President Price Message on Anti-Racism Initiatives

Part of the Anti-Racism Scholarship, Learning and Activism at Duke Series

To the Duke Community,

In the months since my Juneteenth message regarding the university’s commitments to anti-racism, we have witnessed continued, vivid reminders of ongoing daily violence against our Black neighbors and of justice delayed or undone. At the same time, the pandemic has persisted as a vital threat around the globe and across our nation, most of all to those communities already suffering the cumulative effects of enduring economic and health disparities.

While our nation has been engaged with these dual pandemics—ongoing, systemic racism and COVID-19—our university community has faced challenging questions of our own. For instance, how can we appreciate Duke’s history of innovation, service, and leadership while acknowledging the entwinement of that history with slavery, segregation, and white supremacy? How can we celebrate the progress we’ve made toward inclusion over the past century while recognizing that the work remains far from complete and did not come soon enough for countless applicants, students, faculty, and staff who were discriminated against in ways both overt and insidious? How can we find a way forward—together, as a community—within a wider social and political context that stokes division and discord? And perhaps most pressingly, how can we undertake meaningful action now and also ensure that this is only a starting point for a sustained effort to fully embrace equity?

These are challenging questions because they offer no easy answers. But I believe that at Duke we have both the opportunity and responsibility to produce real and lasting change in our community and beyond.

As we look ahead toward a more hopeful future, a key goal has been to move decisively and without delay to mobilize every part of our enterprise to address systemic racism and advance racial equity, both by redoubling existing efforts and by initiating significant new programs.  A second key goal has been to ensure that anti-racism and equity remain long-term priorities for Duke, woven carefully into every aspect of our institutional strategy and culture. This summer, I tasked Provost Sally Kornbluth, Chancellor for Health Affairs Eugene Washington, and Executive Vice President Tallman Trask with designing specific implementation plans for Duke’s students and faculty, health care providers, and staff.

These plans, which I have reviewed and discussed with our senior leadership and which have the full support of the Board of Trustees, can now be found at anti-racism.duke.edu, which also includes links to the various plans promulgated by our schools and other units.  As I noted in my June message, righting the wrongs of history will take time; and so our efforts will need to be focused and sustained, with clear goals and transparency as we work toward them.  Going forward with this in mind, anti-racism.duke.edu will be a central source of information about our anti-racism work, including data regularly collected and publicized to monitor our progress, details of new and ongoing programs, research highlights, and educational and training materials for wider use across the Duke community.

Let me highlight our initiatives already underway or soon to be launched.

Recognizing that faculty who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color must have equitable opportunities for hiring and advancement, we have initiated programs to FURTHER THE EXCELLENCE OF OUR FACULTY.

  • The Provost has expanded the diversity hiring program initiated over the past two years, with the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement offering workshops for unit leaders and for search committees to promote inclusive and equitable hiring and incentive funding for hiring diverse faculty.
  • This effort, expanded initially as part of a just-funded $16 million grant from The Duke Endowment, will be tracked through a new dashboard of faculty diversity data, which will be available to the entire Duke community. The effort will be multifaceted and will include both individual hires and cluster hires focused on specific themes to build critical mass and expertise. 
  • The Office for Faculty Advancement will devote additional resources to faculty development and community building programs and resources to support faculty success and retention.
  • The Provost will continue to review and update our policies and guidelines on promotion and tenure to ensure that they are equitable and attentive to the biases that disadvantage underrepresented faculty and research on underrepresented communities.  

Recognizing that the student experience must be equitable, we are STRENGTHENING OUR STUDENT COMMUNITY.

  • We are continuing efforts to further diversify our campus, with renewed focus on recruiting students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
  • We will also continue our efforts to recruit and support first-generation students and those from low-income backgrounds.
  • These diversification efforts have been designated a key priority for university fundraising. 
  • A new Low-Income First-Generation Engagement (LIFE) Steering Committee has been established to coordinate programmatic efforts to improve the university experience of these students.
  • The Office of Student Affairs and Office of Undergraduate Education have begun implementing newly revised recommendations of an undergraduate Hate and Bias Working Group to make that work more transparent, concrete, and responsive; graduate and professional students are undertaking similar work.
  • Based on recommendations of this working group, a dedicated Student Ombuds office is being created to help undergraduate and graduate/professional students navigate resources starting in the Spring 2021 semester.

