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The People’s State of the University


This spring marks the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a bold
organizer and activist who ​spent his life championing racial and economic justice. His final days
were spent with striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee to demand recognition of
their union, better working conditions, and decent pay. Their strike was a milestone in the ​Poor
People’s Campaign​, which they created in 1967 to highlight America’s worsening poverty and to
begin a journey towards economic justice. Dr. King was one among a generation of leaders
whose shoulders we stand on today.

After his death, over 2,000 Duke students, workers, faculty and members of the Durham
community participated in a Silent Vigil to commemorate Dr. King, and subsequently held a
march to the home of Duke’s president, the Hart House. The students had ​four demands​: 1) that
President Knight sign a newspaper ad calling for a day of mourning and that Durham residents
work towards ensuring racial equality 2) that President Knight resign from his membership at
Hope Valley Country Club, a segregated country club 3) that Duke establish a $1.60 minimum
wage for non-academic workers and 4) the acceptance of collective bargaining for non-academic
workers. After 8 days of long negotiations where protesters camped in President Knight’s home,
marched, survived tear gas and constantly countered critiques mainly fueled by respectability
politics, the administration agreed to gradually phase in increases in wages, and appoint two
committees (task forces) to ​“study the university’s relationship with its non-economic
employees”​. These events would later be summarized as ​“a turning point for Duke”​, and yet, 50
years later so much has remained the same. We are still here.

As students, many of us are familiar with this cycle of administration-organizer engagement - it

is a Forever Duke tradition. It has been 50 years since the Silent Vigil, yet students, workers and
faculty are STILL investing countless hours of unpaid labor into organizing, policy-making and
negotiating with often unreceptive administrators. It has been 50 years since the Silent Vigil and
Duke’s administration is still using the same bureaucratic measures--task forces, namely--to
pacify us. It has been 50 years since the Silent Vigil and we are still here organizing, disrupting,
hurting and incurring trauma. We are still here.

This work of holding the university accountable is a long tradition: from the students who
occupied the Allen Building in 1969 to demand a Black Studies program and better wages for
workers, to the students who ​marched along Campus Drive in 1987 in the “Take Back the Night”
rally for gender justice, to the students who organized with Duke Students Against Sweatshops
to push Duke to ​better monitor the working conditions of factories in which its apparel is

produced​, to the students in 2013 who pushed the university to be ​more transparent about its
investment endowment. ​We stand on their shoulders. We are still here.

In recent weeks, Duke has sponsored a series of programming commemorating activism and
issues of race at Duke, including: a ​Provost’s Symposium on Slavery and American Universities;
a ​service on the anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Class of 1968
Alumni ​reunion to reflect upon the Silent Vigil and Allen Building Protests of 1968 and 1969;
and ​panel​ discussions on labor and women activists then and now.

We know, however, that these events are not enough. As the university looks back on its history
of activism and social justice, it will inevitably lock these events in the past; Duke prefers
marches and protests in its history books and memorials, but not on its quads. It would be a
disservice to the legacy of these activists to only remember their sacrifices through official
programming and panels. We believe that the best way to honor their work is by continuing it in
full force, loud and in unison.

Our coalition is diverse and comprised of students who belong to black, Latinx, Asian/American,
LGBTQIA+, Muslim, and ally communities. We come from different genders, races, ethnicities,
ability statuses, socioeconomic classes, sexualities, hometowns, religions, and upbringings. Our
diversity allows us to speak from lived experience about the ways in which Duke is not doing
enough by its students, workers, and local community. Our lived experiences have been the
inspiration for this document and although our issues might seem different, they are all
interconnected. We stand arm-in-arm in the long fight to make Duke a place we can all be proud
to call home.

Although our coalition is diverse, we do not represent all voices on this campus and do not
pretend to do so; we are open to suggestion, critique, and expansion of this vision for Duke.

We know from our history that systems of power and oppression fall when ordinary people, like
us, have the courage to stand up and speak out about the injustices we face. If the arc of the
moral universe bends towards justice, then it is only for continued pressure from a united people
that it bends so. Today and always, we continue the push.

Below, we speak our truths about this university and articulate our collective vision on where to
go from here.

