Forum: May-June 2004

June 1, 2004
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Football Fervor

The letters you printed about the July-August 2003 article on football were certainly not representative of my point of view, nor that of any alumnus I know. Of course, I don't run in circles that look to Swarthmore for ideas about how to run an athletics program.

The defeatist, "let's give it up" tone of the majority was embarrassing for a school that challenges itself to excellence in everything it does. If it was a representative sample of alumni opinion on the viability of Division I football at Duke, shame on us. If it was not, and letters were selected merely to support the point of view of the author, or even worse, the editorial board of this magazine, shame on you.

Dan Bowling III J.D. '80
Atlanta, Georgia

Action Questions

I failed to find any particular enthusiasm in students' comments ["Re-affirming Affirmative Action," September-October 2003]. Instead they proved to be excellent observers of affirmative action at the university level. However, I believe answers to two questions would help us comprehend the dimensions of the issue at Duke:

1. How many of the 570 (less 288 uniformly excellent Asian) minority students were admitted without reference to affirmative-action considerations?

2. Do affirmative-action students compete effectively with students who reflect Duke's traditional academic preparation?I can't help but wonder if there is a price to pay for the absence of a level playing field for all would-be Duke freshmen of whatever race, and who pays it.

C. Lee Butler '52, LL.B. '53
Savannah, Georgia

Sad, too

This is in response to the letter from "Sad" in the Forum [January-February 2004]. I'm sad, too, that one of my contemporaries and fellow alumnae believes that traditional Christian principles are compromised when there is the prospect for the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life to be given accessible and visible space at Duke.

"Nostalgia" has its place and so does "political correctness."

If the specter of taking the Oak Room for the LGBT Center reflects deep roots for "PC," I say, Hurrah! I hope that our deeply felt sense of concern and caring for one another, in our diversity, would eclipse both nostalgia and political correctness.

Whatever the spoken and unspoken ideals in founding Duke University, I would pray for support for the aspect of the LGBT Center's mission, which states, "Through its services, the Center for LGBT Life presents educational, cultural, and social opportunities for all students, faculty, staff, and alumni/ae to challenge intolerance and to create a more hospitable campus climate."

Ann Hadley Deupree '57
Hendersonville, North Carolina

 

If Ms. Risch Fortney '61 is saddened to read that the Oak Room space is being assigned to the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life (a fact which was corrected by the editor), I was deeply troubled by her letter.

Duke is first and foremost a community of academic rigor and research-based decision making. I fully trust that administrators and faculty are united in decisions that directly impact the safety and emotional well-being of all students. Providing a support network for students who identify themselves as a minority with reference to sexual orientation is sound educational practice and not a result of "political correctness."

Irrespective of religious beliefs, research data is very clear that sexual orientation is "hard wired" by genetics and the brain's biochemistry. It is also clear that gay and lesbian students are at a higher risk of harassment and physical violence if they are open about it. Academic achievement may be compromised if students live in an environment that feels unsafe. Thus an alliance of students increases the likelihood that minority students will feel empowered to create a sense of support and safety that enhances the environment for all students. The Duke community has a serious responsibility to assist students in creating a supportive environment where all members of the community can learn and achieve.

I am straight, married, a parent, and a Christian. I, too, can be very nostalgic about the many traditional living spaces on the Duke campus. However, as parents, teachers, and decision makers, our first calling is to provide a safe, secure, and supportive environment in which all students can learn. As an alumna,

I fully support the efforts of the university to fulfill its mission to meet the needs of all students.

Trish Youngs Myers '72
Ringoes, New Jersey

Remembering King

Editors:

In your January-February issue, page 56, there is a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking [Retrospective, "Autumn Leaves Lessons"]. I believe it was in Page Auditorium, not Duke Chapel.

I remember that a friend and I left chem lab early (it was on East Campus) in order to get there on time. When we told the lab supervisor (a grad student) what we were doing, he looked around and then told us that he wished he could do the same, and not to worry about leaving early.

We sat in about the first row of the balcony (the main floor was full when we got there). We could see the lectern from which Dr. King spoke. He had no notes but kept us (and everyone else, as far as I could tell) enthralled. Almost forty years later, it is still fresh and inspirational.

David M. Whalin '69
(via e-mail)

We apologize for the error. Loudspeakers were set up on the quad and behind Page to accommodate the overflow crowd.

Looking Back

Everyone who was in the Duke community in 1968 and 1969 will remember the activism that challenged Dr. Douglas Knight and all of us, so well described by Bridget Booher ["Jousting with History," January-February 2004].

