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Price Presents an Update on Duke's Commitments to Anti-Racism

Students and others walk on Abele quad, named after the Black architect who designed much of West Campus.
Students and other Duke community members walk on Abele quad, named after the Black architect who designed much of West Campus.

To the Duke Community,

Last Juneteenth, in the aftermath of the horrific murder of George Floyd, I wrote you to announce that Duke would be engaging in a comprehensive effort to marshal our institutional resources and missions toward eradicating racism and building a more inclusive future.

I’m grateful to our Duke community for the work undertaken since then, work that is being incorporated into all we do, including our strategy, programming, operations and fundraising, and which represents an important step in our march toward justice.  I recognize, however, that we have only begun to identify the root causes of racism and intervene to address the systemic racial inequities that are endemic to our nation and region and have for far too long been a part of the lives of Duke students, faculty, and staff.  Our efforts to date must continue, indeed intensify in the years to come; and we must be focused on progress, accountability and clear outcomes. And while words are important, our success depends on concrete actions.

We resolutely own this effort, and we recognize that there is a long road ahead. As I have said before, we won’t always get this right, but we must not let the difficulty of confronting injustice or the slow pace of change discourage us from the urgency of this work. Instead, we should seek to learn from our mistakes and use them as motivation to do better moving forward.

To meet our commitments, we have taken a number of important steps over the past year, thanks to extraordinary collaboration among students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni.  Every school and key administrative unit has put into place a specific plan of action for addressing discrimination and fostering a campus where all feel welcome and supported. We have developed a dashboard on to track these efforts, which will continue to evolve. We have also established a Racial Equity Advisory Council and four subcommittees to guide our work, hold us to account, and continue the positive momentum.

In the past year, Duke convened well over 100 programs and online events focused on racial justice, many in collaboration with outside experts and organizations. Last summer’s Living While Black symposium brought together members of the Duke community for conversations on race and bias. This winter, participants in our four-day Faculty Symposium on Dismantling Racism@Duke explored ways to recognize and address inequities at the individual, interpersonal, and institutional levels. The Working@Duke magazine launched a new Working Toward Racial Justice series. The Office of Faculty Advancement is hosting ongoing workshops and trainings for faculty and department leaders focused on confronting discrimination and bias in the academy, mentoring underrepresented faculty, and fostering an equitable and inclusive learning environment.

This year we also developed and shared educational and training resources for our staff as well as faculty; implemented implicit bias training for hiring managers; incorporated racial equity sessions into new student orientation; and launched innovative curricular programs, including a team-taught University Course on “The Invention and Consequences of Race,” to be offered this fall. The Offices of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and the Vice President and Vice Provost of Student Affairs created the Campus Climate Committee, a task force of students, faculty, and administrators focused on fostering an inclusive and engaging campus climate for all undergraduate students. We are also expanding the newly-created student ombuds office as we return to normal campus operations this fall, to serve as a neutral and confidential source of information and resources for students concerned about aspects of the Duke experience.

Duke Health, through the Moments to Movement endeavor, mobilized and engaged team members throughout the clinical enterprise and the schools of medicine and nursing in efforts to address inequities and eliminate disparities in medical and nursing education, care, research and community health. Our heroic caregivers saw firsthand how the pandemic disproportionately affected communities of color. We recognize that racism is a public health crisis, and have made a public pledge to our patients, our people and communities we serve to stand together against it.

We have also increased our investment in supporting Black excellence. We intensified our equitable hiring efforts, leveraging new funding from The Duke Endowment, and we continue to build on the progress we have made over the last few years in hiring and retaining underrepresented minority and Black faculty. Black faculty recruits represent 15 percent of new regular-rank hires across the university this year, roughly three times the existing proportion among current faculty, with some units hiring their first Black colleagues. We anticipate the Academic Year 2020-21 hiring process to result in a net increase of underrepresented minority and Black faculty.

We supported and elevated the research of scholars through our Black Think Tank and other forms of outreach and collaboration.  Our alumni and supporters have also been actively engaged throughout year, thanks in particular to the leadership of Duke Black Alumni and numerous collaborations with our Department of African and African American Studies. Again with the support of the of The Duke Endowment, the Provost has funded 17 projects focused on Reckoning with Race, Racism and the History of the American South, all led by Duke faculty members and many including staff, students and community members; and the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts hosted 43 virtual events focused on artists and alumni of color and 10 programs focused on racial equity.

Our work requires an honest and probing appraisal of the current reality of life at Duke; and to this end we conducted a first-ever campus-wide survey of students, faculty and staff to assess the climate across and within our schools, departments and other units and to guide our work to end racial bias and promote a welcoming environment for all. Results will be provided to the community this summer, with repeated assessments as part of a plan to develop clear and comprehensive metrics that can ensure accountability of the university for improvement.

The website will continue to be a vital source of information about what Duke is doing to address racism and promote inclusion, and we will provide regular updates directly to the community about our work. We also ask that you—our students, faculty, staff, and alumni—hold us to account. You can submit feedback and any concerns to the Office for Institutional Equity through the website or by emailing directly.

Ultimately this work goes beyond reckoning with the wrongs of the past. As I noted a year ago, we want to lead because when we truly lift up, and support, and celebrate Black lives and Black excellence, we will become a better version of Duke. This Saturday, as we mark Juneteenth—the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas first learned of the Emancipation Proclamation—we pause to recognize together the many extraordinary contributions of our Black colleagues, classmates, friends and neighbors. We also recognize our shared commitment to actively support change for the better, as we turn together toward an equal and inclusive future for everyone at Duke. 

Very best wishes,



Vincent E. Price