Category: News Page 1 of 4

An Update on Commencement

To the Duke Community,

After consultation with faculty, students, and administrative leadership, I’d like to provide an update on commencement for this spring.

In assessing plans and possibilities, our primary goal is to offer students the opportunity to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event safely—and to host an in-person ceremony, if possible, under appropriate public health guidance and legal directives from the State of North Carolina and City of Durham.

With that in mind, we hope to offer an in-person event in Wallace Wade Stadium for members of the undergraduate Class of 2021 who have been regular participants in our COVID testing surveillance program. This ceremony would take place after the conclusion of final examinations, on Sunday, May 2, 2021 from 9—11 a.m. Safety protocols for masking and appropriate distancing would be strictly enforced. We anticipate that only graduating students would be permitted to attend, with the ceremony broadcast to family and friends around the world.

With the pandemic still very much in flux, we will continue to monitor our circumstances and public health guidelines and adjust our plans accordingly.  Should conditions improve, we may consider expanding the scope of the ceremony.  On the other hand, should the situation worsen, we may be forced to make the entire event virtual.

While travel and state guidelines currently prevent us from inviting back members of the undergraduate Class of 2020 for this ceremony, we are exploring possibilities for celebrating them sometime after the spring. We will be in touch in the coming days with additional information and to obtain the Class of 2020’s feedback on possible options.

Our graduate and professional programs—several of which do not complete the semester until after the undergraduate ceremony on May 2—will receive guidance and support to safely host their own events. We anticipate that some may also offer limited in-person celebrations should circumstances allow. Additional information is forthcoming from your deans.

As has been the case throughout the past year, our overarching concern this spring is for the health and safety of our campus community. To that end, I appreciate your flexibility as this situation continues to evolve.

Very best wishes,


An Election Update

To the Duke Community,

With the results of yesterday’s election still unclear, I want to start by reassuring you that the uncertainty we are seeing in our political system will not disrupt our vital missions of teaching, research, and patient care.

The presidential race is still too close to call, and it is possible that we may not know the outcome for some days as several states, including North Carolina, fulfill their legal obligations to count all the ballots. Like you, we are following this situation closely. Our primary concern in these tumultuous times will always be the safety and well-being of all of our students, faculty, and staff.

Whatever the eventual outcome, we know that many members of our broad and diverse Duke community will be pleased with the results, even as others will find them deeply disappointing and even upsetting. So, while the work of campaigning may have ended on election day, the work of supporting and understanding each other—our fellow students, faculty, and staff, friends, families and neighbors—is indeed more important than ever.

Though we may sometimes disagree, we do so at Duke in the spirit of our shared values of respect, trust, inclusion, discovery and excellence. Open and meaningful conversations about the opportunities and challenges ahead may lead us to see beyond our differences to discover that we have more in common than we thought.  To that end, I encourage you to take advantage of these resources for information, conversation, collaboration and support.

Even in these uncertain times, I believe that we at Duke can forge a path toward an ever more extraordinary future. We’ve been through much together over the past year. I am confident that we will continue to meet our challenges with the same wisdom and strength that the Duke community has been demonstrating every day. I am proud to be with you.



Looking Ahead to Election Day

To the Duke Community, 

We are now a week away from election day, but early voting at Duke, in Durham, and across the state is well underway. Over a third of registered voters have already cast their ballots in North Carolina—I dropped mine off at the Board of Elections more than a month ago—but you can still register and vote in-person or drop off absentee ballots at any eligible polling place in your county of residence through this Saturday, October 31st.

In this unusual year, amidst concerns about safety during the pandemic, unfounded claims of widespread election fraud, and even some efforts to dissuade voters from exercising their voting rights, it is critically important that you make your voice heard. To that end, I’m proud of the Duke community’s leadership in this election season. You may have seen students waving signs encouraging drivers and pedestrians to vote—a reminder that seems to be working, as more early ballots have been cast at the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center than any other polling place in the county. In addition to these visible expressions of the political process, many of us have engaged in honest—and occasionally difficult—conversations with family members, classmates, friends, and neighbors about the issues that matter to us most.

Despite this head start, many members of the Duke community have not yet voted. So today I again urge you to do so if you are eligible. Early voting and same-day registration will be open weekdays this week from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center (2080 Duke University Road) and other polling places throughout the county. Note that residents of North Carolina can register and early vote at any polling place in your county of residence, but you can only vote in your precinct on election day. Click here for more information about registration.

We’re fortunate to be part of such an engaged university community, one that benefits from open dialogue and from some of the leading minds in political science and policy research. If you are interested in learning more about the presidential election process, I encourage you to have a look at this excellent list of resources prepared by POLIS at the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Thank you for your participation in the political process and for your support of our community.



An Update on Duke’s Anti-Racism Efforts

To the Duke Community, 

In the months since my Juneteenth message regarding the university’s commitments to anti-racism, we have witnessed continued, vivid reminders of ongoing daily violence against our Black neighbors and of justice delayed or undone. At the same time, the pandemic has persisted as a vital threat around the globe and across our nation, most of all to those communities already suffering the cumulative effects of enduring economic and health disparities.