I. Admissions Equity and Student Life

In its ​mission statement​, the university states that, “it will 'provide real leadership in the
educational world' by choosing individuals of 'outstanding character, ability, and vision' to serve
as its officers, trustees and faculty.” To start, Duke has not followed a number of its ​peer
institutions in extending need-blind admission to international students. Instead, it continues to
give “​special consideration​” to students with a Duke family legacy. Dollars that could be put
toward ending loans in financial aid packages are allocated to students who are not in need
through merit scholarships. As it stands now, Duke does not do nearly enough to support
students from low-income backgrounds. A whole population of students of the ‘outstanding
character’ which the university claims it seeks must reckon with the fact that they are not
welcome at this institution. The mission statement of Duke University, as stated above, is
incompatible with the inequitable nature of admissions as it stands now.

Low-income and first generations face countless hurdles in their time at Duke. In order to better
assist these students as they study, work, and grow among their more financial secure and
network-connected peers, Duke should provide students with grants (rather than loans) for
necessary equipment like laptops, textbooks, and required materials. These students are also
currently underserved in the realm of preparation for job and internship interviews. Even existing
forms of financial support for students - such as funding from the Career Center or Sanford
Career Services for unpaid internships - are often not formally advertised. Additionally, our
vision for an ideal Duke includes abolition of legacy admissions, establishment of loan-free
financial aid, need-blind admission for all students, and increased food accessibility during

II. Board of Trustees and Administrative Reform

The Board of Trustees’ meetings are completely closed to the public; here the lack of
administrative transparency is painfully clear. This has not always been the case: from
1971-2008, the meetings were open to designated students, faculty, and reporters. This newfound
secrecy comes at a time of numerous questionable university practices, for which ALL
community members deserve answers. This includes DUMAC’s meetings concerning the
university’s financial ties to corporations which engage in exploitative and environmentally
hazardous practices though their own blocker corporations. This reflects a dismissive attitude
towards the ethics of their financial investments.

The Board of Trustees and Administrators attempt to use the meetings of the Advisory
Committee on Investment Responsibility (ACIR) as a forum for the concerns of students, staff,
and faculty. However, it is ​evident that even this supposed link between the Board of Trustees

and those who they are meant to serve is broken. In an open meeting between representatives
from the ​ACIR in November of 2017​, it was made clear that no one except for those explicitly
making the investments had any idea of exactly where the University’s money was going.
Furthermore, for at least the last two years, ACIR’s open forums have only been announced the
morning of the event, a clear impediment to public notice and access to these events that purport
to solicit campus and community engagement. An advisory committee for “investment
responsibility” serves no purpose if the university has the ability to shroud their finances from
anyone who can hold them accountable.

In opening up Board of Trustee meetings to public review, Duke gives its community a chance to
weigh in on significant policy decisions. We feel compelled to cultivate a Duke that divests from
companies dependent on forced prison labor and ​fossil fuels​. We feel called to develop a Duke in
which derogatory and incompetent administrators—such as Executive Vice President Tallman
Trask III—can be held accountable by their constituents. These necessary reforms can only be
made possible with a more transparent Board of Trustees and community-based approaches to
monetary budgeting.

III. Sexual Violence

As ​a recent study of undergraduates has shown, two of five undergraduate women and one of ten
undergraduate men have been sexually assaulted during their time at Duke. Sexual assault on
campus does NOT affect all races, genders, and sexualities equally: 42 percent of Black female
students, 54 percent of Hispanic female students, and 59 percent of queer female students have
been sexually assaulted since coming to Duke. For graduate students, sexual harassment and
assault from mentors is often made to be a routine part of their job, yet resources are even more
difficult to find, and their situations can be even more difficult to escape.

According to the Women’s Center, only ten percent of the ​students who report having been
assaulted in this survey access their services. Instead of providing and expanding resources for
students and workers who are dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault and harassment,
administrators spend their efforts dithering in task force meetings. In fact, the Women’s Center
has been relocated to a less accessible and difficult to find space, which is immediately behind
the office of student conduct, which is where students who seek support from that office would
be forced to face their assaulter in juridical, and often retraumatizing conditions.

