As we begin a new academic year, I write to update the Duke community about the work of the Campus Culture Initiative Steering Committee.
The President's charge to the Steering Committee is challenging and multifaceted. We have been asked to take the measure of our campus culture and see where it could be improved. We aim toward a culture where all community members take responsibility for their behavior and respect the rights of others. We strive not only to articulate a vision of what Duke can be, but also to analyze existing practices and bring forward initiatives needed to realize the vision.
The timeline for our work is also challenging. The Steering Committee was asked to provide the President with an interim report no later than December 1, 2006 and a final report no later than May 1, 2007.
The Steering Committee held its first meeting on April 25th and our work has progressed in phases. The first phase was devoted to framing our approach to the charge and organizing the work of the Committee. We met four times in the weeks before Commencement. Initial discussions focused on both the events of last March and the responses of our community and led to a shared awareness that Duke is more characterized by divides and separations than we had fully understood or acknowledged. These "campus divides" relate not only to long standing issues of race and gender but also separations with respect to social privilege, athletics, and campus-community relations. Two broad objectives were clearly identified. We seek to find specific and constructive ways to promote respect and responsibility and to lessen campus divides. Our shared goal is a stronger and more inclusive community.
The Committee has adopted the approach of connecting with relevant initiatives, committees, projects and reports, including the Women's Initiative, the Campus Life and Learning Project, and the Council on Civic Engagement. We also are committed to seek input from the Duke community throughout each phase of our work. The Committee recognizes its role as advisory and not policy setting and that our recommendations will be one point of advice among others. We seek to articulate a vision of campus culture and highlight choices along the pathway. We understand that our recommendations will need to be subsequently implemented through appropriate committees and administrative units.
The second phase of our work comprised the summer months. Given the difficulty of functioning as a 25 member Committee during the summer, our approach was to form subgroups to address key issues, identify opportunities for improvement, and consider possible approaches. Four subgroups were formed and convened by members of the Steering Committee; Race (Professor Karla Holloway); Alcohol (Professor Phil Cook); gender/sexuality (Professors Anne Allison and Suzanne Shanahan); and athletics (Professor Peter Wood). Forming subgroups also enabled the inclusion of other faculty students, and staff as members or invited participants.
Forming subgroups was a way to gather and analyze information for consideration by the entire Steering Committee in the fall. Each subgroup met four to six times during the summer. In addition, the Steering Committee met six times during the summer.
With the beginning of the fall term, we are entering the third phase of our work. The Steering Committee will meet weekly and for a half-day retreat in September. We will focus on integrating information from the subgroups, formulating questions and ideas, and soliciting input from the larger campus community. This is an intensive period of work for the committee in preparation for the meeting with the President's Council in November and submission of our interim report by December 1st.
To facilitate the communications process this fall, the Steering Committee has established a web site (http://www.campuscultureinitiative.duke.edu/) through which we will solicit community responses to particular questions and ideas as well as comments and suggestions. Although the Committee cannot respond to each contribution, all will be read and considered. Members of the Committee will also schedule a series of interactive meetings throughout the fall, starting the week of September 11th, intended to canvas opinion, feedback, and input from the Duke community. The meeting schedule and topics will be posted on the website and students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to sign up through the web site to participate in these meetings.
We look forward to having this community dialogue in the weeks ahead.
Chair, Campus Culture Initiative