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This message is being sent to all undergraduate students.

Tuesday, September 29

Dear undergraduate students,

In response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, we sent a message to all undergraduate students on June 1 describing ways we hoped to enhance efforts to foster enhanced racial justice, equity, and meaningful inclusion for all undergraduate students here at Duke. We acknowledged that “addressing centuries of injustice requires us as leaders — and Duke as a community — to take tangible, informed actions that address bias and hate in proactive and continuous ways.” We’re writing now to update the student community on the progress made thus far, including the ongoing efforts of our teams in Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs.   

Throughout the summer and early fall, we have seen a notable degree of reflection among undergraduate students, including our newest students,  students engaging remotely this term, and student leaders in many capacities. We recognize you all as our partners in helping to effect meaningful, lasting change. As you review the efforts outlined below, we hope you will reach out to us and to our teams to identify other opportunities to connect, engage, and act to bring needed change to our campus. 

We are especially appreciative of the extraordinary contributions of the faculty, staff, and student leaders who joined the Hate and Bias Working Group this summer, chaired by Deans Jeanna McCullers and Clay Adams. We also want to thank Dean Jordan Hale, the FAC Board, and the faculty and staff who served as pod leaders for the Foundations of Equity program at New Student Orientation.  The Identity and Cultural Center teams, including Directors Nick Antonnici, Sachelle Ford, Linda Capers, Krystal George, Lisa Giragosian, Joyce Gordon, Chandra Guinn, and Joshua Salaam continue to develop robust and ambitious programs to support underrepresented student communities at Duke, and we want to thank these leaders and their teams for supporting our student communities in this challenging time.

Please reach out to us by responding to this email if you have questions or want to get involved in this work.
Thank you all, and go Duke,

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost of Student Affairs

Gary Bennett
Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education

Commitment 1:

“We will work to review and revise the undergraduate student harassment policy outlined in the Duke Community Standard: A Guide for Undergraduates to include more concrete response protocols that address incidents of hate and bias by the Fall 2020 semester. We have asked Dean Jeanna McCullers and Dean Clay Adams to lead a working group including students and key stakeholders this summer, and more details will follow. We will include our new Dean of Students when named, in this effort as well, and identify opportunities for broader student input and feedback.”

From June through August, a Hate and Bias Working Group, comprising faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, met regularly to develop more concrete response protocols to address incidents of hate and bias as outlined. The working group evaluated existing response protocols for both the undergraduate and graduate/professional student populations. Three subcommittees: (1) Response; (2) Communication; and (3) Diversity, Support, and Outreach quickly identified several key recommendations and action steps. A broader listing of the committee’s recommendations, and next steps associated with their implementation, are appended to this message. 

Among the key recommendations are that Duke undertakes the following:
  • Establish an Ombuds office, through which undergraduate, graduate and professional students can access resources for reporting incidents and identifying formal means of resolution for a wide variety of matters. Provost Sally Kornbluth has recently authorized the creation of a Student Ombuds office with two full-time ombuds available to support undergraduate and graduate/professional students starting in the Spring 2021 semester.
  • Review and evaluate the Undergraduate Bias Response Advisory Committee. Since 2015, a team of Student Affairs administrators has reviewed incidents of bias reported to Student Affairs and recommended action steps to the Vice President of Student Affairs. The Summer 2020 Hate and Bias Working Group noted that many students were unaware that this group existed and recommended that the committee be re-named, re-charged, and positioned to more directly serve students and student groups impacted by bias and recommend avenues to foster greater awareness of administrative actions whenever possible. We agree, and we are forming a newly charged Community Incident Response team to begin its work in October 2021.
  • Establish a group that will work proactively to find opportunities to foster greater inclusion in student life. Distinct from the response and outreach team identified above, which will focus on actions and communications when incidents of hate and bias happen, this group will work to align and advance OUE and Student Affairs teams to proactively foster an equitable and inclusive campus climate at Duke. We are pleased to announce that Annie Kao, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education, and Joyce Gordon, director of Jewish Life at Duke, have accepted our invitation to lead the Undergraduate Campus Climate Committee.
  • Establish and widely distribute clear definitions, reporting options, investigation processes and resolution procedures for incidents of hate and bias. We are working with the Office of Institutional Equity, University Communications and our own communications leads to ensure this happens. We will charge the Undergraduate Campus Climate Committee with this task, in partnership with OIE. The current processes and reporting form can be found here.