Because of Duke’s consistent refusal to hold students, faculty, administrators, and employees
accountable for acts of sexual assault, intimate violence, and sexual harassment, students and
workers are forced to work, learn, and live with the people who have traumatized them,
increasing the trauma through these interactions. Through fear of litigation and of the discomfort

of assaulters and harassers, administrators continue to prioritize their own comfort over the
actual trauma that students and workers experience. We imagine a Duke in which assaulters,
harassers, and violence-doers are not empowered to continue their harm, and where survivors are
free from continued harassment to seek their own healing.

In the last year, the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has retracted requirements of
universities to streamline service accessibility for survivors of sexual violence. Duke
administrators have been suspiciously silent on their commitment to maintaining, at the very
least, the resources currently available to survivors, leaving undergrads in uncertainty over the
school’s policies. After DeVos ​withdrew the Dear Colleague Letters of 2011 and 2014​, no longer
requiring universities to use a preponderance of evidence standard and making it harder for
survivors to receive their required accommodations, Duke administrators refused to publicly
declare their commitment to voluntarily continue working with the guidelines from the Dear
Colleague letters of 2011 and 2014. Administrators have been focusing on empty “prevention”
efforts while violence continues to affect marginalized students on this campus.

We believe that increased resources and attention devoted towards the well-being of sexual
assault survivors will make this campus a better place for all its students. We believe that a
justice system that holds perpetrators accountable and meets the needs of survivors is possible.
We believe in action, rather than ineffective bureaucratic task forces.

IV. Economic Justice

Labor exploitation is the lifeblood of Duke University. In 1968, ​Duke service workers and their
allies demanded living wages and the impartial arbitration of their work grievances. Today,
workers—including housing and dining staff, contracted workers, ​non-regular rank faculty​, and
graduate students​—are still demanding those same basic rights. Nearly half a century later,
workers on campus are still fighting for livable wages and humane work conditions, freedom
from sexist and racist workplace harassment, basic health services like dental care, and fair
contracts. Duke feigns progressivism in the realm of wages and ​promises a raise to $15/hr for
employees, only to exclude large portions of the university workforce like graduate and
undergraduate workers, subcontracted labor, and many service workers.

Presently, laborers on campus don’t even have access to basic systems of accountability to report
abuses outside of the useless HR department and DUPD—both of which ​report directly to Vice
President of Administration Kyle Cavanaugh, who created a hostile work environment in the
Parking and Transportation Services and aided in covering up ​EVP Tallman Trask’s hit and
run​—or OIE which is headed by an unchecked hierarchy of bureaucrats and administrators who
exist to protect the institution itself. It is crucial to emphasize that the majority of staff on campus

are Black and Latinx. It is their backbreaking, underpaid, exploited labor that Duke Plantation
thrives on. In the words of Renee Adkins, former special events manager for PTS, these workers
are forced to endure a culture of ​“racism, harassment, retaliation and bullying”​.

V. LGBTQIA+ Justice

Duke portrays itself as a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQIA+ individuals. In reality, the
University has continued to neglect any legitimate acknowledgement of its long and continued
history of homophobia and transphobia on campus.

On an institutional level, any acknowledgement of past discrimination has been and continues to
be markedly performative. Upon taking the initiative to delve into Duke’s archives, Denzell
Faison (T‘14) discovered that the ​Duke University Police arrested 64 men for the crime of
homosexuality in the 1960’s​. No amends or honorary degrees have yet been made for these
individuals who could have been protected by the University. Furthermore, the Terry Sanford
School of Public Policy continues to be heralded as one of the university’s most prestigious
departments, despite its namesake being known for a history of anti-LGBTQIA+ actions, such as
denying the request of the ​1974 Duke Gay Alliance to add sexual orientation to the university’s
nondiscrimination policy during his tenure as president. This makes it clear that the university is
willing to neglect its historical marginalization of queer people in favor of maintaining its
reputation and image.

After the North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2 in 2017, Duke published a press
release, declaring its policy of inclusivity for trans students and workers. However, there is not
one transfeminine person employed by Duke, not even by the Center for Sexual and Gender
Diversity, causing us to question Duke’s commitment to diversity and respect for trans and queer
workers and students.