While our nation has been engaged with these dual pandemics—ongoing, systemic racism and COVID-19—our university community has faced challenging questions of our own. For instance, how can we appreciate Duke’s history of innovation, service, and leadership while acknowledging the entwinement of that history with slavery, segregation, and white supremacy? How can we celebrate the progress we’ve made toward inclusion over the past century while recognizing that the work remains far from complete and did not come soon enough for countless applicants, students, faculty, and staff who were discriminated against in ways both overt and insidious? How can we find a way forward—together, as a community—within a wider social and political context that stokes division and discord? And perhaps most pressingly, how can we undertake meaningful action now and also ensure that this is only a starting point for a sustained effort to fully embrace equity? 

These are challenging questions because they offer no easy answers. But I believe that at Duke we have both the opportunity and responsibility to produce real and lasting change in our community and beyond. 

As we look ahead toward a more hopeful future, a key goal has been to move decisively and without delay to mobilize every part of our enterprise to address systemic racism and advance racial equity, both by redoubling existing efforts and by initiating significant new programs.  A second key goal has been to ensure that anti-racism and equity remain long-term priorities for Duke, woven carefully into every aspect of our institutional strategy and culture. This summer, I tasked Provost Sally Kornbluth, Chancellor for Health Affairs Eugene Washington, and Executive Vice President Tallman Trask with designing specific implementation plans for Duke’s students and faculty, health care providers, and staff. 

These plans, which I have reviewed and discussed with our senior leadership and which have the full support of the Board of Trustees, can now be found at, which also includes links to the various plans promulgated by our schools and other units.  As I noted in my June message, righting the wrongs of history will take time; and so our efforts will need to be focused and sustained, with clear goals and transparency as we work toward them.  Going forward with this in mind, will be a central source of information about our anti-racism work, including data regularly collected and publicized to monitor our progress, details of new and ongoing programs, research highlights, and educational and training materials for wider use across the Duke community. 

Let me highlight our initiatives already underway or soon to be launched.

Recognizing that faculty who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color must have equitable opportunities for hiring and advancement, we have initiated programs to FURTHER THE EXCELLENCE OF OUR FACULTY. 

  • The Provost has expanded the diversity hiring program initiated over the past two years, with the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement offering workshops for unit leaders and for search committees to promote inclusive and equitable hiring and incentive funding for hiring diverse faculty.
  • This effort, expanded initially as part of a just-funded $16 million grant from The Duke Endowment, will be tracked through a new dashboard of faculty diversity data, which will be available to the entire Duke community. The effort will be multifaceted and will include both individual hires and cluster hires focused on specific themes to build critical mass and expertise. 
  • The Office for Faculty Advancement will devote additional resources to faculty development and community building programs and resources to support faculty success and retention. 
  • The Provost will continue to review and update our policies and guidelines on promotion and tenure to ensure that they are equitable and attentive to the biases that disadvantage underrepresented faculty and research on underrepresented communities. 

Recognizing that the student experience must be equitable, we are STRENGTHENING OUR STUDENT COMMUNITY.

  • We are continuing efforts to further diversify our campus, with renewed focus on recruiting students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.
  • We will also continue our efforts to recruit and support first-generation students and those from low-income backgrounds. 
  • These diversification efforts have been designated a key priority for university fundraising.  
  • A new Low-Income First-Generation Engagement (LIFE) Steering Committee has been established to coordinate programmatic efforts to improve the university experience of these students.
  • The Office of Student Affairs and Office of Undergraduate Education have begun implementing newly revised recommendations of an undergraduate Hate and Bias Working Group to make that work more transparent, concrete, and responsive; graduate and professional students are undertaking similar work.
  • Based on recommendations of this working group, a dedicated Student Ombuds office is being created to help undergraduate and graduate/professional students navigate resources starting in the Spring 2021 semester. 

Recognizing that all employees must have access to equal opportunities for growth and pay equity, we are initiating programs SUPPORTING OUR STAFF.  

  • Duke will significantly expand internship, training, and apprenticeship programs to make Duke career pathways more accessible.
  • Duke is launching new professional-development opportunities for our staff at all levels, with a focus on reaching historically underserved populations.
  • Human Resources will track promotions and new hires and offer pay-equity analyses on a regular, ongoing basis. These data will be available to any member of the Duke community beginning in January.
  • Duke will launch a comprehensive climate assessment in the spring of 2021, and we will build on these research efforts to address longstanding concerns about faculty and staff relations. 
  • Equity and anti-racism will be included in the ongoing annual review process for direct reports to the president in order to ensure that university leadership continues to consider this a priority for the future. 

Recognizing that the work of anti-racism begins with education, we are ADVANCING TRAINING AND EDUCATION FOR ALL.  

  • This fall, we offered a new “Foundations of Equity” orientation program for incoming undergraduate students, which will be a part of first-year orientation in all future years.  
  • The Office of the Provost and the Office for Institutional Equity are collaborating with faculty on designing new curricula for faculty, students and staff that will be informed by history and empower them to promote anti-racism, equity and inclusion on campus and in the academy. Implementation, which will also be supported by the Duke Endowment grant, will be underway by the spring semester.
  • To ensure every unit on campus has the resources required for education and training, a library of anti-racist educational assets is being made available through, including a video series that can serve as a primer on anti-racism as we work to develop more comprehensive resources.
  • Along with the Board of Trustees, deans, officers, vice presidents, and vice provosts, last month I engaged in an anti-racism and equity workshop. Our senior university leadership is committed to continuing this training on an annual basis in the years ahead. 

