Some students have been having unnerving encounters with squirrels that have gotten used to humans and the good food they leave behind. “One of my friends was sitting at an outdoor table, and a squirrel literally ran across her,” one student told The Chronicle. Freshman Samantha Bouchel tweeted this image with the sentiment: “The diet of the Duke squirrel includes berries, acorns, and the occasional bagel.” Think he’d like cream cheese?
Bouchel, a first-generation student, talks about her experiences adjusting to Duke in an audio documentary by freshman Jamie Gordon.
A difficult conversation
The tempest that most notably blew through the University of Missouri, Yale University, Claremont McKenna College, and Ithaca College led to reflection at Duke, and that led president Richard H. Brodhead to convene a conversation addressing how issues of race, gender, and inequality are playing out on campus.
And so, on a November day at noon in Page Auditorium, students and faculty and staff members joined the president, along with provost Sally Kornbluth and new Trinity dean Valerie Ashby, to “listen, engage, and speak” with Duke colleagues.
Before the trio of administrators took the stage, a group of students did, to the sounds of a call-and-response chant: “Whose university? Our university!” A spokesperson chided the president for what the group saw as a hastily called meeting held at a time when most students had classes. A second group representing the LGBTQ community followed, laying out its safety concerns, stoked, most recently, by a death threat that included a homophobic slur against a freshman.
Brodhead, Kornbluth, and Ashby then took seats on stage, where the president outlined actions the university has taken already or plans to take, including launching a bias/hate task force. (It was later announced that the task force would be co-chaired by Kelly Brownell, dean of the Sanford School and Robert L. Flowers Professor of public policy, and Linda Burton, dean of social sciences and James B. Duke Professor of sociology. In particular, they and a group of faculty, staff, and students will consider whether Duke’s institutional policies should have specific mention of bias and hate; consider issues related to communications of incidents of intolerance; and make recommendations for achieving greater transparency in the handling of issues of intolerance. An initial report is expected in mid-April 2016.)
“Intolerance and bigotry has no place in a university community,” Brodhead said. “It will receive no welcome. We have the most talented people of every race and country together in a place where they can challenge each other and inspire each other. That is our mission. But for that mission to work, every person has to have the same rights and freedoms.”
He emphasized that key to solving these problems is action by the entire campus. Students, too, must speak up and educate one another about tolerance.
That position—the idea of shared responsibility around changing campus culture—became one of several flashpoints during the nearly ninety- minute discussion, which was broadcast on the Bryan Center plaza. “It is not my responsibility,” said senior Adesuwa Giwa-Osagie. “It is your responsibility, because I paid for my education, and I paid for this experience.”
As the trio of administrators listened, students, some in tears, others merely passionate, spoke of how on a regular basis they felt under attack, whether from derogatory comments from faculty members (days earlier, it was revealed that political science professor Jerry Hough, who some felt posted racially insensitive comments about a New York Times editorial, would teach two undergraduate courses next spring), editorials, and op-eds in The Chronicle, or anonymous threats on Yik Yak and other social media.
Last spring’s noose incident seemed to have lasting impact as well. An investigation found it was the result of the student’s lack of cultural awareness and not racially motivated. At the forum, students challenged that finding and the fact that the student involved was allowed to return to campus. One student challenged the president directly. “Can you honestly tell me that you believe there is no racial motive behind the incident last spring?” senior Katrina Miller asked.
Brodhead revealed that there were state, local, and federal investigations of the incident that reached the same conclusion. Though not expelled, the student received a serious disciplinary sanction, he said. “You can disagree with that, but the process was the right one. If you are ever charged, you want the people to judge you on the facts of the case and not on the passions of the community.”
Still, the division surrounding that incident highlighted a lack of trust of administrators among some students. Ashby, who arrived at Duke this past May from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the students she understood that some had lost faith in the university leadership, but said she wasn’t asking them “to trust us.”
“Watch the actions we do from here on,” Ashby said. “I will show you; I am never going to tell you we’re going to do something that we’re not going to do.”
At a later forum, driven by students, a list of demands was circulated asking for change in admissions and financial policies, clear sanctions for hate speech, and an increase in faculty diversity, among others. Still, not all students were in agreement; some expressed dismay over the actions of those they termed the “social justice warriors.”
