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In April 2018, Duke declared a new policy to become a fully smoke-free campus by the year 2020. This decision, framed as the natural progression of the Duke Healthy Campus Initiative, explicitly prohibits “combustible tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, and hookahs.” Notably, this ban does not prohibit e-cigarettes or vaping devices, which are cited as tools to help smokers quit smoking.
Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Now known as Veteran’s Day, we honor every former military service member on Nov. 11, including the thousands of now deceased American troops who fought at Flanders and Ypres. Trump, ever the astute political leader of the free world, canceled an appearance at a World War I ceremony during his diplomatic trip to Paris this past weekend. Citing “weather” concerns, Trump instead sent Chief of Staff, former general John Kelly and General Joe Dunford to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial to honor the thousands of American lives lost in France one hundred years ago. As usual, Trump’s decision has garnered backlash from various media commentators who have criticized the president’s supposed deep disrespect of the war dead. Despite the supposedly inconvenient weather, French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel still attended their respective ceremonies.
On Tuesday, more than 110 million Americans headed the polls to vote in the midterm general election. Marked by unprecedented voter turnout—the highest in 50 years—the Democrats gained decisive control over the House of Representatives and governorships in historically Republican strongholds in the likes of Nevada, Kansas and Wisconsin. Indeed, despite losses in Senate races, Democrats—aided by unprecedentedly high levels of voter enthusiasm—have still delivered an electoral repudiation of the Trump administration.
Last month, international attention turned to Brazil as far-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, was elected the country’s 38th president. A former military general under the regime of dictator João Figueiredo, Bolsonaro ran a populist campaign promising to overhaul Brazil’s corrupt government. His victory comes during a period of wavering faith among in federal institutions on the part of the Brazilian people.
Last Thursday, following two weeks of racist and anti-Semitic deadly shootings in the news cycle, Duke students woke up to news of “It’s ok to be white” flyers littered around East Campus and a pumpkin with a swastika. However, last week isn’t the first time this year these student groups have been targeted. In May, anti-Semitic flyers were sighted around East Campus and earlier this semester, a racist slur was scrawled on a wall in front of The Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture. These incidents are exemplary additions to a long genealogy of banal yet threatening acts of anti-blackness and anti-Semitism that are used to terrorize Black and Jewish people in daily life.
For many second-generation Americans whose parents did whatever it took to reach U.S. soil, their citizenship is a badge of honor and a meaningful chance for a more comfortable life. However, being born in the United States may no longer be enough to guarantee the rights and opportunities associated with being a full, documented resident if President Trump has any say about it. In a recent interview with Axios, he announced intentions to sign an executive order that would end birthright citizenship. Given that about 250,000 babies in 2016 were born to non-citizen immigrant parents, the order would carry a significant impact if implemented. In the days since Trump’s announcement, legal experts have frantically tried to ascertain whether or not this policy move would actually be constitutional since birthright citizenship is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. However, regardless of whether Trump actually manages to end birthright citizenship, merely floating the possibility is yet another deeply worrisome move in Trump's hard-line, white nationalist, anti-immigration campaign.
While the end of October marks the culmination of one spooky season, yet another is just beginning for us here at dear old Duke. The start of bookbagging for the Spring semester is a stressful time for many, riddled with unease and uncertainty as students wade through DukeHub searching for the perfect schedule. Tis’ the season when Google searches for “T-recs?” spike, students frantically cross-check RateMyProfessors for red flags and the frustration of adhering to a ‘Long Range Plan’ reasserts itself. For seniors, the thrill of finally being first or second to register competes with the bittersweet reality of their final semester. Meanwhile, underclassmen will find plenty of relatable meme content to soothe the pain of watching every class in their bookbag fill with upperclassmen.