Recognizing that socioeconomic and racial disparities often result in significant disparities in healthcare, we are striving to PROMOTE HEALTH EQUITY.  

  • Duke Health’s comprehensive anti-racism plan, Moments to Movement, commits to health equity as a mission-critical element of clinical care, with systems to define and measure access, treatments, clinical outcomes and the patient experience through the lens of health equity to eradicate identified inequities.
  • Duke Health will also aggressively address socioeconomic determinants of health for our patients through population health management. 

Recognizing that diversity at the senior leadership level is critical, we are INVESTING IN LEADERSHIP. 

  • A Presidential Fellowship program to provide diverse leadership opportunities for mid-career faculty has been launched, with the first appointment soon to be announced.  
  • The Provost’s faculty-leadership program will incorporate approaches that are more consistently equitable and effective in addressing racism, expand current workshops to support units in producing systemic change, and work with partners inside and outside of Duke to offer programs and resources for leaders on topics related to diversity and equity.   
  • The Executive Vice President and Chancellor for Health Affairs will also expand and monitor diverse leadership opportunities and ensure that systems, policies and procedures are in place to promote racial equity at all organizational levels.  

Recognizing our institutional mandate to generate knowledge in service of improving society, we are seeking new modes of FOSTERING RESEARCH. 

  • The Provost will soon announce a new funding mechanism to provide support for scholarly work on slavery and the history of the South, on social and racial equity, and racism.  
  • We will be seeking ways of foregrounding this research through university communications and leveraging it in our own institutional planning and decision-making. 
  • We are committing as well to a dedicated program of ongoing institutional research, including regular surveys of Duke students, faculty and staff, to better understand and monitor our organizational culture and climate.  Results of this research will be made public and used to assess both overall institutional progress and to evaluate leadership across the university and health system.
  • Duke’s University-Wide Interdisciplinary Institutes, Initiatives & Centers (UICs) have developed comprehensive proposals to expand education and research that engages with the multi-faceted dimensions of structural racism and anti-racism. 

Recognizing that many of our graduates have and will continue to encounter racism, we are ENGAGING OUR ALUMNI.

  • The Duke Alumni Association (DAA) is currently conducting a survey of Black alumni to gather feedback on their experiences at Duke and to help chart a course toward a more inclusive community. The results of this survey will be shared publicly on the anti-racism initiative website
  • DAA is also designing ongoing programming to address systemic racism, including the Black in 2020 lecture series—co-facilitated by Duke Black Alumni and the Department of African and African-American Studies—and further opportunities for continuing education and networking. 

Recognizing our university’s historic connections to systems of racism and inequity, we are focused on REVISITING DUKE’S INSTITUTIONAL HISTORY.

  • The Board of Trustees, on my recommendation and with the support of the President’s Advisory Committee on Institutional History, has approved the removal of the name of Thomas Jordan Jarvis—a North Carolina Governor and Trinity College trustee who was an avowed white supremacist implicated in the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898—from the residence hall on East Campus bearing his name. A plaque describing this decision will be installed at the entrance of the building, which will again be known by its original name, West Residence Hall. 
  • Last month, we named the Reuben-Cooke Building on West Campus in honor of Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, a member of Duke’s first integrated class of undergraduates, and we honored a more inclusive group of university founders. A permanent exhibit honoring the first five Black undergraduates will be installed in the Reuben-Cooke Building, and we will seek opportunities for additional exhibits and recognitions per the recommendations of the President’s Advisory Committee on Institutional History.
  • Board of Trustees task forces on our forthcoming 2024 centennial and on Duke and Durham will explore ways of better engaging our community in Duke’s complex institutional history with respect to racial and social equity, in collaboration with the President’s Advisory Committee on Institutional History.  

Recognizing the complex socioeconomic challenges facing our city and region, we are ENGAGING WITH AND SUPPORTING OUR DURHAM AND REGIONAL COMMUNITIES.

  • We are deepening support for educational equity through a lead contribution to the Durham Public Schools Foundation’s campaign for digital equity for Durham students, partnerships on internet connectivity with the city, and broadening connections between Durham students and Duke students.
  • We are collaborating with community-based organizations and local government to address community health disparities as measured by social indicators such as housing, early childhood development, and nutrition. We have also committed $5 million to the community for COVID-19 relief and sustained engagement through our Duke-Durham Fund. 
  • We will coordinate and expand work-based learning opportunities for high school and college students through programs such as the Summer Internship Program with North Carolina Central University, the Summer Enrichment Program for the National Institute for Diversity and Health Equity, the Made in Durham internship program, and other partnerships with the city and local nonprofits. 
  • We will also significantly expand efforts to recruit from HBCUs and community colleges for our undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, as well as for staff positions at Duke.
  • We will offer new apprenticeship programs in partnership with community colleges including Durham Tech, as well as expand Duke’s supplier diversity program, and provide training for departments to encourage diverse sourcing. 

These are only first steps as we chart our anti-racist course at Duke. Our work will take time, and it is far more important to do this right than to do it quickly. 

