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Dear students,
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day, and in the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, protests have taken place in many cities in the U.S.—including Durham— and worldwide, at a scale not seen in many years, a scale some would say is unprecedented. But the grave corporeal dangers faced by people of color, especially Black people, every day, and the emotional toll of structural and interpersonal racism, are far from “unprecedented.” We want to acknowledge, as President Price has stated, that for many people—at Duke and beyond—the pain, trauma, and sense of alarm we are experiencing is overwhelming.
As leaders, and as a Duke community, we must take immediate tangible actions that address bias and hate in proactive and continuous ways. As we have undertaken our roles, Gary since 2018-2019 and Mary Pat in this past academic year, we have sought to increase efforts for meaningful inclusion in all elements of the student experience. Our first steps have included engaging regularly with a wide range of student leaders from identity and cultural organizations and ensuring that both new and longtime members of our leadership teams seek to continuously gain awareness of the diverse lived experiences of our students and staff.

We are reaching out today to share concrete first steps that Duke will take now to further address the impact of racism on our campus as it impacts the undergraduate living and learning community.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
We know that students from marginalized communities at Duke have voiced concerns about racism and injustice long before we began serving in our roles, and that students have sought changes—particularly around our hate and bias protocols—in recent years. We recognize, too, that many at Duke have spent decades lifting up students’ experiences and working towards equity and inclusion. We want to ensure that students and our colleagues in student-facing departments are recognized for their advocacy and partnership. There is significant and complex work ahead, and we’re committed to centering this as a shared and enduring priority in undergraduate student life. We welcome your valuable input as students throughout this process. We invite you to respond to this email to share your thoughts, and we will continue to build in opportunities for students to share their perspectives and provide feedback. 

Finally, we want to remind all students that support resources remain available to you even when you are away from campus. We are here for you and hope you will stay connected in the weeks ahead. Please see a list of available resources for student support happening in the weeks ahead.

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost of Student Affairs 
Gary Bennett
Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education

Resources for students 

Students have access to a range of wellness resources and support through Duke’s Student Wellness Center.
The Student Affairs Identity and Cultural Centers also serve as important resources and places of connection and support for many of our students. The centers are offering programming and support throughout the summer months.