Academic Council Votes to Create Committee on Academic Freedom and Free Expression

Vote follows effort initiated by Provost Alec D. Gallimore to examine issues fundamental to university’s core missions

Jones said the current plan is to form a 14-member steering committee involving faculty from around the university. The committee will then create working groups on specific issues as needed.

The charge calls for the committee to “examine whether these structures, policies, practices and programs honor Duke’s commitment to the robust, respectful and responsible exchange of ideas in a community that prizes and aspires to safeguard the belonging and flourishing of all its members.”

The committee is further charged to recommend “opportunities to affirm, deepen and expand Duke’s commitment to academic freedom and responsibility, free expression and belonging, and constructive engagement in a pluralistic community, and where appropriate, make recommendations concerning changes to existing institutional structures, policy and practices.”

In other action, the council heard from university officials about the transition of the Reginaldo Howard Scholarship to a leadership program. The move will end the scholarship that supports four to five Black students a year with tuition and fees, but will expand support for financial aid, leadership initiatives and mentorship for a larger number of students. The programming will be supervised through the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.

The council also debated a School of Nursing proposal to offer a new master of nursing degree to replace the current accelerated BSN (ABSN) degree.

The ABSN degree was first offered in 2002 as an 18-month program for students who already had their college degree to address the national nursing shortage. It was the first bachelor’s degree in nursing offered at Duke since the undergraduate program had been eliminated in 1984. 

The ABSN degree has been part of the school’s rise in national rankings, but school officials told faculty that enrollment had been declining as students increasingly look for a master’s degree program to fulfill shifting national standards of competencies required for nursing licenses. School officials said the new program will attract students wanting a master’s degree and allow students to be eligible for funding support that isn’t available for those in the ABSN program.

The council will vote on the proposal at the May 9 meeting, its final session of the academic year.