Welcome to Race on Campus. Last week we told you that in September our newsletters would check in on the antiracism promises that colleges made last summer. Up first, Duke University, which stands out for how the college is publicly tracking its own progress.

If you have ideas, comments, or questions about this newsletter, write to me: fernanda@chronicle.com.

Efforts at Transparency

Last summer, Duke University was among a sea of colleges committing to antiracism. A year later, it’s one of just a few publicly documenting its progress toward a more-inclusive campus.

In response to the nationwide protests that followed George Floyd’s murder, Duke’s president, Vincent E. Price, made some specific promises.

Among other things, Price said the university would:

  • “significantly and measurably” increase faculty, staff, and student diversity.
  • expand need-based student financial aid.
  • incorporate antiracism into the curriculum and require that students learn about structural racism, with a focus on institutional legacy.
  • mandate antiracism and anti-bias training for faculty members, students, and staff.
  • support communities in Durham, N.C., the city where the private campus is located.

These kinds of promises weren’t altogether unusual, but Duke’s efforts at transparency stand out. Most institutions don’t track their progress publicly, the way Duke has.

The university set up the website anti-racism.duke.edu to keep the campus updated and hold itself accountable for its 2020 promises. The site tracks the university’s commitments and actions, lists resources for people on campus, and showcases antiracism work and research done at the university or by Duke scholars. It also allows members of the university community to spot collaboration and partnership opportunities across departments, Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations and chief communications officer, wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

Signs of Progress

Exactly one year after his initial message with promises, Price updated the campus on where the university stands.

On training and education: This year, new-student orientation included lessons about inclusivity, equity, and how to form systemic change, and this fall, students can enroll in the new course “The Invention and Consequences of Race.” The provost’s office and the Office for Institutional Equity are still working on designing new curricula informed by history and that allows the campus to promote antiracism, equity, and inclusion, according to the tracking website.

The university now lists resources on its antiracism website where employees can access, among other things, a recording of Duke’s “Living While Black” symposium, the Office for Institutional Equity’s resources for understanding and confronting racism and its impact, and the university archives to better understand the institution’s history.

Last September, Price, Board of Trustees members, and other administrators attended an antiracism and equity workshop. The university said it would continue this workshop annually.

On faculty diversity: On a campus where less than half of students identify as white, white scholars are the overwhelming majority on Duke’s campus. About 5.8 percent of faculty members are Black, 3.6 percent are Hispanic, 18 percent are Asian, and 72.4 percent are white, according to Abbas Benmamoun, vice provost for faculty advancement.

In October 2020, the university announced that a $16-million grant from the Duke Endowment would help to recruit diverse faculty members. Black faculty-member recruits now represent 15 percent of the new “regular rank” hires across departments, Price wrote in his update to the campus this year.

Additionally, the university is working on a dashboard that tracks faculty-diversity data, along with the institution’s hiring and retention work.

On need-based financial aid: This year’s numbers won’t be available until the end of the year, Schoenfeld wrote in an email. The university expects to spend about $200 million on undergraduate financial aid in fiscal-year 2022, up from $175 million in fiscal-year 2020, and about $161 million in 2019.

On community support: Starting in June 2020, Duke doubled down in its support to the Durham Public Schools Foundation, helping strengthen internet connectivity for K-12 students during remote learning. The institution also pledged through the Duke-Durham Fund to donate an initial $5 million to the community for Covid-19 relief.

The institution is still working on expanding its efforts to recruit students and staff members from historically Black colleges and universities and community colleges.

Calls for More Action

Conspicuously absent from Price’s June 2020 plan were measures to address policing on campus. In July 2020, the group Duke’s Black Coalition Against Policing asked university administrators and the Board of Trustees to cut its ties with city police, disclose mutual-aid agreements between Duke and any police department, and terminate relations with any other law-enforcement agencies. Duke administrators have since met with members of the group about their demands.

“There continues to be a productive dialogue with students and others concerned about policing,” Schoenfeld wrote in an email. In the meantime, a campus speaker series addresses topics like race and policing.

Despite the progress the university has made over the past year, some student activists say there is room for improvement. Asian student groups have demanded that administrators provide more support to students after the recent wave of violence against Asian and Asian Americans.

And last month, the Duke Native American Student Alliance wrote a guest column in the student newspaper asking the institution to better support Native students. The group asked, among other things, that the institution create a Native American Center, administrators hire senior Indigenous faculty members, and that Duke adopt a land acknowledgement drafted by the Native American Student Alliance.

Read Up

  • Lots of the modern slang you use, or that your students use, comes from Black culture. (BuzzFeed)
  • More than 60 percent of respondents to a USA Today/Ipsos poll said they wanted their children to learn about slavery and the effects of racism in schools. But they did not all want their kids to learn critical race theory. What’s the difference? (USA Today)
  • After 9/11, life for many Muslims in the U.S. became more difficult. Many faced discrimination and violence. (The New York Times)

—Fernanda