinion piece calling for inclusion in religion—the Catholic church, specifically. Clearly, there is opposition to the vote and there is support for LGBTQ+ students on campus, but the question of whether or not it is enough in the face of larger religious institutions remains. 

Mine is lower than yours!

(04/05/19 4:00am)

As college admissions season draws to a close, with pomp and circumstance, Duke announced last week that the regular decision acceptance rate for the Class of 2023 had dropped to a mere 5.7 percent. This is a record low, dropping just under a percentage from last year’s record low of 6.4 percent. Members of next year’s incoming first-year class undoubtedly had to stand out from an incredibly competitive pool to gain admission and should be proud for having done so. But, beyond this astronomically low statistic, what does it really mean for Duke’s acceptance rate to have plummeted to 7 percent? 

The invisible labor of marginalized faculty

(04/03/19 4:00am)

Over the weekend, 13 Yale professors announced that they would be stepping down from their positions at the university’s Ethnicity, Race & Migration (ER&M) program. Their resignations were not the result of scandals or misconduct, but rather the acts of protest against Yale’s alleged refusal to support both the program and its larger mission. Yale created the ER&M program in 1997 as an interdisciplinary major, but then neglected the program, leaving it without an official department, autonomy or adequate funding. In the words of one of the program’s former professors, ER&M “has essentially been sustained by voluntary labor for the past 20 years.” The issues that exist in academia, specifically when it comes to inequality, are vast and deeply entrenched into the foundations of our academic institutions. This includes the unseen and uncompensated obligations and responsibilities taken on by professors, graduate student and staff members from marginalized backgrounds.

Climate change is an equity issue

(04/01/19 4:41pm)

Over the past two weeks, Southeastern Africa and the Midwestern United States have grappled with the aftermath of two severe storms. States of emergency have been declared in Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska after heavy wind, rain and snow devastated entire towns during a mid-March "bomb cyclone." Several people have died as a result of the storm and over one million acres of farmland has been impacted. Nebraska was hit the hardest and state officials have estimated the cost of the damage at around $1.3 billion. It took days for the Nebraska Department of Transportation to begin certifying some of the flood-damaged roads as passable. Iowa has also reported damages to freshwater treatment plants, leaving many residents without clean water. Meanwhile, in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, Cyclone Idai is said to be responsible for over 400 deaths after over two feet of rain fell in less than a week. The storm is estimated to be the worst “in the history of the Southern Hemisphere,” with Reuters reporting that over 2 million people may have been affected. In Mozambique alone, more than 400,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the massive flooding and damage to homes.

The long road to 2020

(03/29/19 4:00am)

Even for ardent politicos, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the number of Democrats entering the 2020 primary. From the obscure to old blue heavyweights, each politician in the super field of candidates is seeking to gain attention on the national stage, and to convince voting Americans that they are best suited to lead the country in what is to be one of the most consequential elections of the 21st century. Yet, even with the litany of Democratic choices, many are already hostage to the #VoteBlue mindset, prepared to support mediocre candidates on account of “winnability” over Trump. 

On DSG and laptops

(03/27/19 4:00am)

Last week, the Duke Student Government (DSG) Senate voted to ban laptop use during their weekly Wednesday night sessions. The new policy, unsurprisingly, was met with mixed responses, notably from Senators Jimmy Xiao and Kyle Melatti, who cited accessibility issues, in speaking out against the ban. Meanwhile, President Kristina Smith, and President pro-tempore Avery Boltwood spoke in favor of the new policy, claiming that it would improve engagement during long, multi-hour DSG sessions. Although not as “scandalous” in comparison to some past DSG controversies, this new policy provides an opportune time to reflect upon our student government’s many shortcomings (and positives). 

The race to death row

(03/25/19 4:00am)

Last Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that effectively halted capital punishment in the golden state. In a state with 737 individuals in death row—more than six in 10 of whom are Black or Latinx—with 25 who have exhausted their appeals, the deadline to sign off on their lethal injections would have been at the start of April of this year. Without Governor Newsoms’ moratorium on the death penalty, California would have resumed state-ordered executions after a 13-year hiatus.

Beyond Varsity Blues

(03/18/19 6:09am)

Last week, the ivory tower was stunned by the news of a college admissions fraud scandal connected to a number of prestigious higher education institutions. Dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” the FBI charged fifty people in six states—including famous actresses, business leaders and other well-heeled parents—for involvement in a nationwide bribery and fraud scheme to help their children gain admission to elite colleges and universities. Also accused are top college athletic coaches for facilitating the scheme by pretending to recruit the students as top athletes and the SAT proctors who helped the students falsify their scores. For the cynics among us, this scandal may not have seemed so scandalous. The college admissions process is rife with glaring—and entirely legal—inequity on nearly every front.

Vote Daisy Almonte for president

(03/06/19 5:00am)

Every March, right before the start of spring break, Duke undergraduates have the honor of ranking their choice(s) for DSG president. Facebook becomes inundated with campaign photos along with personal and group endorsements as junior DSG candidates seek to curry enough votes to claim the crown of DSG president on March 8th. As the official undergraduate student government at the University, DSG has in the past been criticized for its lack of diversity, poor attendance on the part of elected student representatives and for perpetuating a cut-throat, resume-boosting culture among its members. Criticism aside, the role of DSG president holds with it many responsibilities, including being a representative of student voices and concerns across Duke’s diverse campus community. This year, as always, three very talented and exceptional student leaders compete for election in the race to be DSG president: vice president of academic affairs Saheel Chodavadia, vice president of services and sustainability Liv McKinney and vice president of equity and outreach Daisy Almonte. 