Students in the Duke Divinity School have been ​forced to gather in demand for proper
representation of LGBTQIA+ students and students of color, who have been utilized as an image
for diversity advertisements while simultaneously having their voices silenced and being denied
requested resources.

To take a step towards addressing the needs of the queer community at Duke, we must work

1. More sexual health resources for LGBTQIA+ students, particularly more resources for
trans students within CAPS, the Women’s Center and Student Wellness and greater
access to PrEP within the Duke health system.

2. Prohibiting surgeries within Duke medical facilities on intersex children who are too
young to offer informed consent solely for cosmetic or any other medically unnecessary
3. Mandatory equity training for admin and faculty relating to LGBTQIA+ identities and
experiences and how to best accommodate and support students.
4. Honorary degrees for individuals arrested in 1960’s.
5. Hire at least one trans-feminine identifying faculty member by Spring 2019.
6. Mandating the presence of a gender non-specific restroom in all buildings on campus,
institutionalizing a policy mandating all newly constructed or majorly renovated
buildings have a gender non-specific restroom, and HRL and Facilities more intentionally
recording and mapping the location of these restrooms.

VI. Durham

The city of Durham is not simply incidental to Duke. The city, its people, and its resources are
the backbone of this university. Duke University was and continues to be constructed on the
backs of Black and Brown laborers from across Durham, and Duke’s legacy in manipulating the
city for its own profit represents an unjust affront to the contributions of these integral workers.
It is no accident that Duke is known amongst non-academic employees and longtime Durham
residents as “The Plantation.”

For the vast majority of its history, Duke has, at worst, exploited the city to its benefit, and at
best, ignored it. While Duke’s recent investment in the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and
expansive civic engagement and service-learning programs are positive developments, Duke still
fails to recognize its complex role as Durham’s largest employer and as a large ​gentrifying force​.
Furthermore, Duke has recently announced its desire to fuel its energy needs with biogas from
swine farms that have polluted communities of color with impunity for years. To date, no formal
engagement with impacted communities has taken place, a failure which may further entrench
the environmental injustice of swine pollution while the University claims a “clean” source of

Duke’s actions against Durham include but are not limited to:

● Actively fighting unionization attempts by University workers through intimidation and

● Opportunistic land grabs beginning in the 1960’s that enrich the University while raising
property values and ​displacing longtime residents through evictions with no consideration
of their relocation

● Increased policing targeting Black and Brown Durham residents presumed dangerous in
order to create an atmosphere of “safety” for Duke students
● Maintaining a tax-exempt-institution status that receives tax breaks from the city,
depriving Durham of a valuable source of income
● Gentrification as a result of investments in the Trinity Heights and Walltown
neighborhoods, as well as continued purchases and leasing of property in Northgate and
downtown Durham
● Cutting off ​funding for the Bull City Connector (BCC), pulling Duke’s financial
commitment to public transit in Durham, services ​largely utilized by low-income Durham
residents looking to access Duke Health and the VA hospital
● Attempting to construct a new natural gas plant that would have increased Durham
residents’ exposure to harmful air pollutants such as nitrous oxide, that would have been
primarily funded by Durham and North Carolina ratepayers while primarily benefiting
the university, and for which no community stakeholder process was ever conducted.

If this University is to live its proclaimed mission of producing “Knowledge in the Service of
Society,” the Administration must realize its obligation to address and reflect the community of
Durham. Therefore, we must work towards:

1. Increased investment in the City’s affordable housing initiatives to protect longtime

residents of Durham and longtime Duke laborers.
2. Expanded academic resources—including accredited classes—for incarcerated people
across Durham and North Carolina.
3. An elimination to the unjust hiring practice of requiring applicants to disclose their
interactions with the criminal-legal histories (Ban the Box) for all Duke University
positions, including the Duke University Health System.
4. An end to land grabs and general purchasing of real estate in Durham absent a
transparent, community-oriented process and a racial impact assessment.
5. A recommitment to financial resources for accessible, equitable public transit in Durham.
6. A living wage for all Duke employees—including contracted workers and graduate
7. The creation of transparent, representative, and equitable stakeholder proceedings for any
university infrastructure investment that will have a major effect on surrounding

VII. Racial Justice

Administration cannot pride themselves on “remembering the past” via racial justice
symposiums and celebrations of past student activism, while they repeatedly demonstrate that

they are willing to persecute activists today and they have no consequences for racist hate and
violence on campus today. Hate and bias incidents are interwoven in the fabric of Duke
University, and when the Provost hosts talks on “Civil Discourse at the University”, minority
students are accused of being “uncivil” when the reality is that they continue to be unsafe.