Institutional transformation begins at the personal level. We are all approaching this issue with different perspectives and at different points in our lives—from first-year students to campus staff to health care providers to faculty and to alumni around the world—and we all have work to do to build a better Duke. In that spirit, I call on the entire Duke community to come together with the humanity to recognize that we are all people with diverse stories, perspectives, talents and aspirations; with the humility to recognize that we know a lot less than we’d like to admit and we must learn from one another to investigate the hard truths; with the honesty to recognize that unequal life chances shape who we are and often limit who we can become; and perhaps most importantly, with the collective hope in our capacity for change.

We won’t always get this right—and we will make mistakes along the way. But we are committed today and throughout the future of Duke to addressing systemic racism on our campus and setting an example for our nation and the world. 

Thank you, all of you, for your efforts to that end.



Thank You and Looking Ahead

To the Duke Community, 

We are now halfway through the fall semester. This may seem surprising, both because we started earlier than usual this year and because it feels like the first day of classes was a decade ago. 

There are still challenges ahead, but we have much to be proud of at Duke. Thanks to the cooperation of the Duke community, our comprehensive testing program, and generally good adherence to our health and safety protocols, we have so far kept the rate of coronavirus infections relatively low.  This has enabled us to continue our semester as planned.

A tremendous amount of planning, flexibility, and frankly, luck, has gone into this initial success. But the real reason we are where we are is that Duke has come together, person by person, to keep our community safe. That includes all of you— students, faculty and staff.  So, let me take this opportunity to say thank you

We must continue to be vigilant, however, and recognize that COVID-19 is extremely contagious.  This pandemic remains a serious threat to the health and safety of our community and will be for a considerable time to come.  Experience has shown that changes can be rapid, and singular lapses in behavior can have far-reaching negative effects and quickly lead to outbreaks that jeopardize every member of our community.  We cannot lose focus now. 

As we enter the second half of the semester and look ahead to the spring, we must redouble our commitment to the protocols and community guidelines that are keeping us all safe. I encourage you to visit the Duke United site to take a fresh look at our guidance. Please pay particular attention to limits on social gatherings and the ongoing need for surveillance testing.  And as always, remember our four core expectations: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, and monitor any symptoms. 

The cooperation of the Duke community these past few weeks has demonstrated that ours is a campus of people first and foremost, people who are making extraordinary contributions today and helping to define the boldest aspirations for our future. Again, thank you for all that you are doing to stay a Duke united in this unprecedented moment.



Announcing the Reuben-Cooke Building

To the Duke Community,

I am very pleased to report that this morning, the Duke University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name the Sociology-Psychology Building on West Campus after Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, ’67.

This historic decision reflects Professor Reuben-Cooke’s leadership as one of the first five Black undergraduates at Duke, her extraordinary career as an attorney, law professor, and university administrator, and her long service as a trustee of both Duke University and The Duke Endowment. For her many contributions to the Duke community, Professor Reuben-Cooke received the Distinguished Alumni Award, the Duke Alumni Association’s highest honor, in 2011.

The Reuben-Cooke Building is a fitting tribute for one of the most distinguished members of the Duke community. This iconic building—which predates our campus’s integration by three decades—has stood on Davison Quad as our university has evolved to more fully realize its inclusive values, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke and her classmates.

When the building that now bears Professor Reuben-Cooke’s name first opened, she would not have been allowed to enter it as a student; from this day forward, anyone who passes through its doors will carry on her legacy of accomplishment, engagement and lasting impact.

Vincent E. Price


Message from President Price about Fall Sports at Duke

Dear Duke Students and Colleagues,   

Early September is typically a time of great energy and excitement at Duke, as students and faculty challenge each other in the classroom, the campus is active with events and programs, and visitors come from all over the world to take part in our academic and cultural life.  Fall is also, of course, a very active time for our student-athletes, as well as for their fans and supporters on campus, in the community and around the world.   

Over the past several months, the Atlantic Coast Conference, of which Duke is a founding member, has carefully assessed the prospects to continue intercollegiate sports in this most complicated of years.  An ACC Medical Advisory Group – which included physicians from Duke and other universities in the conference – worked over the summer to advise the member institutions on the risks and options for fall activity, and to develop comprehensive standards for testing, hygiene, medical monitoring and other practices that are essential for students to compete safely in team and individual sports.  After careful review, the ACC adopted those guidelines and committed to begin the season in all six fall sports (football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, field hockey and cross country).   

After consultation with our own medical faculty experts, Duke has decided to take further steps to mitigate the risk to the health and safety of our student-athletes, our communities, and the continuity of our educational and research missions.  In advance of the start of competition this week, and knowing that many have questions about intercollegiate athletics in these challenging times, I want to take a moment to inform you about the safety protocols that we have now put in put in place:   

  • All student-athletes, related staff and coaches participating in football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and field hockey, which have been identified as higher risk by the ACC Medical Advisory Group, will have daily COVID-19 testing for the duration of their seasons.   
  • To protect against potential spread of COVID-19 in our residence halls and the broader population, student-athletes competing in those five sports will be required to temporarily sequester to designated residential areas following each home or away game until testing and medical monitoring confirms that they are cleared to return to the community.  Student-athletes will receive all academic, wellness and mental health support services, as well as access to Student Affairs staff.   
  • All teams will travel by charter bus or plane and, to the extent possible, will depart and return to campus on the same day.  Only student athletes and essential coaches and staff will be permitted to travel to the games and, once on-site, Duke student-athletes, coaches and staff must strictly comply with distancing requirements, stay in areas separated from others, and not interact socially with members of the opposing team, spectators, or fans except for immediate family members.   
  • As announced earlier, spectators will not be permitted at any Duke games.  Attendance from the visiting team will be limited to essential personnel as determined by the ACC.   

