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Among their many talents, Duke students are particularly adept at two things: writing and running organizations, which done in conjunction has yielded Duke’s proliferation of undergraduate publications. But undergraduate publications, like all other student groups, still require funding and organizational assistance.
The Board of Trustees corporately addresses the University community that it governs in three ways. First, it lets Duke news releases spin flattering stories about its deliberations. Second, it allows reporters a short briefing after meetings to ask a few necessarily superficial questions. Third, every once in a while, one if its members will give a speech at a University event, usually one arranged for an entirely different purpose.
Duke Kunshan University has been met with skepticism and confusion since its conception. In the past, we have criticized University leaders for their lack of clarity and direction—and the announcement of further delays in the opening of campus as well as concerns surrounding academic freedom have only served to heighten apprehension. It is our hope that the recent appointment of key administrative officials to DKU—Liu Jingnan as chancellor and Mary Bullock as vice chancellor—will begin to clarify the muddled conversation surrounding the initiative.
Trinity College of Arts and Sciences supports the liberal arts in name, but does the University support them in practice? Undergraduate Trinity requirements, also known as T-Reqs, indicate that the Duke has at least conceptualized a liberal arts education. But considering the lack of an auditing system for either of the two course designations—Modes of Inquiry and Areas of Knowledge—Trinity seems to have botched the execution of the curriculum.
Duke launched its first online course Monday as part of a pilot project in conjunction with Coursera, an online education company. Duke will be joining a small but growing number of top universities offering massive open online courses. MOOCs differ from traditional online courses in that they have unlimited enrollment: Any student can sign up, for no cost presently, to take the course. Fancier MOOCs even boast social networking functions such as discussion boards and Q&As that facilitate virtual interaction.
Course evaluations are broken. The current system by which students assess professors at Duke offers all the relevant stakeholders—students, professors and University administrators—precious little value. Specifically, we feel the timing, venue, content and perceived importance of course evaluations are all lacking. To this end, we propose a number of improvements to the current system.
Thursday’s editorial discussed the remarkable accomplishments of Common Ground, an intensive retreat hosted by the Center for Race Relations. Common Ground’s best and most important success is providing a positive and enriching experience to the fifty-something participants it graduates each semester.
Duke is a school obsessed with dialogue. We love dialogues, as evidenced by all the formal mechanisms we use to have them: student working groups, advisory councils, committees and subcommittees for every imaginable thing. But few groups on campus facilitate dialogue as powerfully as Common Ground—the centerpiece program of the Center for Race Relations, which is also accepting applications throughout this week. At a university where issues of race, class, gender and sexuality are notoriously combustible, Common Ground provides a safe space where Duke students can share personal experiences and achieve better understanding with one another.
Each year during Orientation Week, 12 to 15 off-campus student homes are paid surprise visits by administrators and the Duke University Police Department as part of a program called Knock and Talks. We commend the University for attempting to foster good town-gown relations. However, that being said, Knock and Talks does the opposite, immediately engendering distrust among students, neighbors and administrators at the very beginning of the year.
Last week, The Chronicle put Duke’s jump from eighth to tenth on the U.S. News and World Report’s college rankings on its front page, accompanied by a graph of Duke’s ranking over time, with a ribbon over the year 1997 when its position peaked. Chest-thumping Facebook statuses are not the most scientific metric, but the continued mania surrounding the U.S. News’ annual release both reflects and perpetuates an unhealthy obsession with rankings in higher education.
In preparation for the upcoming renovations of the West Union Building, the Center for LGBT Life will be moving to the Bryan Center by next fall. Under plans released by the Office of Student Affairs earlier this month, the LGBT Center will have significantly less space than it hoped for, particularly for putting on programming and possibly providing an office for a new assistant director. Considering that that the center’s new location in the Bryan Center is essentially permanent—it will not be returning to West Union after renovations—we urge the administration to seriously consider ways of expanding the space, if even only by a few hundred square feet.
The Intellectual Climate Committee report, released Tuesday, should be the starting point for a serious ongoing discussion about undergraduate intellectual life. Wednesday, we discussed the thorny structural problems that prevent students from pursuing credentialism and intellectualism simultaneously at Duke. Today, we focus on several smaller areas identified by the ICC: faculty involvement and sophomore and junior malaise—that indicate a lack of resources and can be helped through more concrete and immediate action.
Amassing credentials has become an almost obligatory part of the undergraduate experience. Whether seeking our first job or the next degree, many of us experience considerable pressure to rack up activities and honors as we march through college, even if it means sacrificing genuine learning. Credentialism springs largely from external pressures, and those of us who accumulate credentials most zealously rarely do so out of contempt for intellectualism.
Dirges about the professionalization of the liberal arts education can be as romantic as they are unoriginal, not to mention as frequent. The spirited defense of the liberal arts curriculum—often a code word for the humanities—as an object to be pursued independently of and, occasionally, at the expense of professional interests, has become a bustling genre of its own. Duke’s own contribution to this genre, the freshly minted Intellectual Climate Committee Report, adds a new twist to the old form: professional pursuits don’t just distract from intellectual ones, they can even erode the intellectual experience in the classroom and on the quad.
Duke’s most hotly debated issues—Tailgate, dining options, an ill-defined campus culture—often have little to do with the University’s educational mission. When we pine for the freedom to customize the college experience, we forget that Duke exists primarily to help us learn, not serve as a playground to our wildest collegiate desires. The Intellectual Climate Committee, which released its report today, has refocused the conversation on learning. Its findings, though not all clear, illustrate the importance of intellectual stimulation outside of class and point to the emergence of a changing student body desires more of it.
Student loans are a big deal this election season, as evidenced by the roaring applause whenever Obama mentioned college affordability during his speech Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention. Obama promised to “work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next 10 years,” partly by withholding federal aid from colleges that fail to keep tuition down and produce good educational outcomes.
Duke is a school that is always ready to try something new. There are several possible explanations for this distinctly Duke trait, like the University’s relatively short history, which might lend it a fresh, young attitude. Another reason could be Duke’s warm and southern locale, where business might run differently than at most of its colder, more northerly peer schools. We’d personally like to credit the entrepreneurial spirit of Duke students, who embrace change, especially when the change is the result of their own ingenuity, problem solving, and teamwork.
Duke’s Panhellenic Association will move its recruitment from campus to the Durham Convention Center this year. In the past, recruitment has been across East and West Campuses, with potential members shuttling among all nine sororities in venues ranging from the Von Canons to Brodie Gym. Consolidating recruitment in one location will be more convenient for everyone involved. It will also hopefully ensure all sororities hold their rounds in equitable venues.
Every Fall, a new group of freshmen is newly introduced to the three-point Duke Community Standard that, by their very matriculation into the University, they have agreed to uphold. Yet survey data from 2011 suggests that a significant number of Duke undergraduates are dishonest in their academic endeavors.
At Harvard University, 125 students are under investigation for possibly cheating on a take-home final exam in a government course offered last Spring.