The recent vote by Duke Student Government to overturn an earlier decision to recognize the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) has raised concerns about whether students have been treated in accordance with university policy that prohibits discrimination and harassment based upon national origin and religion, which includes anti-Semitism. Duke’s Office of Institutional Equity and the Office of Conduct and Community Standards are reviewing this matter to determine whether further actions are merited. To the extent that this process involves individual students, the specific details are covered by federal student privacy laws so we will not be able to provide further information, but we can assure you we take this matter seriously.
To be clear, the actions of Duke Student Government are independent of, and not determined by or sanctioned by, the university. Nor does a lack of formal recognition by student government prevent students from organizing in groups as they wish; there are many organizations that continue to operate at Duke in different ways without such recognition, and the university has identified options for SSI to secure financial and programmatic support.
We want to take this opportunity to underscore our steadfast commitments to Duke’s Jewish community; to our shared values; to robust and open debate; to students' rights to associate, including student self-governance; and to a campus free from racism and anti-Semitism. Israel and Palestine, and the long history of conflict and violence that have afflicted that region of the world and its peoples, are subjects of continuing intense and passionate debate. These are serious issues warranting our most thoughtful and respectful attention. Perhaps in proportion to the understandable intensity and the deep sense of human justice and injustice with which these issues are entwined, they sometimes veer into rhetorical territory that dehumanizes and distances rather than engages.
As we have said before: On our campus and beyond, the lines of politics, trust, activism and civility cannot become so blurred that we lose our commitment to mutual respect. We must guard against the danger that our passions obscure our common humanity, and we must remind ourselves that what injures any one of us injures us all.
Vincent E. Price