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The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is set to open to the public on April 26, 2018, becoming the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people. The memorial ultimately will memorialize the myriads of individuals who were mutilated by lynch mobs, dehumanized by Jim Crow laws, and people of color who continue to endure contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.
Over the weekend, hundreds of Duke alumni flooded campus. With name tags slung around neck and cameras at the ready, many divided their time between touring the new Brodhead Center, reuniting with old classmates and attending on-campus events. However, the tone changed when a group of activist students protested during President Price’s speech in Page Auditorium. The undergraduates demanded action from the Duke administration to address the grievances of multiple student groups on campus. In response, dozens of alumni shouted angrily from the crowd and physically turned their backs as a sign of dissent. The viscerally negative reaction from some in the classes of ‘68, ‘67, ‘73, ‘78, ‘83, ‘88, ‘93, ‘98, ‘03, ‘08 and ’13—the alumni in the auditorium that day—gives the impression that they seem to have forgotten the stains on Duke's history that they lived through as well.
This Saturday, an alumni gift-giving ceremony in Page Auditorium was the scene of twenty-five undergraduate students taking the stage from President Vincent Price. The impetus for their actions was the fifty year anniversary of the Silent Vigil, a retrospectively-praised hallmark of Duke’s tradition of student activism. Occupying Price’s podium, the students linked arms and announced a damning review of a myriad institutional inequities to the gathered alumni. They condemned administrative tendencies of evasion rather than confrontation, of task forces rather than conversation and of unbounded—almost hubristic—reminiscence rather than painfully holistic reflection. This type of institutional critique champions the idea that it is necessary to conserve what we remember Duke for, while also chipping away at anachronistic skeletons.
This week marked fifty years since the greatest display of activism in Duke’s history: the Silent Vigil. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., hundreds of students rallied to demand racial equality, and the event gripped our campus for days. It pushed President Knight to form a committee to address race-related issues on campus. It provoked the chair of the Board of Trustees to raise the on-campus minimum wage for non-academic workers by the following year. What began as a call-to-action to dozens, mobilized nearly two thousand students. They occupied Abele quad for days, marched with discipline and reflected in quietude.
Heath Freeman, Trinity class of ’02, has garnered controversy as of late for his role in destroying local newspapers. Freeman is the president of Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund with the subsidiary Digital First Media, a newspaper chain that has been buying up local newspapers and dismantling them all across the country. The Denver Post, the most widely read newspaper in Colorado, has seen its newsroom shrink from 250 staff members to 100 in less than a decade, and now orders to cut thirty more reporters will reduce the remaining staff size by one third. Amidst calls for Duke to cut ties with Freeman, there remains the opportunity for conversations about the importance of local newspapers.
On Sunday, the Editorial Board held an hour-long interview with President Price. Over the last two days, we have utilized his responses as a lens to examine certain topics pertinent to the University: institutional accountability, and financial sustainability. Today, we end this series by turning our discussion to analyzing Price’s future vision for Duke.
In yesterday’s editorial, we discussed President Price’s responses to questions on University issues such as sexual assault, campus housing reform and labor relations from our hour-long interview with him on Sunday. Today, we turn to our discussion on the increasingly prominent issue of funding Duke’s ambitions as a leading research university, which is inextricably tied with questions about the affordability of a Duke education.
On Sunday, the Editorial Board held an hour-long interview with President Price. Over the next three days, we will use his responses as a lens to examine three topics pertinent to the University: institutional accountability, monetary topics and Duke’s future trajectory. Today we begin this series by discussing the accountability, or lack thereof, of students, faculty and administrators on campus.