In an interview with The Chronicle, Brodhead seemed to have no illusions about the challenges ahead and yet was ready to tackle them. “The openness of a great university to all the talent of the country and the world—I regard that as the greatest privilege of a university. And if that means there’s new work you have to do on underlying issues, most of them arising from a social dimension, structural social issues or historical, cultural issues, then let’s get busy and do the work.”
A Rubenstein gift brings the art center to life
Duke has invested nearly $100 million in art facilities since the Nasher Museum of Art opened in 2005. And yet with all the new arts programs, the $50 million, 71,000-square-foot arts center now under construction is considered a “game-changer.”
That doesn’t seem far-fetched considering its scope. The center, scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2017, will include twelve multipurpose studios, a 200-seat performance theater, a 100-set film theater, a dance studio, space for video production and a radio station, a garden, a lounge, a library, reception space, a painting and drawing studio, offices, and classrooms.
Indeed, it’s an acknowledgement of the arts’ growing presence at Duke. There are now seventy-five student arts organizations on campus. Applicants are starting to notice as well. Three times as many include arts portfolios with their applications as did a decade ago.
The center became reality in large part because of a $25 million donation from David Rubenstein ’70, chair of the board of trustees. It’s being built on the corner of Anderson Street and Campus Drive, across from the Nasher, and will provide a home for the dance program and the Arts of the Moving Image certificate program.
A bridge to success for first-generation scholars
A certain magazine told the story recently of an informal Duke network that has worked to build support for first-generation students, helping to develop social and academic resources for them.
With the launch of a new program for first-generation students and those from under-resourced high schools, that informal work has become official.
The Washington Duke Scholars Program will provide enhanced financial aid and a host of academic and social opportunities when it debuts in the fall of 2016. The goal is to help students who have the academic ability to thrive at Duke, but may lack the social and economic support from home, the experience with advanced coursework, and the networking opportunities common among many incoming students.
About 10 percent of the roughly 6,400 undergraduates are first-generation students, and the plan is to enroll thirty scholars the first year; Duke hopes to double that total. The university will identify candidates and send an invitation with their acceptance letters.
Washington Duke Scholars will start in the summer before their first semester with a one-credit bridge program to give them experience with the rigor of a Duke education. They’ll also have a faculty mentor and peer preceptor to offer guidance. Scholars will participate in two first-year programs on wellness and professional readiness, as well as another seminar the following year.
The scholars will receive enhanced financial aid in the form of a grant, as well as a laptop computer; work-study requirements are dropped for the first year. The program also provides funding for an internship or research experience and waives the expectation of earnings over the summer.
“For those students who have to make more adjustments to a place like Duke, the support a scholarship like this provides will be invaluable,” says Christoph Guttentag, dean of undergraduate admissions.
Two losses to the community
As is tradition, Duke flags were lowered to mark the death of Ernestine Friedl, the first female dean of Trinity College. Friedl, a renowned anthropologist known for studying modern Europe and gender roles and a James B. Duke Professor emerita, came to Duke in 1973 and was chair of the cultural anthropology department until 1978. She served as dean for five years, and her initiatives included increasing diversity and overseeing the establishment of the Women’s Studies program. Just two weeks earlier, she had attended a departmental luncheon in the East Campus building bearing her name. Friedl was ninety-five.
Economist Malcolm Gillis’s first faculty post at Duke, or anywhere, was as an assistant professor. Later, after a fifteen-year stint at Harvard, he returned to Duke and was dean of the graduate school and vice provost for academic affairs. He’s considered a pioneer in the field of development economics: During the first twenty-five years of his professional life, he helped some twenty countries apply economic analysis to public policy. In 1993, he left Duke to become the sixth president of Rice University. Gillis was seventy-four.
New center brings an interdisciplinary approach to health care
It’s fair to say that health-care reform is one of the key challenges facing the nation. And that makes it fair to say that the university’s new health-policy center will have much work ahead of it.
The Duke-Margolis Center will aim to develop ideas on health reform and move them to implementation. Founded with a $16.5 million gift from Robert J. Margolis M.D. ’71 and his wife, Lisa, through the Robert and Lisa Margolis Family Foundation, the center will connect Duke’s resources with policymakers and policy analysts in the private and public sector. Disciplines involved will included business, biomedical research, clinical care, public policy, global health, and law. While it will be based at the Fuqua School of Business, faculty and staff at Sanford, the School of Medicine, the School of Law, and other units will collaborate.