On the morning of Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, during a morning Shabbat service in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, a middle-aged man armed with an AR-15 and three handguns fired upon a group of congregants in the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in American history. In total, 11 individuals—eight men and three women—lost their lives, while many others were wounded. The gut-wrenching attack has shocked the nation and the international community, with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, himself a former resident of Philadelphia, expressing his condolences on Twitter. Likewise, Trump sent a series of tweets in which he decried the events at Pittsburgh as “an assault on humanity,” and later noted that an armed security most likely would have prevented the attack. President Vincent Price sent out a mass email to all members of the Duke community encouraging people to find strength in unity against anti-Semitic acts.
This past Sunday, the New York Times reported on a leaked Trump administration memo outlining its plans to officially define gender as either male or female, determined at birth and henceforth unchangeable. This is a potential policy move that not only directly contradicts scientific evidence that sex has never been strictly binary and that ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ are definitionally distinctive terms, but also puts trans, non-binary and intersex populations at risk of being defined out of federal recognition. However, this recent news item out of the administration is by no means unprecedented. Since Trump has taken office, everything from protections for trans students using bathrooms of their choice to safeguards against medical discrimination have been rolled back. These national actions as well as local ones—like HB2, the infamous, now-partially repealed North Carolina bill that limited trans people from being able to use the restrooms that most closely aligned with their gender identity—make up a broader movement to silence and erase trans, gender non-conforming and intersex people from public existence.
As the nation gears up for midterm elections, campaigning politicians across the country are pulling out all the stops—as per usual—to promote their platforms and connect with their constituency. However, one recent public stunt that severely missed the mark was from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has been making rounds in the new cycle for using a DNA testing service to prove her proclaimed Native American ancestry. Warren submitted her DNA for analysis in response to President Trump’s repeated instances of mocking Warren by calling her “Pocahontas” and his promised $1 million charity donation if genetic testing supported her Cherokee and Delaware heritage. Earlier this month, the senator released test results that claimed there was biological evidence for Native American ancestry dating back six to ten generations ago for Warren.
At the end of last month, as Duke celebrated achieving a record-breaking $8.5 billion endowment, the Karsh Office of Undergraduate Financial Support sent letters to the families of students on need-based financial aid. These terse letters informed these students that, with the exception of those whose expected parental contribution is $0, Duke would no longer cover the cost of the Student Medical Insurance Plan (SMIP) in its need-based financial aid plans. For affected students, the letter, signed by assistant vice-provost and director of undergraduate financial aid herself, Alison Rabil, suggested two courses of action: to re-enroll in their parents’ plan or find a way out of pocket to cover the cost of a SMIP, which for the 2018-2019 coverage year totaled more than $3,500.
Just as the worryingly delayed turn of the season ushers in Autumn, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released a report predicting irreversible climate change by 2030 at the current rate unless temperatures are kept from rising 1.5°C. The findings of this study have stirred deep fears regarding the future of this planet and impending environmental violence creating droughts, flooding, crop failure, mass migration and climate-driven refugees.
After weeks of emails, registration efforts and social media rants, early voting in North Carolina is finally upon us. However, as we all attempt to find a few extra minutes within our busy schedules to drop by the Brodhead Center to cast a ballot, we should take time to reflect on the state of civic participation—both locally and around the country.
In cinematic depictions, news broadcasting and a myriad of other forms of media, the South has typically been othered and pathologized by the rest of the United States as backwards and plagued by a monolithic culture of racialized violence. The images of Black student protestors being hosed and chased down by police dogs in 1960s Birmingham, Alabama or Oxford, Mississippi on national television have contributed to cementing this depiction into the national conscience. Yet, the race riots that broke out in Northern and Western segregated cities such as Detroit, Newark and Los Angeles during the same time period have been conveniently ignored in these geographical comparisons. Even now, the racist disenfranchisement that was endured by many in the supposedly enlightened liberal bastion of the North well into the 1980s—through segregated country clubs and racist, exclusionist housing policies—continues to be forgotten. This ahistorical myth-making of the states below the Mason-Dixon Line as a the one, true home of white supremacy is fundamentally revisionist. These beliefs abstract the reality that all regions of this country—in its liberal ethos, institutions and public spaces—are indelibly implicated in the violent racism that has dispossessed Black populations, indigenous tribes and other people of color for centuries. The debilitating nature of racism has never been geographically confined, instead its various forms and implications have crisscrossed the expanse of this country in different manifestations for centuries.