We began our discussion by asking Price how his administration will work toward combating sexual assault at Duke. Price acknowledged that preventing sexual assault at Duke will “require calling upon a University-wide, and community-wide response.” He was upfront, admitting that at times students simply do not trust the institution’s sexual assault procedures. Reflecting such concerns, Price noted that building “a basis of institutional trust” will be essential in fixing the campus culture of sexual assault. When speaking of what preventative measures Duke could employ, Price suggested a data-driven approach: to continually review the literature on sexual assault and to analyze specific initiatives other universities have undertaken. Moreover, Price lauded the educational efforts of advocacy groups on campus, noting the value of bystander prevention programs despite the difficulty in precisely measuring their effectiveness.
As of late, housing reform has occupied an undeniably large place within campuswide discussions. Price noted that when discussing with students about areas in which Duke can improve upon, the current housing model is one such item upperclassmen usually express dissatisfaction with. Moreover, Price defended the administration’s recent policy of eliminating self-selected roommates among first-years, and recognized that more systematic changes will need to be implemented in the future if housing reform is to be successful. Despite the many current challenges concerning housing reform—including the place of Greek life and the availability of on-campus housing—President Price acknowledged that going into the next academic year, he intends to initiate a “a large, systematic dive into these questions [relating to housing reform].”
President Donald Trump’s most recent overture to his voter base has come in the form of restrictive tariffs being imposed on imports of steel and aluminum entering the United States. Initially, the president decided to impose taxes of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports in a move to “protect” domestic manufacturing industries. Stoking increasingly valid fears of a trade war with the world’s greatest exporter of goods, China, Trump has been uninhibited in continuing his anti-trade efforts with subsequent tariffs amid reciprocal trade measures taken by the PRC government.
Last week, black students who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida stated in a press conference that they have been largely ignored in the media’s coverage of the Parkland shooting. As debates about gun violence continue, many mainstream conversations have unfortunately continued to neglect to discuss how gun violence specifically affects black youth. Young black activists have been advocating for gun reform for decades without much attention or coverage from mainstream media. Fast forward to today, we can see that the black students of Parkland are likewise being left out of the mainstream media and that their voices too have been neglected.
On Thursday and Friday, Duke students will go to the polls and choose five new vice-presidents to represent them in Duke Student Government. For the position of VP of Durham and Regional Affairs, students will choose between sophomores Axel Herrara Ramos and Uwa Ihionkhan. Students will also rank both sophomore Liv McKinney and first-year Rebecca Torrance for the position of VP of Services and Sustainability. Finally, undergraduates will choose between three of their peers running for VP of Academic Affairs: sophomores Shreya Bhatia and Saheel Chodavadia, and junior Madden Osei. Although each candidate running for their respective position is undoubtedly uniquely qualified to lead their peers, we strongly encourage the student body to vote for Ihionkhan for VP of of Durham and Regional Affairs, McKinney for VP of Services and Sustainability and Bhatia for VP of Academic Affairs this coming Thursday.
Every year, Springtime is signaled by the warming temperatures, looming threat of finals and delivery of much-awaited offers from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to anxious high school seniors across the world to join the incoming Duke freshman class. And as with each Spring prior, the percentage of those that receive such offers has continued to fall. This year, of a regular decision pool of almost 33,000 applicants, only 2,123 of them—6.4 percent—were accepted. Together with the 875 of those who were accepted in the early decision round, Duke’s Class of 2022 acquired an overall acceptance rate of 8.3 percent—the lowest in University history.
Last week, the Office of the Provost hosted a major academic symposium in Rubenstein Library titled “American Universities, Monuments, and the Legacies of Slavery.” During the two-day event, scholars, students and community leaders from both Duke and other universities engaged in dialogue about the importance of remembering and rectifying past institutional wrongs. The final discussion of the symposium, titled “The Arc of Justice: What Universities Ought to Do About Reparation,” specifically focused on how institutions with historical links to slavery and white supremacy can atone for their past through an active reparations program, both symbolic and financial. At Duke, an institution that has had an active role in educating myriads of white supremacists as well as having supported Jim Crow segregation, we should heed such discussions and consider how we as a university community can institute some form of reparations to repay for our past wrongs.