The case for RA unionization

(03/22/19 11:14pm)

From desperate housing inquiries posted on the All Duke Facebook page to petition links on Duke Memes for Gothicc Teens, it was hard to miss the controversy currently surrounding Duke’s Housing and Residence Life at the end of last month. Several resident assistants (RAs) on East Campus were told to pack their bags and turn in their keys for reasons related to their participation in the time-honored, Duke-beloved tradition of black tenting for the UNC-Duke game. While RAs are technically permitted to tent, the actual letter of the policy is vague and enforcement from HRL has not been consistent, according to RAs. 

Failing the 48 percent

(02/27/19 5:00am)

Last week, to the shock of many students, an article on the 2018 Duke Student Experience Survey revealed a scandalous statistic: 48 percent. The report chronicled student experiences around sexual assault and harassment as well as their perceptions of campus restorative systems. The standout headline among the 75 pages of the report is the result that 48 percent of female survey takers reported being sexually assaulted while at Duke, up from 40 percent in 2016. While speaking about sexual assault strictly through cold percentages does a disservice to its very human victims, these deeply disturbing numbers frame our understanding of the full extent of the violence perpetuated here at Duke. 

A $73,513 education

(02/25/19 5:00am)

Last week the Board of Trustees approved a 3.9 percent increase in the cost of undergraduate tuition for the 2019-2020 academic year, which will now be $55,380. The total “official” cost of attendance including tuition, room, board and fees will now be $73,519, up from $70,873. While the 3.7 percent increase was the lowest rate of total cost increase in about 20 years—as reflected President Vincent Price’s statement that the adjustment reflected “concerns about balancing the costs of providing our educational experience”—student responses, as expected, have been less than favorable. As always, dissatisfied upper middle class Duke students went onto social media to voice their concerns about the 3.9 percent tuition hike. 

My obsession with the president's daughter

(02/22/19 6:20pm)

As Duke students gear up for their first pregame this weekend, they may or may not recall that Malia Obama made headlines in the Daily Mail this week. On Sunday, the 20-year-old was spotted “sipping on an $80 bottle of rosé” with friends in Miami Beach, Florida. This seemingly trivial news story ignited a slew of all-too-familiar criticism of Malia and the Obamas from various corners of social media. In the tradition of bashing the “wild” and “unruly” behavior of political progenies, conservative commentators heavily criticized Malia’s conduct. This proverbial finger shaking by the Daily Mail was by no means isolated. Quickly following Malia’s under-age drinking “scandal,” the Daily Mail reported on a “secret Facebook page” detailing “just how much the former first daughter hates her father’s predecessor.” But the Daily Mail’s obsession—as well as that of many other media outlets—with the leisure activities of Malia Obama runs far deeper than this most recent occurrence. Just last August, the Daily Mail detailed their sightings of the First Daughter smoking an e-cigarette and walking with her then-boyfriend in London. This was further preceded by TMZ reports of Malia “twerking” and smoking marijuana at Lollapalooza 2017. Clearly, the former first daughter is no stranger to the watchful eye of the media. 

What gets Blue Devils fired up?

(02/20/19 5:00am)

As Cameron Crazies prepare for one of the most anticipated games of the season, the jubilant anticipatory buzz has been disrupted slightly by a recent administrative decision regarding the annual pre-game gathering in K-Ville. Last week, administration announced that only those who tented for the Carolina-Duke game would be granted entrance to Krzyzewskiville between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. This procedural change comes after last year’s drunken mob fiasco and lax alcohol enforcement. As a result, a Facebook event has surfaced—with over 400 students marked as either going or interested—entitled “K-Ville Peaceful Protest”. The description of the event states that the protest will primarily be a tailgate and linked to another event called “Abele Quad ‘Kville’ Tailgate.”

Writing on the light rail

(02/18/19 5:00am)

If all goes as planned, the Durham-Orange Light Rail (DOLRT) is set to begin construction in 2020 and commence operations between Chapel Hill and Durham in 2028. When it will tentatively open, nearly ten years from now, the system will connect UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, downtown Durham and NCCU through an 18 mile-long light rail in about 45 minutes. At the moment, Duke has withheld support and land donations to the project, citing specific grievances related to the light rail’s potential effect on operations on activities at the medical campus and traffic off of Erwin Road. Various stakeholders in the light rail debate—community activists, alumni, environmental groups, etc.—have written in support of the light rail to President Price, urging him to sign onto GoTriangle’s funding application to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) before the April deadline. As Price and the powers that may be deliberate on whether or not to support the light rail, the topic itself deserves a critical editorial examination. Rather than being a cut and dry issue—as if the system could conceivably cure all of Durham’s municipal problems in the flip of a rail switch—the light rail represents a controversial urban renewal project that the University community should deservedly be cautious in considering.

Vote Trey Walk for Young Trustee

(02/11/19 5:00am)

Every February, students huddle around their laptops to vote—or rather rank— their choice for Young Trustee. During the weeks leading up to election, student campaigns for finalists, rivaling the funding and intensity of local political elections, heat up as various candidates seek endorsements and support from student organizations on campus. This year, as always, four prominent members of the undergraduate community at Duke stand for election in the race for Young Trustee. They are Luke Farrell, Archana Ahlawat, Brian Buhr and Trey Walk. Like in the past, all four candidates are running on overly ambitious agendas that most likely will not make a significant impact on a Board of Trustees dominated by wealthy, out-of-touch white men and women. Aside from this disenchantment, however, we strongly encourage undergraduates to rank Trey Walk first for Young Trustee, this week. 

Re-appropriating history: White-washing the Takeover

(02/08/19 5:00am)

This Saturday, to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Allen Building Takeover, Duke is holding an all-day commemoration of this pivotal moment in our institution's narrative. The Department of African and African American Studies, among others, will be hosting the event and have invited Black alumni from across the decades to honor the bravery of the students who took over the Allen Building that fateful February morning in ‘69.