On the eastern edge of China sits Duke Kunshan University, an institution that—in keeping with Duke’s mission statement—purports to promote knowledge in the service of society and free thought in a nation where a dictatorial Communist regime tramples over numerous freedoms. In particular, the westernmost precipice of Duke Kunshan’s home country has been undergoing unprecedented tumult and oppression. East Turkestan is home to between 11 million and 15 million Uyghurs, an ethnically Turkic and predominantly Muslim people. In recent years, the Chinese state have jailed and murdered Uyghurs in an attempt to destroy their ethnic identiy. A near tenth of all Uyghurs have been sent to “re-education camps” to be cudgeled into Chinese Communist ideology. To call for any action at this point would be premature and unrealistic; no reports have emerged of discussion being stifled at DKU. Yet, considering the stakes, a watchful eye over academic freedoms at DKU is a minimal duty that is incumbent upon all Duke students who care for our institutional mission and Duke’s representation abroad. Much of modern-day America’s concerns about race relations, as well as the vast majority of concerns that bubble to the surface here at Duke, center exclusively around racism in America. If anything, recent and continuing events in Western China are illustrative of the need to step out of our own world and to also recognize rampant xenophobia elsewhere.
Last week, news outlets reported that a group of three authors had produced 20 hoax papers that were submitted to several academic journals over the course of a year. The authors stated it was their goal to expose the tendency of certain academic journals to publish “grievance studies,” which they argue function as a form of pseudo-scholarship for individuals who have experienced social ills to wage a sort of ideological war. Commentators have both derided and congratulated the efforts of these authors, with some congratulating the authors for supposedly exposing the ideological biases prevalent within certain fields in the social sciences, while others have criticized the group for their glorified attempt at trolling.
With the last midterms exams being administered and our peers spending their final hours camped out in Perkins finishing up essays—despite wasting most of their time complaining to whomever will listen about how busy they are or ordering a $300 dress off Net-A-Porter—a brief four-day repose is nearly upon us. And while the undergraduate body has been busy attending recruitment coffee chats, arguing with distant aunts about the Kavanaugh hearing and finding a jeweler willing to diamond-encrust Juuls, Editorial Board has generously spent painstakingly long hour(s) brainstorming recommendations for putting that mini-vacation to good use.
On September 17th, DeAndre Ballard, a 23-year-old senior at NC Central University, was shot and killed by a private security guard outside of his off-campus apartment. Even as community members demand answers, the details of the details surrounding the shooting being released are vague and inconsistent. DeAndre’s family was left in the dark about what happened to him until three days after the shooting. In the days following, there was a lack of information communicated by NCCU, the security company, N.C. Detective Agency, and Durham police. The vice president of the security company immediately conducted an interview proclaiming full support of the security guard’s actions—insisting that they were done in self defense—and NCCU came out with a statement preserving their image and completely disassociating the university from the incident.
At the Fall Board of Trustees meeting last weekend, the University released its long-awaited endowment figures for the 2018 fiscal year. As reported by DUMAC, the organization tasked with overseeing Duke’s investments, the University’s total endowment now stands at a whopping $8.5 billion, up from last year’s record high of $7.9 billion. Buoyed on by relatively strong growth rates in the private financial sectors—especially the stock market—Duke drew in a 12.9 percent return on its investments, far exceeding the average 8.3 percent gain reported by endowments of all sizes in fiscal 2018 so far.
Early this month, news broke of a hefty monetary donation to Duke’s Center for the History of Political Economy from the Charles Koch Foundation. This $5 million grant was given for expanding faculty at the center, as well as building “relationships with students and partnering with the Rubenstein Library to hire a digital librarian.” While this may seem like an innocent investment in higher education to the average observer or politically apathetic Duke student, more malicious intentions of personal wealth accumulation lurk beneath the surface.