We are immensely proud of our student-athletes and celebrate their dedication to academic and athletic success.  But we never lose sight of the fact that they are, first and foremost, Duke students.  Thus, student-athletes who choose for any reason not to participate in competition this year will continue to receive their scholarships, financial aid and other services, and they will maintain their academic and residential standing as well as their eligibility to participate in future athletic seasons.   

I want to stress that these are our initial plans.  As with every other aspect of this global pandemic, we will remain vigilant and flexible, monitor outcomes, and prepare to make changes as we learn from our experiences and others around the country.  Our experience with fall sports will help inform planning for winter and spring sports as well.  If conditions warrant further restrictions, a pause or even suspension of activities, then we will not hesitate to take that action.  Every decision we make will be based, first and foremost, on safeguarding the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and the Duke community.   

This has been and will continue to be a difficult semester in many respects; but in just as many ways it has been wonderfully inspiring.  I’ve been inspired by our dedicated faculty and staff, including those many who have been supporting Duke Athletics through these complicated times, in meeting successfully the numerous challenges posed by the pandemic.  And I have been inspired by the way our Duke students, including our student-athletes, have stepped up to support and protect each other and our community so responsibly by adapting to the public-health demands of the moment. We are, on and off the field, a Duke united. For that, and for all you do, I am deeply grateful.


Vincent E. Price

Remarks at Undergraduate Convocation

Good afternoon. As President, I am thrilled to welcome you as the newest members of the Duke University community.

Though I am coming to you today from Duke Chapel on the heart of our campus, you are part of the most global incoming class in our university’s history. Many of you are watching this opening ceremony from your new dorm rooms; some of you are connected to us virtually from places around the world. A few of you are even starting your Duke careers on our sister campus at Duke Kunshan University—a truly unprecedented feat.

As members of the graduating class of 2020 and the incoming Duke class of 2024, I suspect that you’re getting tired of that word, unprecedented. You will be glad to hear, then, that today is a moment with a great many precedents. 

We have been gathering for an opening ceremony since long before Duke was a university—all the way back in 1906, the Chronicle reported that the forty-eighth academic year of what was then Trinity College began formally with the President, in academic regalia, hoisting the American flag above East Campus while the students gave out a cheer. Things have evolved a bit since then.

This isn’t even the first opening celebration during a pandemic.  A century ago, Spanish flu raged through 1918 and 1919, and was still very much a presence when Trinity College welcomed the incoming class of 1924. It must have been an unsettling time—just as I know this is—the excitement of a new start tinged with apprehension about the world around us. 

Even then, though, students were focused on the important priorities: The Chronicle editorial board wrote with relief that in response to the epidemic, the manager of the basketball team had rearranged the scheduled contests against Carolina and State so that the Trinity team could still compete for the state championship—which, I should note, they went on to win.

For those basketball fans among you: while the state championship title exists today only in spirit, we still regularly win it over our foes at N.C. State and UNC.

Now, if you ask anyone who attended our opening celebrations between 1990 and 2014, I suspect they would tell you that what they remember is hearing from the late poet Maya Angelou, who spoke to incoming first-year students for 24 years. You may be familiar her extraordinary work, or read her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

In an interview toward the end of her life, Professor Angelou was asked what advice she might give for living fully. Her answer reflected both her humor and her generosity of spirit. 

“Every day I awaken, I am grateful,” she said. “My intent is to be totally present in that day. And to laugh as much as possible.”

To be grateful. To be present. And to laugh

It occurs to me that these three guiding principles might be helpful for all of us as we begin the next academic year at Duke.

First comes gratitude. Amidst the uncertainty and frustration that many of us have been experiencing, it can be difficult to remember that we have so much to be thankful for—and this is a vitally important starting point as we set off on this year together.

We at Duke are certainly grateful that you are here. As Dean Guttentag described just a few moments ago, yours is a tremendously accomplished class. Each of you bring something distinct to the Duke community—a unique perspective, a life-changing experience, a talent that sets you apart. 

To borrow from another poet, Walt Whitman, you have come here to contribute your verses to Duke’s powerful play, to forever change the course of our university’s history for the better. We are so thankful for that.

But as remarkable as you all are individually, we know that none of you arrived here on your own. The support, love, and guidance of the people in your life—your parents, families, friends, and teachers, many who may be watching today—has fostered your extraordinary talents, has allowed you to grow into the accomplished people assembled here today. 

I hope that you will take a moment in the coming days to thank them—to let them know that you are truly grateful for all of the ways that have helped bring you to this moment.

In that spirit, let us awaken each day of this new academic year with gratitude. 

Next comes Angelou’s charge to be present. This has perhaps taken on new meaning in the age of social distancing. But what I think she was getting at was not so much physical presence, but rather being present in the mind and spirit. 