The report of the Hate and Bias working group and recommendations can be viewed in its entirety here. This represents the initial steps we are taking to make reporting and supporting students who have experienced bias incidents more transparent, concrete, and responsive. We will continue to work toward cultivating an environment where hate and bias incidents are not only not tolerated, but not a part of our culture.

Commitment 2:

“We are conferring with Provost Sally Kornbluth, Vice President of Institutional Equity Kim Hewitt, Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement Abbas Benmamoun, and Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement Sherilynn Black to identify, develop, and deliver anti-racist and anti-bias programs and resources for faculty and their academic units.”

Our colleagues in the Provost’s Office, the Office of Faculty Advancement, and the Office of Institutional Equity have made significant efforts in this respect.
The Office for Faculty Advancement (OVPFA) and Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) have developed a series of anti-racism resources for faculty and academic leaders across the University. Highlights include:

In addition to these specific programs, OIE and Faculty Advancement will be evaluating policies and guidelines that govern recruitment, hiring, promotion, and governance. More information will be forthcoming from Vice Provost Benmamoun and Vice President Hewitt.

Commitment 3:

“We will implement specific anti-racist and anti-bias orientation programming for all new students—incoming first-year and transfer students—starting with the Class of 2024 and to be implemented this fall.”
  • The Orientation team, led by Dean Jordan Hale, partnered with 50 faculty and staff leaders, the FAC program and the Durham based organization Equity Paradigm to offer “Foundations of Equity,” a mandatory program for all incoming students that took participants through the structural and institutional legacy of race-based discrimination in the United States.
  • The New Student Programs team also worked with the FAC Board and other campus groups to continue the YOU at Duke program, which this year focused specifically on Duke history and the role we all play in better understanding each other's stories.
  • As a follow-up to the “Foundations of Equity” program, Student Affairs Identity and Cultural Centers co-hosted First-Year Facilitated Conversations to continue the conversation in small groups, providing students the opportunity to consider the foundational concepts related to equity and take a closer look at anti-Black racism with the support of cross-center staff teams.

These programs reflect our initial efforts to engage in programming that is anti-racist and which seeks to identify and address bias against Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color. As we go forward, we will consider student and community feedback, and iterate on the development of such training and opportunities each year.

Commitment 4:

“In partnership with the Office of Institutional Equity and the identity and cultural centers in Student Affairs, we will comprehensively review existing anti-racist and anti-bias efforts for staff and students across Student Affairs and Undergraduate Education to identify financial and structural resources needed to enhance the quality and scale of existing efforts and meet those needs.”
  • To expand upon the work done in programs like Foundations of Equity and First-Year Facilitated Conversations, Duke’s Identity and Cultural Centers are offering second-level training available to all students, through smaller-group conversations developed and aligned with the University’s commitment to creating an inclusive and equitable community with opportunities for all members of the community to learn, connect and contribute. More information will be shared soon on this as a practice-orientation education opportunity.
  • These efforts for staff continue to be a goal for fall 2020, continuing into winter 2021. We are working with VP Hewitt and VP Benmamoun to offer staff development workshops that will engage staff in all OUE and VPSA departments throughout this academic year. Check back soon for more updates on these continued efforts.

APPENDIX I: Hate & Bias Working Group

The Hate & Bias Working Group met from June through August 2020. The group, comprising faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, met regularly to review the undergraduate student harassment policy outlined in the Duke Community Standard to include more concrete response protocols that address incidents of hate and bias and evaluate current response protocols as they relate to the undergraduate and graduate student populations.

