Faculty Response to the Recent Racially Charged Events on Campus

Dear members of the Duke community,

The recent racially charged events on campus, including the display of a noose on the Bryan Center plaza, bring to us all a heightened awareness of the persistent effort required to ensure that Duke is experienced by all as a welcoming community that embraces diversity.  At yesterday’s event on the Chapel steps, undergraduate students, graduate students, and members of the administration spoke eloquently to affirm of Duke’s commitment to this ideal and urged us all to be active participants in creating it.

I want to add the voice of the faculty to this conversation.

Faculty members are hurt by the symbolic message sent by the noose. We feel and understand the impact that it has, and we are sorry that it falls disproportionately on the black students who live on campus and justifiably see themselves as the primary intended audience.

The faculty collectively claims a significant responsibility for shaping an inclusive campus environment that is welcoming to all students, and we are keenly aware of the particular need to address implicit and explicit forms of racial bias.  One indication of our commitment is the current effort of the Academic Council’s Diversity Task Force, which will soon report recommendations for addressing concerns related to the development of diversity in the faculty itself.  This work necessarily requires attention to matters of inclusion not entirely unlike those faced by students and staff. We want to contribute as well to broader efforts of the types mentioned by several speakers at yesterday’s gathering.

As faculty, we are deeply committed to supporting our students' efforts to devise and implement productive responses to the problems that matter to them, and we understand that this commitment must extend to experiences outside as well as inside classrooms at Duke. We are listening, and we want to help.

Joshua Socolar
Professor, Physics Department
Chair, Academic Council
Duke University