In a world filled with distractions, it takes conscious effort to remind ourselves to pause and pay attention. To slow down and really appreciate the opportunities and experiences before us. You have likely come to Duke, at least in part, to prepare for the lifetime that comes after graduation. But I can assure you, those days are coming soon enough. While you’re here, I hope you will take the time to be really present—in your friendships and in the Duke community.

Some of the most remarkable things that you will learn at Duke will be from one another, not in the classroom or lab but in conversations among friends on Zoom and in explorations in your free time.  It may be harder in the age of COVID, but you’ll have the rare opportunity to connect with classmates and colleagues from many different backgrounds and perspectives. 

We at Duke have made new commitments to equity, inclusion, and racial justice for all students—efforts that you will be hearing more about in the coming weeks. We invite you to join in building this richer, more inclusive Duke community. If you are willing to connect with your classmates, they will have a great deal to teach you about how to live in and experience the world.

Also, all of us—you, me, indeed every member of the Duke community—must be present to our obligations to do frankly unnatural things we must all do in this pandemic to keep each other and our Durham community safe and healthy.  We can’t let down our guard or give in to those understandable temptations to get back to our “normal” lives.  You and all of your classmates will have to steel yourselves against the inclinations to get on with typical Duke traditions and Duke social life.  

Not now.  Eventually, but not now. 

Instead you will build this semester new traditions

Those connections we make will have to be made from at least six feet away.  We’ll have to learn to back away if we are crowded; we’ll have to simply say no to misguided party invitations; we’ll have to make our face masks badges of Duke pride and wear them everywhere we go. 

To do this for an entire day can be trying; for a week, truly challenging; for an entire semester, achievable only if we maintain our focus and help each other through.  Only if we remain fully present to each other. 

And at the same time, be present to your own needs. The transition to college can be jarring under any circumstances—and you may find it particularly so today. That’s okay—in fact, it’s to be expected. This moment will require great flexibility and resilience, and Duke has robust advisory and mental health resources to support you both as your get your footing here, and as you continue throughout your Duke career. I encourage you to take full advantage.  

And get some sleep.  Without it, none of us can be at our best.  A sleepy brain is not fully present.

So, with a good night’s rest behind us, let us next awake to this new academic year with presence. 

Finally, there is Angelou’s last piece of advice—to awake each day with laughter. 

One of Angelou’s great friends, the writer and theologian Frederick Buechner (BEEKner), told a story that they were both at a very formal ceremony in a cathedral in New York—a place at moment not unlike this one. Buechner noted that the assembled dignitaries were wearing “robes and tassels” and looking very serious.

Angelou smiled and explained to Buechner that enslaved people were not allowed to laugh, as their masters feared it was directed toward them. So they kept an empty barrel—and if any of them felt an urge to laugh, they would act like they were getting something from the barrel and let forth a laugh into it.

When Angelou saw all of these men in robes marching somberly into the cathedral that day, she said, her impulse was to run and find an empty barrel or an empty room and burst into laughter.

The point of the story is that laughter is a critical part of our humanity. And a healthy aspect of our lives: It can be a tremendously powerful antidote to uncertainty and tension. I encourage you, especially in these complicated times, to look for the daily moments of humor and joy that will offer themselves to you in your time here. 

You will undoubtedly experience stress at Duke—it’s a fact of life, and I’ll bet it’s been stressful already just to get here.  But you’ll also have a chance to watch a classmate do stand up in the Bryan Center, to laugh with friends on a suitably distanced walk in Duke Gardens, or to watch with awe as the sun comes up over this Duke Chapel. Such moments of joy are everywhere at Duke, and I hope you will take the time to find them.

In that spirit, let us also awake to this new academic year with laughter and joy. 

Class of 2024, once again, welcome to Duke. You have arrived at a time when things look very different than they ever have before. But in this unprecedented moment, there are great opportunities to be a Duke united in building an even brighter future for our university, the nation, and the world.

In that spirit, and with the words of Maya Angelou echoing in this Chapel where she spoke so many times, I encourage you to awake to this moment of profound opportunity. 

Awake each day with gratitude.

Awake and be present. 

And above all, awake to find the joy in your life as part of this academic community.

Cheers and congratulations.

Message From President Price Regarding Change in Fall 2020 Plans

July 26, 2020

To the Duke Community,

I am writing to provide an update on Duke’s plans for the Fall 2020 semester and to inform you of some important and necessary changes.

At the end of June, we reported that Duke was on track to reopen safely for the Fall 2020 semester with a significant number of residential students. We also said that we would continue to closely monitor local and national trends and modify our plans as necessary, based on public health considerations and our ability to protect the health and safety of Duke students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community.  

It is sadly clear that the persistence and spread of COVID-19 are trending in the wrong direction nationally, in North Carolina, and in Durham; and based on the latest guidance from Duke medical experts and public officials, we anticipate that matters may worsen in the weeks ahead. In light of these worrisome conditions and to address the increased prevalence of the coronavirus, we must further reduce the density of our campus residential population. 