Recognizing that all employees must have access to equal opportunities for growth and pay equity, we are initiating programs SUPPORTING OUR STAFF. 

  • Duke will significantly expand internship, training, and apprenticeship programs to make Duke career pathways more accessible.
  • Duke is launching new professional-development opportunities for our staff at all levels, with a focus on reaching historically underserved populations.
  • Human Resources will track promotions and new hires and offer pay-equity analyses on a regular, ongoing basis. These data will be available to any member of the Duke community beginning in January.
  • Duke will launch a comprehensive climate assessment in the spring of 2021, and we will build on these research efforts to address longstanding concerns about faculty and staff relations.
  • Equity and anti-racism will be included in the ongoing annual review process for direct reports to the president in order to ensure that university leadership continues to consider this a priority for the future.

Recognizing that the work of anti-racism begins with education, we are ADVANCING TRAINING AND EDUCATION FOR ALL. 

  • This fall, we offered a new “Foundations of Equity” orientation program for incoming undergraduate students, which will be a part of first-year orientation in all future years. 
  • The Office of the Provost and the Office for Institutional Equity are collaborating with faculty on designing new curricula for faculty, students and staff that will be informed by history and empower them to promote anti-racism, equity and inclusion on campus and in the academy. Implementation, which will also be supported by the Duke Endowment grant, will be underway by the spring semester.
  • To ensure every unit on campus has the resources required for education and training, a library of anti-racist educational assets is being made available through anti-racism.duke.edu, including a video series that can serve as a primer on anti-racism as we work to develop more comprehensive resources.
  • Along with the Board of Trustees, deans, officers, vice presidents, and vice provosts, last month I engaged in an anti-racism and equity workshop. Our senior university leadership is committed to continuing this training on an annual basis in the years ahead.

Recognizing that socioeconomic and racial disparities often result in significant disparities in healthcare, we are striving to PROMOTE HEALTH EQUITY. 

  • Duke Health’s comprehensive anti-racism plan, Moments to Movement, commits to health equity as a mission-critical element of clinical care, with systems to define and measure access, treatments, clinical outcomes and the patient experience through the lens of health equity to eradicate identified inequities.
  • Duke Health will also aggressively address socioeconomic determinants of health for our patients through population health management.

Recognizing that diversity at the senior leadership level is critical, we are INVESTING IN LEADERSHIP.

  • A Presidential Fellowship program to provide diverse leadership opportunities for mid-career faculty has been launched, with the first appointment soon to be announced. 
  • The Provost’s faculty-leadership program will incorporate approaches that are more consistently equitable and effective in addressing racism, expand current workshops to support units in producing systemic change, and work with partners inside and outside of Duke to offer programs and resources for leaders on topics related to diversity and equity.  
  • The Executive Vice President and Chancellor for Health Affairs will also expand and monitor diverse leadership opportunities and ensure that systems, policies and procedures are in place to promote racial equity at all organizational levels. 

Recognizing our institutional mandate to generate knowledge in service of improving society, we are seeking new modes of FOSTERING RESEARCH.

  • The Provost will soon announce a new funding mechanism to provide support for scholarly work on slavery and the history of the South, on social and racial equity, and racism. 
  • We will be seeking ways of foregrounding this research through university communications and leveraging it in our own institutional planning and decision-making. 
  • We are committing as well to a dedicated program of ongoing institutional research, including regular surveys of Duke students, faculty and staff, to better understand and monitor our organizational culture and climate.  Results of this research will be made public and used to assess both overall institutional progress and to evaluate leadership across the university and health system.
  • Duke’s University-Wide Interdisciplinary Institutes, Initiatives & Centers (UICs) have developed comprehensive proposals to expand education and research that engages with the multi-faceted dimensions of structural racism and anti-racism.

