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The message below is being sent to all Duke undergraduate students.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Dear students,
For nearly two years, we have communicated to the undergraduate student body regularly on Duke’s efforts to respond to the pandemic. We have regularly, but less frequently, also written to update students on the efforts being made to move our campus systematically and meaningfully toward equity and inclusion. In advance of tonight’s Town Hall—Tuesday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Penn Pavilion—to discuss the findings of the campus climate survey, we write to share highlights of our efforts this academic year, while also understanding there is a need for sustained and continued movement. We look forward to engaging with many of you at the Town Hall tonight and in future meetings. 
Campus Climate Survey Town Hall 
In April 2021, Duke conducted its first-ever comprehensive survey around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. All students, faculty and staff were invited to participate, and the results, available on Duke’s anti-racism website, will inform efforts to address equity in the future.   

We invite you to join us for a Campus Climate Survey Town Hall tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Penn Pavilion. This will be an opportunity to actively engage with members of university senior leadership to discuss how we can continue to partner to effect meaningful, lasting change on our campus. 

Moving toward a more equitable and inclusive campus 

As undergraduate operations have resumed more of a typical year’s patterns, our teams have worked closely with student leaders and university partners to advance specific goals set out in the summer and fall of 2020 to identify ways we at Duke might steadily implement tangible, transparent measurable changes in policies, staffing, and student supports to move us towards a more inclusive campus.  We continue to have challenging work ahead of us and appreciate the partnership with students, faculty, and staff to accomplish all we have in this academic year. 

Listening and learning:  

  • Nearly 12,800 students, faculty, and staff responded to the Campus Climate Survey, conducted by the Office of Institutional Equity and the Racial Equity Advisory Council, giving us a baseline understanding of the campus climate on diversity, equity, and inclusion for the first time in Duke history. 
  • The Campus Climate Committee wrapped up its 18 months of work soliciting input from students, faculty and staff to develop comprehensive recommendations aimed at improving Duke’s campus climate around inclusivity and intellectual expansivity.  We anticipate the final report will come to us this spring. More on these recommendations in a future update. 
  • At the request of BSA and DSG, we convened a multicultural caucus for its inaugural meeting on February 21.  This conversation was just the beginning of what we hope is ongoing, meaningful dialogue. 
  • Based on student feedback regarding use of space in the Campus Center, a first-of-its-kind comprehensive space study is underway, which will allow us to better match our Campus Center spaces with our most significant student needs. 

Structural and policy changes: 

  • Housing selections went forward successfully this month, and QuadEx will be fully operationally with Quad Councils up and running in fall 2022. This fundamental shift in learning and living at Duke will advance the campus toward greater equity and intellectual vibrancy. 
  • To ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our students, Housing and Residence Life designed and implemented gender-inclusive housing for returning students. 

Staffing and programmatic additions or changes: 

  • We welcomed two dynamic and reform-minded leaders into new roles in two of our identity and culture centers—Dawna Jones to the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, and Krystal George, who previously served as interim director, to the Women’s Center.  Student input was critical to these moves. 
  • Associate Vice President for Student Engagement, Dr. Shruti Desai, has now been with Duke for a year. Her efforts to bridge connections and partnerships across identity and culture centers, and to support students, has been remarkable, and will advance Duke’s diversity, inclusion and justice work in important ways. 
  • In the fall of 2021, the Office of Undergraduate Education launched a new “university course,” with the goal of offering a gateway course that would introduce undergraduates to the multi-disciplinary study of race, and to encourage additional student-driven inquiry. A slate of co-curricular events, open to the entire student body, accompanied the course.  Learn more about the course.
  • We created and hired a new fellowship position in the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, and in partnership with faculty, created an LGBTQ living learning community. 
  • In response to advocacy from our international student community and to support our many international students’ ongoing needs, we hired Dr. Kevin D’Arco as senior associate dean of international students who will bring strength and resources in this area. 

Funding and other support: 

  • Duke’s Native American Indigenous Student Alliance, in partnership with the Center for Multicultural Affairs, has hosted an annual powwow for several years with funding from DSG and SOFC. Thanks to the support of President Price and Provost Kornbluth, the University now has institutionalized funding for Duke’s annual powwow. 
  • We acquired TransPerfect software to translate financial aid and other materials in more than 100 languages to make this information more accessible to students and their families.  This is just the first step in making communication more accessible with families. 
  • Affinity graduations will now have an ongoing source of funding, thanks to the advocacy efforts of many of our student groups. 

We look forward to seeing you tonight where together we will discuss how to make our campus climate more welcoming and inclusive, so that everyone can find their place at Duke. The current state of our world is a reminder of the continued work needed toward equity.  We will continue to move our campus toward equity in sustained partnership with you. 

Better together, 

Mary Pat McMahon 
Vice Provost of Student Affairs  

Gary Bennett 
Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education