Mark McClellan, a physician, economist, and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, is the center’s new director and was named the Robert J. Margolis M.D. Professor of business, medicine, and health policy.
A new approach to college admissions
Criticizing the Common Application used for college admissions has become a ritual on par with taking the SATs. In September, Duke, along with more than eighty public and private universities, launched an effort with the hope of offering an alternative to that online process.
In the summer of 2016, the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success is scheduled to launch a new admissions application where students could enter the basic facts, like name and high school, and each college would add its own essay questions. But the application would link to a free online portfolio system, scheduled to go live in January, through which students would be encouraged to add examples of their best work, short essays they’d like to showcase, descriptions of extracurricular activities, and more, starting in the ninth grade.
That early start is key in the coalition’s goal: It seeks to encourage students to start thinking early and deeply about what they are learning or accomplishing in high school. And with the ability of college admissions officers, counselors, and others to have access to the portfolios, it gives students the opportunity to be coached and counseled and helped to identify the right colleges for them. The organizers also want the new system to minimize the disadvantages faced by low-income students in resource-poor schools.
“The opportunity for students to develop a portfolio over several years can particularly help students who normally wouldn’t think about college until the fall of their senior year,” Christoph Guttentag, Duke’s dean of undergraduate admissions, said in the university’s announcement.
While there has been praise for the coalition’s plans, some observers have concerns. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, whose book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be took on the manic admissions process, called for the coalition to present a more detailed plan to ensure disadvantaged kids know about the plan and how it can benefit them. At a gathering of high-school guidance counselors, many criticized the effort as favoring wealthy applicants and wealthy colleges, and questioned the criteria of membership in the coalition.
Three students awarded international honors
There were 869 applicants at 316 colleges and universities. In late November thirty-two students were named Rhodes Scholars. And the forty-fourth and forty-fifth Duke students to be selected are seniors Laura Roberts and John “Jay” Ruckelshaus.
Both are standouts. Ruckelshaus, a political science major with a triple-minor in philosophy, history, and English, is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, an Angier B. Duke Scholar, and a recipient of the Duke Faculty Scholars Award. He serves as a student member of the board of trustees’ academics affairs committee and as a senator in Duke Student Government. This is not his first national distinction: He is a Harry S. Truman Scholar.
Paralyzed in a diving accident the summer before his freshman year, Ruckelshaus is the founder and president/CEO of Ramp Less Traveled, a nonprofit organization he created to support students with spinal-cord injuries in pursuit of higher education. He is also a member of the U.S. International Council on Disability.
This will be his second trip to Oxford, England. As a Lord Rothermere Fellowship recipient, he studied political theory at New College during the summer of 2013. As a Rhodes Scholar, he plans to pursue a master’s of philosophy degree.
“I embrace, excitedly and wholeheartedly and gratefully, the mission of the Rhodes Trust to fight the world’s fight, to push forward with political theory and advocacy to a more inclusive democratic future,” he says.
Roberts is a history major with a double-minor in religion and political science. She’s been inducted into the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society and the Order of Omega Honor Society. At Duke, among other roles, she serves as vice president and director of campus affairs for the Duke International Relations Association and is events chair for the Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research, helping to raise awareness for the mission of WISER school for girls in Kenya. The organization was founded in 2006 by Sherryl Broverman, associate professor of the practice of biology and global health, and Andy Cunningham ’08.
“Laura is one of those rare young people who will eventually lead organizations and inspire others,” says Thomas Robisheaux ’74, Fred W. Schaffer Professor of history. “She will show others how to make their work more lasting, more enduring, by underpinning it with education, intellectual depth, and moral clarity.”
Another Duke senior, William Rooney, was awarded the George J. Mitchell Scholarship for a year of graduate study in Ireland. Rooney is pursuing a Program II plan of study titled “Markets, Society, and Personalism.” He’s a member of the varsity cross-country and track-and-field teams, as well as a columnist for The Chronicle. He plans to attend Maynooth University for a master’s degree in the philosophy of religion. Rooney was one of twelve Americans chosen for the scholarship.
Constantly connected kids are all right
Screens of all sorts and sizes have become a constant in our lives, inciting concerns in some parents and educators about the impact those devices might be having on young people.
Candice Odgers, director of Duke’s Center for Child and Family Policy, offers worriers a chance to relax a little. Her research shows things may not be as bad as you think they are.