I was at the President's House and on the quad for the "Silent Vigil." During the tear-gassing of the main quad, I watched the troopers and demonstrators from old Perkins library tower.

Looking back, it was a time of searching and growth for the country and the university--and a time of finding heroes like Dr. Knight and Dean William Griffith, leaders and educators who nurture and are nurtured by the Duke experience.

Mark Lucas '70
Chattanooga, Tennessee

The article on Doug Knight states, "Opinion was divided between those who thought his decision to call in state police was unwarranted and heavy-handed, and those who saw the black students' behavior as evidence of the danger of integration and thought Knight should kick them out for good."

As someone who was there at the time, I can tell you with total certainty that opinion was far more varied than what you report. How about: "He had no choice but to call in the police, too bad they handled things so poorly, and there was every reason to toss the students in question, but that had nothing to do with the need to be an integrated institution."

Robert Dickman '69
Burbank, California

Where Credit Is Due

As one of the three founders of Blitz Build Duke, it was with disappointment that I read "Hammer Time for Habitat" [January-February 2004]. Unfortunately, there were a few omissions.

Blitz Build Duke began as a project in Tony Brown's PPS146 class, fall 2002. Three seniors, Will Weir, Kat Farrell, and I, were assigned to work with Durham Habitat for Humanity (H4H). The report that this was "the brainchild" of one individual was erroneous.

During our last two semesters at Duke, Will, Kat, and I began putting the plan into action. After a meeting with Durham H4H, we performed extensive research, ascertained required funding and feasibility, and determined the necessary volunteer labor hours. We assessed the feasibility of eight possible sites for the build.

Kat, Will, and I hosted a conference attended by Katie Henderson '04, who was to continue the project after we graduated, and other key players from Duke and H4H. As a result, Tallman Trask III, Duke's executive vice president, stated that if we raised the funds, he would provide us with a location to build. We were able to raise early $7,000 before graduating in May.

In order to sustain the project and keep apprised of its progress, we solidified our relationship with Henderson. She promised continuance of the project and to keep the three original founders informed of its progress. Unfortunately, I learned of the project's completion for the first time in your magazine. I appreciate the work that Anderson, Hayden, and Henderson put forth, but I would like it noted that others put an enormous amount of time, effort, and struggle into the development and organization of the Blitz Build prior to their involvement.

To the Katrosciks, I wish you the best. I would have liked to be there to see this meaningful project become areality. To all Duke students, I hope that the build was an inspiring experience, and I hope you will continue the tradition of Blitz Build Duke.

Kim Bagford '03
Manassas, Virginia

Kate Henderson '04, one of the organizers of the fall Blitz Build and a central voice in the story, responds: "We gratefully acknowledge the outstanding contributions made by Kim Bagford and Will Weir. We are sorry their central roles in the early stages of the project were left out of our conversations with Duke Magazine."

Remembering Rhyne

I was saddened to learn of the death of Charles Rhyne '34, who also attended Duke Law School for a period of time. As you noted in his obituary [January-February 2004], his successful argument before the Supreme Court in Baker v. Carr made the right to vote ever more precious for all Americans. I'd like to add to his obituary, for Rhyne also played a key role in the desegregation of Duke that few people seem aware of.

In 1961, a special committee established by Duke's President Hart and led by Provost Taylor Cole was only able to move the trustees to desegregate the graduate and professional schools. Not even the successful integration of the Durham public schools on the elementary and secondary level nor new policies at comparable Southern schools like Emory, Tulane, Rice, Vanderbilt, and Davidson goaded the trustees on the undergraduate level.

The board was very entrenched; for example chairman B.S. Womble '04, LL.B. '06 [Hon. '64] was a trustee for almost half a century and, though surprisingly progressive, harbored a deep concern about racial mixing among undergraduates. He once related to me how he and Mrs. Womble were waiting to enter a taxi in New York City, when a young black man and a white woman emerged and walked off hand in hand, their frolic confirming his worst fears.

Rhyne waded into this--at his second meeting as a trustee during Commencement 1962--startling the board with a resolution to end segregation immediately. Trustee meetings in those days were "privileged," and no one would ever reveal the debate or vote, nor would Rhyne agree to a Chronicle interview. But the fortitude of Charles Rhyne may well have advanced the arrival of the first black undergraduates by several years.

Ed Rickards '63, J.D. '66

The correspondent is a former editor of The Chronicle.