Task Force on Bias and Hate Issues Begins Work

Ten students join faculty, alumni and staff on panel to review institutional policies

At two sobering forums last semester, large numbers of Duke students called upon the university to address issues of institutional racism that marginalized them. Now, many of these students have stepped forward to help the university take positive action.

One hundred and sixteen students showed their interest by applying for the university’s new Task Force on Bias and Hate Issues. Of these, 10 have been appointed to join 17 faculty, administrators and alumni from across the university’s schools on the task force. The task force has been charged by President Richard H. Brodhead and Provost Sally Kornbluth to conduct a broad review of Duke’s policies, practices and culture related to bias and hate issues.

Brodhead announced the task force in the aftermath of a Duke community forum in November in which students of color and other groups told stories of how bias and hate issues affected their lives and education at Duke.

The task force is co-chaired by Linda Burton, dean of social sciences and professor of sociology, and Kelly Brownell, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy. 

Duke community contributions will be important to the success of the the task force, which will start meeting this week and will organize various opportunities for public engagement, the co-chairs said.

The task force has established an email address, taskforce-biashate@duke.edu, for members of the community to submit suggestions, comments and inquiries.

“This is a watershed time for the nation in addressing issues of bias, equality, and inclusion,” a statement from the two co-chairs said. “For true change to occur, many actions will need to be taken by many parties. Our sincere hope is that Duke’s Task Force on Bias and Hate Issues will play a constructive role in making a sustainable difference.”

Both co-chairs said they were pleased by the student community’s response to the panel’s formation. Using a score sheet to rank candidates’ credentials, Duke Student Government President Keizra Mecklai narrowed down the undergraduate nominees to 12-15 undergraduate students, while Graduate and Professional Student Council President Abbe LaBella did the same among the graduate and professional nominees.

The two student presidents then worked with the co-chairs to further winnow the student selections to five undergraduates and five graduate/professional students, with two alternates. The committee then approved the final selection of the students.

The focus of the panel will be on the student experience. The task force will work in partnership with the Bias Response Advisory Committee in Student Affairs, which advises Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta on responses to specific instances of bias and hate.

The panel will bring forward ideas, strategies and recommendations on a variety of topics, including:

  • what hate and bias looks like in the everyday lives of Duke students and identify what they mean across various groups
  • what institutional and personal factors reproduce hate and bias in the Duke community and how hate and bias is reported and monitored; and
  • what needs to be done to reduce intolerance, hate and bias in sustainable ways, as well as provide recommendations for achieving greater transparency in handling these issues.

The members of the task force are:

Faculty

Jim Coleman (Law); Edgardo Colón-Emeric (Divinity); Peter Feaver (Political Science); Gavan Fitzsimons (Fuqua); Thavolia Glymph (African and African American Studies, History); Andrew Janiak (Philosophy); Hsiao-Mei Ku (Music); Mohamed Noor (Biology); Adrienne Stiff-Roberts (Pratt); Erika Weinthal (Nicholas); and Anne West (Medicine).

Administrators

Abdullah Antepli (Civic Engagement); L.B. Bergene (Residential Life); Li-Chen Chin (Intercultural Programs); Janie Long (Undergraduate Education); and Luke Powery (Chapel).

Students

Stanley Yuan; Onastasia Ebright; Dustin Hadfield; Mia King; Ilana Weisman; Scott Bennett; Christine Kim; Maria de Oca Echarte; Khaled Ghannam; and Kylee Barnett.

Alumni

Jack Boyd, President-Elect, Duke Alumni Association.

In addition, nine staff members will serve as resources for the task force:

Valerie Gillispie (Archives); Paul James (OIE); Chris Lott (University Counsel); Larry Moneta (Student Affairs); Steve Nowicki (Undergraduate Education); Ben Reese (OIE); Sanders Adu (DBA); and Brandon Neal (DBA).

Natasha Eaves of the president’s office will serve as staff.