Here are the key takeaways from the working group:
  • The University must be prepared with clear protocols that delineate reporting, investigation, and resolution procedures for hate or bias incidents. Regardless of the investigative outcome, there should be a plan for how to minimize harm and promote an equitable campus climate.
  • A Hate & Bias Incident Response must include both a) a clear reporting, investigative, support and disciplinary response process and b) a network of preventative practices aimed to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion competency and create an accountability culture of anti-bias among students, staff, and faculty.
  • The Hate & Bias Working Group acknowledges that there is far more work to be done than the initial revision of the undergraduate Hate & Bias Response Policy, but a longer duration of work is necessary to comprehensively address policy and resource-based solutions when engaging Hate & Bias in our campus community.

APPENDIX II: Working group participants


The Hate & Bias Working Group met from June through August 2020 and was co-chaired by Deans Jeanna McCullers and Clay Adams.

There were three subcommittees: (1) Response; (2) Communication; and (3) Diversity, Support, and Outreach. 

Charge of the Response subcommittee: Review the university's current Bias Response Protocol, charge of the Bias Response Advisory Committee, alternative resolution, and make recommendations accordingly. Additionally, outline and develop year-long recommendations for the purpose and status of this Working Group moving forward.
  • Dr. Zoila Airall, Associate Vice President, Student Affairs
  • Dr. Matthew Becker, Professor of Chemistry
  • Dr. Sarah Gaither, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
  • Ada Gregory, Associate Director, Kenan Institute of Ethics
  • Joyce Gordon, Director, Jewish Life
  • Hildana Haileyesus, Admissions Officer, Undergraduate Admissions
  • Ling Jin, Student Development Coordinator, IHouse
  • Quinton Smith, Assistant Director, Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture
  • Christina Wang, Undergraduate Student, Trinity, Class of ‘22

Charge of the Diversity, Support and Outreach subcommittee: Assist with the identification and compilation of current campus resources (i.e., departments, committees, organizations, etc.) explicitly addressing the issues of bias and hate on campus. Additionally, assist with identification and compilation of support resources at the university to assist and address incidents of bias and hate.
  • Dr. Milton Blackmon, Academic Dean, Trinity College
  • Linda Capers, Director, Center for Multicultural Affairs
  • Benjamin Cooke, Assistant Dean, Pratt
  • Alan Kendrick, Assistant Dean, Graduate Student Development
  • Stephanie Robertson, Director, Community Engagement & Advancement, Fuqua
  • Cartier Robinson, Undergraduate Student, Trinity, Class of ‘21
    Dr. Gabriel Rosenberg, Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies
  • Tiarra Wade, Assistant Dean of Students, DukeReach

Charge of the Communications subcommittee: Determine how best to communicate the work of each of the subcommittees, the working group, and assist with the development of communication mechanisms for policies and processes related to bias and hate.
  • Alyssa Florwick, Doctoral Candidate, School of Medicine
  • Ramya Ginjupalli, Undergraduate Student, Trinity, Class of ‘22
  • Dr. Michael Gustafson, Associate Professor of the Practice of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Annie Kao, Assistant Vice Provost for Undergraduate Finance and Administration
  • Jay Pearson, Assistant Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • David Sakyi, Admissions Officer, Undergraduate Admissions

The work of this summer’s Hate & Bias Working Group will be continued by an ongoing response team and working group — the Undergraduate Campus Climate Committee.

This group will work proactively to find opportunities to foster greater inclusion, combat bias, and dismantle systemic racism and oppression, and align this work with previous efforts to address ongoing campus climate concerns at Duke.

The group will be co-chaired by Annie Kao, assistant vice provost for undergraduate education, and Joyce Gordon, director of Jewish Life at Duke.

APPENDIX III: Submit a Bias Report

Members of the Duke community may report a bias incident online. Someone without a NetID may report a bias incident by emailing conduct@duke.edu. More information is available at https://studentaffairs.duke.edu/bias-response