For one study, Odgers gave mobile phones and smart watches to 150 California youth ages twelve to fifteen, then monitored them by texting them short survey questions three times per day for thirty days. Her goal was to learn how day-to-day stressors, rather than major traumas, affect youth behavior.
After tracking phone usage, speaking with parents, and monitoring how the media cover teen digital behavior, Odgers found seven common fears among the adults: • Teens’ personal safety; • Cyberbullying; • That constant connectivity keeps teens from being present in real life; • Teens pretending to be other people online; • The digital divide between parents and children; • That multitasking impairs cognition; and • That mobile devices affect sleep.
It’s true that light emitted by screens interferes with falling asleep. But sleep aside, Odgers’ research suggests the other adult fears aren’t supported. For instance, most kids use phones to communicate with family and friends, not strangers. Most of the texts they send concern everyday topics and are neutral or positive in content. She also found that children with strong early relationships communicated more frequently online and reported closer, more cohesive offline friendships.
A community for educators
Standardized tests, shifting curriculums, and low pay are just some of the reasons many leave the teaching field. Indeed, nationally, nearly half of all teachers leave the field within their first five years, says Jan Riggsbee, who teaches in the Duke program in education.
But Riggsbee and cofounder Christopher Gergen are aiming to stem that tide through Duke TeachHouse, a new living and learning community established in September in East Durham, in which two experienced teachers live with and serve as mentors for four new teachers. Along with the informal support, the house offers programs, like dinners with local educators and visiting policymakers.
The program was launched with the support of the education program and Trinity College; the Office of Durham & Regional Affairs; the Social Science Research Institute’s Education and Human Development Incubator; Forward Impact, an entrepreneurial support agency; and the Durham Public Schools.
Study shows social connections get guns to criminals
You’ve seen it a million times on your favorite crime drama: a criminal getting a gun from a backroom dealer.
But researchers reveal a more mundane story. Criminals are far more likely to get guns from family and acquaintances.
Philip J. Cook, a professor of public policy, economics, and sociology working with University of Chicago researchers, asked inmates how they obtained guns, while a second project analyzed data that traced weapons used in crimes. The study was published online by the journal Preventive Medicine.
“Dirty dealers,” who deliberately violate the law and sell to buyers who can’t pass a background check, accounted for less than 5 percent of guns sold to gang members. Fifteen percent of new crime guns confiscated from a man were first purchased by a woman, which suggests a straw purchase.
The study also found that Chicago law enforcement and local and federal regulations have had an effect on the availability of guns to criminals in that city. “They can’t buy their guns from stores, the way most people do, and are instead largely constrained to making private deals with acquaintances, who may or may not be willing and able to provide what they want,” says Cook.
Autism research app developed
Autism experts often tout early detection as key in helping children with the disorder. A new app developed by a team of Duke programmers, scientists, and students aims to help with that effort.
The free ResearchKit app, called “Autism & Beyond,” is not a diagnostic tool. Instead, its intent is to test the reliability of smart-phone questionnaires and video analysis of facial expressions as a possible screening tool for autism and other developmental disorders for children, much like the screenings that happen at schools for hearing or eyesight. Parents, and children age one to six, interact with the questionnaires and videos on the app and then get feedback on their child’s results. The researchers will gather data from the app’s use for six months.
The app was developed over four months in partnership with Apple, which developed ResearchKit, an opensource framework the company introduced last March that allows iPhone users to participate in medical trials and studies through health data-sharing efforts. The free iOS app is being offered from the Apple App Store.
Does creativity have a gender?
Researchers find more men get the description than women. Much has been made of the male dominance in the tech industry. But, where are the female innovators?
A Fuqua study suggests those innovators might be hidden in plain sight. New research shows that men tend to be perceived as more creative than women even when the work they produce is identical.
A team that included Aaron Kay, an associate professor specializing in management and operations, and Ph.D. students Devon Proudfoot and Christy Zhou Koval found that creativity and innovation are more closely associated with stereotypically male traits, leading people to judge men as more creative than women. Participants in an online study rated qualities like decisiveness, courage, and competitiveness as more important to creativity than sensitivity, sympathy, and nurturing, traits that are more commonly associated with women.
The findings suggest women could be at a professional disadvantage in workplaces where creative thinking is most valued, like the tech sector. “As our economy becomes more and more based on innovation, this bias is going to matter more and more,” Kay says. “If we think creative behavior is more desirable, then it’s even more important to be aware of stereotypes about creativity.”