Recognizing that many of our graduates have and will continue to encounter racism, we are ENGAGING OUR ALUMNI. 

  • The Duke Alumni Association (DAA) is currently conducting a survey of Black alumni to gather feedback on their experiences at Duke and to help chart a course toward a more inclusive community. The results of this survey will be shared publicly on the anti-racism initiative website
  • DAA is also designing ongoing programming to address systemic racism, including the Black in 2020 lecture series—co-facilitated by Duke Black Alumni and the Department of African and African-American Studies—and further opportunities for continuing education and networking.

Recognizing our university’s historic connections to systems of racism and inequity, we are focused on REVISITING DUKE’S INSTITUTIONAL HISTORY.

  • The Board of Trustees, on my recommendation and with the support of the President’s Advisory Committee on Institutional History, has approved the removal of the name of Thomas Jordan Jarvis—a North Carolina Governor and Trinity College trustee who was an avowed white supremacist implicated in the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898—from the residence hall on East Campus bearing his name. A plaque describing this decision will be installed at the entrance of the building, which will again be known by its original name, West Residence Hall.
  • Last month, we named the Reuben-Cooke Building on West Campus in honor of Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, a member of Duke’s first integrated class of undergraduates, and we honored a more inclusive group of university founders. A permanent exhibit honoring the first five Black undergraduates will be installed in the Reuben-Cooke Building, and we will seek opportunities for additional exhibits and recognitions per the recommendations of the President’s Advisory Committee on Institutional History.
  • Board of Trustees task forces on our forthcoming 2024 centennial and on Duke and Durham will explore ways of better engaging our community in Duke’s complex institutional history with respect to racial and social equity, in collaboration with the President’s Advisory Committee on Institutional History. 

Recognizing the complex socioeconomic challenges facing our city and region, we are ENGAGING WITH AND SUPPORTING OUR DURHAM AND REGIONAL COMMUNITIES. 

  • We are deepening support for educational equity through a lead contribution to the Durham Public Schools Foundation's campaign for digital equity for Durham students, partnerships on internet connectivity with the city, and broadening connections between Durham students and Duke students.
  • We are collaborating with community-based organizations and local government to address community health disparities as measured by social indicators such as housing, early childhood development, and nutrition. We have also committed $5 million to the community for COVID-19 relief and sustained engagement through our Duke-Durham Fund.
  • We will coordinate and expand work-based learning opportunities for high school and college students through programs such as the Summer Internship Program with North Carolina Central University, the Summer Enrichment Program for the National Institute for Diversity and Health Equity, the Made in Durham internship program, and other partnerships with the city and local nonprofits.
  • We will also significantly expand efforts to recruit from HBCUs and community colleges for our undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, as well as for staff positions at Duke.
  • We will offer new apprenticeship programs in partnership with community colleges including Durham Tech, as well as expand Duke’s supplier diversity program, and provide training for departments to encourage diverse sourcing.

These are only first steps as we chart our anti-racist course at Duke. Our work will take time, and it is far more important to do this right than to do it quickly.

Institutional transformation begins at the personal level. We are all approaching this issue with different perspectives and at different points in our lives—from first-year students to campus staff to health care providers to faculty and to alumni around the world—and we all have work to do to build a better Duke. In that spirit, I call on the entire Duke community to come together with the humanity to recognize that we are all people with diverse stories, perspectives, talents and aspirations; with the humility to recognize that we know a lot less than we’d like to admit and we must learn from one another to investigate the hard truths; with the honesty to recognize that unequal life chances shape who we are and often limit who we can become; and perhaps most importantly, with the collective hope in our capacity for change.

We won’t always get this right—and we will make mistakes along the way. But we are committed today and throughout the future of Duke to addressing systemic racism on our campus and setting an example for our nation and the world.

Thank you, all of you, for your efforts to that end.

 

Sincerely,
Vince