In Two Sessions, Leadership Discuss Reopening Decisions, Take Questions

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched nearly every aspect of Duke life, from classrooms and dorms to university finances and athletics. As Duke begins a new semester, President Vincent Price and other Duke leaders spent two hours discussing the impact of the pandemic at Duke and answering many questions from faculty and staff.

Price, Provost Sally Kornbluth and Executive Vice President Tallman Trask discussed a range of pandemic-related issues in two hour-long sessions shown on YouTube on Friday. A common thread throughout the two hours: Appreciation and praise for the faculty, staff and students at all levels who have made enormous efforts to pivot the university to new modes of learning and made possible the changes needed to create a safer, healthier campus environment during the pandemic.

“As we look at what we did in the spring, and the effort our faculty have given to produce an even higher quality version of this in the fall, I just also want give a shout to our staff,” said Valerie Ashby, dean of Trinity College who moderated the first of the two panels.

“There is just no way we would be able to do this without our staff. They have been on campus and given their time and done some heavy lifting so we can deliver on this.”

Ashby and Fuqua Dean William Boulding, who moderated the afternoon session, posed questions submitted in advance by members of the Duke community. The questions focused on the behaviors required by the Duke Compact, the impact of COVID-19 on the student experience outside the classroom, athletics and the state of university finances.

While the semester begins with many questions, all the leaders said the summer has provided useful experiences. Kornbluth noted that the opening of research labs beginning in May had gone very well, even when some labs had to be temporarily closed for additional training in safety procedures.

Price concluded the morning session acknowledging that the semester will be different from previous years, but that he has already seen the kind of resilience from the campus that gives him optimism.

“This is an opportunity for us to work creatively with our students to advance what we think is most valuable at the core of our educational mission.”

The next Leadership Conversation event is for alumni on Monday, and more are expected to follow.