Thus, we have made the very difficult decision to decrease the on-campus residential population by about 30 percent to ensure that we can provide care, support, and a safe and healthy environment for our students, faculty, and staff.  To achieve the necessary reduced density, Duke campus housing for the Fall 2020 semester will now be limited to first-year students, sophomores, and those students who have specific needs for campus housing because of their personal or academic situations and who have been approved through the process that will be available on Monday, July 27 at noon EDT at

Juniors and seniors who had planned to live in Duke campus housing will have the option of participating in the same Duke-quality remote-learning experience that will be available to all students who are not able to come to campus or live in the Durham area this fall, and will have first priority for campus housing in the spring. 

Our plans for the spring semester remain tentative and will be based on the continuing course of the pandemic, medical guidance, prevailing local and national conditions, and our ability to conduct a safe and successful fall semester. We expect to be able to provide campus housing to all juniors and seniors who desire it. Should conditions improve to the point that we can safely expand the number of residential students, we will include first-year students and sophomores as well. We are also making plans to expand our residential summer sessions next year to provide a full on-campus experience for those students who are not able to, or choose not to, attend Duke in Durham in either the Fall 2020 or Spring 2021 semesters.  

Graduate and professional schools are also reviewing their plans for the Fall 2020 semester to reduce campus density and will be contacting students directly with specific guidance about their programs.

We have already created a suite of courses that include in-person, online and hybrid instruction to optimize opportunities for students both near and far, and to maximize safety for students and faculty. With ample, high-quality remote course opportunities, students with concerns about traveling to or about living in Durham, or who would prefer to wait for a more traditional on-campus experience, may well find it desirable to take part in the virtual Duke experience, which will be a rich one. 

While students who live off-campus will be able to attend classes and will have very limited access to campus facilities for academic purposes, it is likely that all students, regardless of their location, will complete much of their course work remotely.  Our on-campus co-curricular and extra-curricular activities will likewise be significantly limited this semester.

We are also expanding our COVID-19 testing program. In addition to initial testing for all returning students (undergraduate, graduate and professional, whether residing on or off campus), we are also implementing regular pooled community testing to identify and address any potential outbreaks among students, as well as faculty and staff who have frequent contact with students. We also have a robust system of daily symptom monitoring and follow up diagnostic testing for all students, faculty, and staff.

I want to reiterate that the on-campus experience this year will be dramatically different than in the past: 

  • All classes will be offered in a variety of formats, including in-person (with online backup), online-only and hybrid online-in person. Our faculty have been working intensely over the past several months to develop rich and innovative online courses that will take full advantage of state-of-the-art interactive technologies and will be accessible to students anywhere in the world.
  • In addition to the comprehensive testing protocol described above, we have a contact tracing program that will be required for all students, along with enhanced capabilities for Student Health in partnership with Duke Health’s world-class hospitals and clinics, quarantine spaces, and increased support services.
  • Campus facilities have been reconfigured to promote physical distancing and enhanced cleaning and hygiene protocols. For the safety of all, there will be no public events or visitors permitted in campus buildings and residences, and access to campus buildings will be very limited for all students.
  • All members of the Duke community – students, faculty, and staff – will have to commit to The Duke Compact and agree to wear face coverings in any public setting, track and report symptoms through the designated app, avoid large gatherings, get a seasonal flu shot, and observe health and travel restrictions to protect each other and the most vulnerable members of our community.

More information regarding the Fall 2020 semester at Duke is available at 

This change in plans is deeply disappointing for all of us. The connections we make and the ideas we create when we are together in classrooms, commons rooms, and across campus are what make Duke such an extraordinary place, and it will be difficult to have those experiences so significantly curtailed and constrained this fall.

At the same time, the challenges we face together are temporary, and we are working to ensure both that the Duke experience we are offering this fall lives up to our extraordinary potential and that the Duke of years to come is an even stronger, more vibrant community. 

I am so very grateful for your flexibility and commitment as we rise to meet this unprecedented moment for higher education, and I have never been prouder to be a part of the Duke family.


Vincent E. Price

Statement to the Community Regarding Anti-Racism

To the Duke Community,

On Friday, we celebrate Juneteenth, the day when enslaved people in Texas learned of the Emancipation Proclamation that had been issued by President Lincoln more than two years earlier. We do so at a somber and sobering moment in our history, as our nation confronts the horror of police violence against Black people, amidst the backdrop of systemic racial inequities and injustices that have been laid bare by the pandemic.

In recognition of Juneteenth’s message of liberation from oppression, and out of respect for the anger, sadness, exhaustion, and courage of our Black friends and neighbors, this Friday, June 19, will be a day of reflection for the entire Duke University community. I encourage you to pause from your regular work and reflect both on the ongoing history of systemic racial injustice and how it manifests in our neighborhoods, our places of work, our families, our faith communities, and at Duke.  To the extent possible, managers should provide employees with time to take part in programs and observances for this day of memory and contemplation.

I hope that this opportunity for reflection will prove valuable for you, as I know it will for me. I cannot as a white person begin to fully understand the daily fear and pain and oppression that is endemic to the Black experience. Instead, I have been seeking to listen, and to learn. I’ve been meeting with my colleagues and reading Black authors and theorists, some here at Duke. And I’ve been reflecting on our national, and regional, and institutional history. 