With a little more than a month to go before the 64th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the public received news this Sunday that Linda Brown—the African-American woman central to the case—had died. From a young age she represented a major triumph over racist, state-sanctioned segregation that had existed de jure since Plessy v. Ferguson and de facto for far longer than that—all of which are supposedly by-gone eras. Despite its current status as often a meager paragraph wedged into the emaciated Civil Rights movement section in high school textbooks, the era of segregation only “ended” a generation ago. However, while Brown’s death reminds us of the gruesome not-so-distant past she and so many other endured, this tragic passing should also urge us to reflect on the ways in which the legacy and spirit of segregation still continues to permeate America today.
The Alexander Hamilton Society at Duke has partnered with Duke College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty—Duke Libertarians’ rebranded organization—to bring Zuhdi Jasser to speak at Duke, causing waves of outrage from Muslim students on campus. Dr Jasser, M.D., is apparently a “recognized expert on Islamism,” and is scheduled to speak about the supposed “responsibility of American Muslims,” among other topics related to the on-going, reactionary, Bush-era political project of constructing narratives of omnipotent Muslim extremism. What exactly American Muslims are responsible for doing remains dubious, but the purpose of the event is not: conservatives in the Duke community are once again supporting a one-sided “discussion” that ignores the humanity of students on campus and hypocritically bucks their own calls for robust dialogue on campus.
With the most recent exodus of remaining competent officials from the Trump administration, the President has signalled to any and all competent policymakers that serving in the administration is not worth their personal reputations. In firing H.R. McMaster, a man who has dedicated his life to public service, Trump has thoroughly nailed this coffin. More pressingly, Gen. McMaster’s replacement, John R. Bolton, has been described by some as a genuine national security threat. As stated by Duke Professor Peter Feaver in a recent article, “One can find more hawkish voices far from the corridors of power but probably not within them.” This grim reality of having appointed an ultra-hawk at a time of high global tension and responsivity to U.S policy is indeed frightening.
This past Friday, The Chronicle’s opinion managing editor, Leah Abrams, published a column highlighting Duke’s culture of being busy. In her article, Abrams discusses her personal embracement of the University’s infamous culture of filling up one’s plate with endless extracurriculars, social events and other activities from the cornucopia of the Duke experience. Abrams’ characterization of Duke as an inherently busy place, with busy students trying to make a difference in the world, is merited. Nonetheless, it is important to note the many nuances and limits within each individual’s Duke experience beyond Abrams’ characterization of the University’s overall culture.
Last night, Duke men’s basketball faced a crushing defeat in overtime to the University of Kansas. The Jayhawks advance to the Final Four of a March Madness tournament featuring a historic upset by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Loyola University Chicago as the tournament’s Cinderella team. With over ten million viewers and close to 100 million live video streams, the NCAA’s March Madness is one of nation’s most watched sporting events. Even though the Blue Devils’ season has come to an end, the fight for a national championship continues next week in San Antonio.
Over the previous DSG election cycle, one campaign item consistently stood out in almost every candidate’s platform: housing reform. It seems that for many students, the fact that Duke’s current housing system leaves much to be desired has catalyzed conversations centered on reorienting residential life on campus. In the past month alone, campus reactions to Duke’s new random roommate policy, the advocacy of Duke Students for Housing Reform as well as Duke senior Chris Molthrop’s guest column detailing Cooper’s intensely degrading rush process have received editorial attention in The Chronicle.
Joining twelve other student-led groups from different peer institutions, Duke Low-income/First-generation Engagement signed a letter last weekend calling for a reassessment of legacy admissions at elite colleges. Legacy admissions at Duke, the letter states, is at its core an unmeritocratic, classist and undemocratic policy. Considering Duke is an institution that is not shy in boasting about its supposed commitment to increasing educational access, its persisting legacy policy should not be immune to close scrutiny.