Those of us who are not subject to the daily oppression of racism must engage deeply, and with humility, with humanity, and with honesty. We must commit to do doing so in a sustained way and not only in response to a moment of national crisis. We live with overwhelming evidence of systematic differences in life chances. They are there to be seen. And yet ​too often those of us not burdened by racism choose not to see, or we choose to explain away these disparities rather than move to correct them.

Here at Duke, we aspire to be agents of progress in advancing racial equity and justice; but it would be more than fair to say that we have often not fully embraced that mission.  Our history makes that clear. We have accomplished so much in which we take pride, and yet we have often been slow to do the right things, the hard things, the transformative things. 

We must take transformative action now toward eliminating the systems of racism and inequality that have shaped the lived experiences of too many members of the Duke community. That starts with a personal transformation, and I’m prepared to do that work. It must end in institutional transformation, and that is the hard work before all of us. And that is my responsibility: to put my full energy as president behind that effort.

That work begins today. I commit the university to the following actions, which, in recognition of anti-racism’s vital importance to every level of institutional activity, are embedded within all five core aspects of Duke’s strategic framework, Toward our Second Century.

First, as we commit to empowering our peoplewe will

  • significantly and measurably expand the diversity of our faculty, staff, and students, with particular focus on Black, Indigenous and people of color;
  • expand our need-based student financial aid, at all levels, and increase faculty support for Black, Indigenous and people of color, through chairs and other means;
  • seek and support a diverse community of staff, through robust workforce development and pipeline programs for underrepresented populations; and
  • ensure salary equity and promote excellence by increasing diverse leadership opportunities at every level of our organization.

As we commit to transforming teaching and learningwe will

  • incorporate anti-racism into our curricula and programs across the university, requiring that every Duke student—in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs—learns of the nature of structural racism and inequity, with special focus on our own regional and institutional legacies;
  • assess and remediate systemic biases in the design of our curricula;
  • amplify our student success resources to ensure that all students are able to take full advantage of Duke;
  • fully mobilize and expand Duke’s research capacity to address and help overturn racism and reduce racial disparities and inequities in policing, justice, health, housing, education, labor and other domains of life, including new avenues of support for scholars who examine these issues; and
  • establish and support Duke as a global educational and research leader in anti-racism.

As we commit to building a renewed campus community, we will

  • require anti-racism and anti-bias training for every member of our faculty, student body, and staff in an effort to foster a more inclusive environment for all members of the Duke community;
  • enhance support for our students, faculty, and staff who are experiencing pain or trauma related to racial injustice;
  • establish a program of coordinated surveys of our faculty, students and staff to assess and inform our progress in addressing bias and promoting respect, meaningful inclusion, and true equity in our community;
  • highlight Black excellence throughout the campus community and increase the visibility of Black scholars, students, staff, and alumni; and
  • hold leadership accountable through the annual review process for promoting a more inclusive, equitable Duke.

As we commit to forging purposeful partnerships in our city and region, we will 

  • strengthen relationships with the City of Durham and support the empowerment of underrepresented communities;
  • create internships for local students, expand local workforce-development programs, and elevate mission-consistent employment and engagement opportunities throughout the community; 
  • deepen our engagement with North Carolina Central University and Durham Technical Community College, as well as Johnson C. Smith University, with whom we share a historic relationship through The Duke Endowment; and
  • support an expanded pipeline for transfer, graduate, and professional applications from students at community colleges and HBCUs.

Finally, as we commit to activating our global network, we will 

  • redouble our efforts to support our alumni who are Black, Indigenous and people of color, including expanded opportunities for networking and professional mentorship;
  • provide opportunities for alumni who are Black, Indigenous and people of color to connect with students on campus;
  • reach out with educational programs for our alumni on racial inequities and injustices; and 
  • assist in mobilizing Duke alumni to be agents of positive change in their communities.

These actions are only a starting point. Righting the wrongs of history will take time, and our efforts will need to be focused and sustained. We must also be far clearer about our goals and transparent as we work toward them. 

To that end, I have charged our executive leadership—our Provost, Executive Vice President, and Chancellor for Health Affairs—to develop and implement a structure for rigorous assessment, accountability and reporting on our progress. I have also asked for a preliminary implementation proposal from the university’s senior leaders and the deans of each school by September 1; I will update the university community on our progress by October 15.

Ultimately, real progress will require an embrace of both personal and institutional humility, admitting to our blindness, our lack of understanding, and confusion.

Real progress will require an abiding commitment to humanity, to actually and deeply caring about each other’s life chances—enough to change them for the better.

Real progress will require both personal and institutional honesty, as change will only come if we seek, confront and own our truth.

As a Duke community, we want to lead the way: on a campus that has had its share of painful moments, and here in the American South, with its legacies of enslaving Black people, undermining Reconstruction, enforcing segregation and resisting integration through Massive Resistance and other means, and brutally suppressing and even to this day frustrating at so many turns the life chances of our Black neighbors and colleagues. We want to lead because when we commit to an anti-racist mission and truly lift up, and support, and celebrate Black lives and Black excellence, we will become a better and more perfect version of the great institution I believe we are.

We cannot, on this Juneteenth, bring news of true freedom—freedom from oppression, violence, and systemic racism. In many ways, even after a century and a half, that goal sadly remains elusive. But today, we can bring news of Duke’s commitment to be partners on the path to achieving it, and to resolutely turn our attention toward the mission of anti-racism.



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