For example, though not exhaustive, we have witnessed racism on this campus in the past few
years alone:

● Spring 2015:​ a noose was strung up on the quad (excused as “cultural differences”).
● Spring 2015: reversing decision to allow for the Muslim weekly call to prayer from the
Chapel due to pressure from racist evangelists such as Franklin Graham.
● Fall 2015: a Black Lives Matter poster was defaced with racial slurs in Fall 2015 (met by
a “dialogue” and “task force” that went nowhere).
● Spring 2016: the Chronicle reveals that Tallman Trask hit a black woman worker with car
in 2014 (his office sent her a CARD as an “apology”).
● Spring 2017: ​the MSA’s chaplain choice was blocked due to racism in the hiring process
against their chosen candidate (OIE refused to investigate and admin are REHIRING the
man responsible).
● Spring 2018: a black woman student was accosted with racial slurs by white men
(excused as “they were just shouting into the air”).

And all of this is aside from daily bias in classrooms as well as other larger incidents of hate and
bias against other minorities (whether they be sexual, religious, or ethnic minorities). The Hate
and Bias policy should be clearly stated in the Duke Community Standard with a clear definition
on what constitutes as hate and bias. Students, faculty, and staff should be made aware of how to
report incidents of hate and bias and there should be a robust system for handling these cases
where everyone is on the same page. Currently, students do not know whether such a system
exists and do not trust any reporting procedure given how often marginalized students have been
let down. Ideally the Duke Community Standard should be expanded to include provisions on
what is ideal and acceptable behavior in the Duke community, specifically regarding cases of
hate and bias. Furthermore, every student, staff, and faculty member is a part of the Duke
community and therefore should live up to and be held accountable to the Standard. For students,
accountability should include clear consequences similar to that of students consuming alcohol
on East Campus, academic dishonesty, and drug use.

Not only this, but Duke fails to educate students and faculty alike on Duke’s relationship to a
quickly-globalizing world and the histories of migrants and students therein. Duke spends a great
number of resources in furthering a discourse of inclusion and representation and sending
students abroad, but fails time and time again to ensure that students of color and minority

students are institutionally included in all academic and social settings. Namely, Duke fails to
seriously invest in ensuring that ethnic studies departments that explore the histories and realities
of people of color both in the US and in the wider world are treated as critical sources of
knowledge. Not only is this a failure to the people of color on this campus, but it is also a threat
to the intellectual integrity and responsibility of the university. There are large gaps in Duke’s
academic research, and we are being left behind.

We know this because even whilst Duke spends huge sums of money on service learning
programs such as DukeEngage, DukeImmerse and Bass Connections, it fails to promote study in
the same contexts it claims to want to help. For example in the DukeEngage 2018 program alone,
Duke is sending students to Vietnam, Thailand, India, Togo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda,
Lebanon, and Jordan without offering any regular history classes on the regions these students
will be learning and living in. This tokenizes black and brown people and promotes the same
white savior complex that these programs critique.

Minority students who leave campus after four years cannot be expected to take on the labor of
making Duke a safe place for other students to be—this is the job of the university. Therefore,
we imagine a Duke:

1. With a Community Standard with strict protocol and guidelines that include
consequences for perpetrators of hate and bias against any historically marginalized
group. This should be something that every student, faculty, and staff member adhere to
to ensure an inclusive and more equitable learning environment for all.
2. With a mandatory, first year class on Race at Duke and in Durham, in addition to an
instituted race-based training for all faculty and faculty hiring committees.
3. With native and indigenous studies courses, as well as indigenous professors, in order to
keep Duke students informed of the contexts of the land which we live on.
4. Duke must continue its commitment to its Asian American Studies Program, as has been
demanded by and promised since the early 2000’s to Asian and Asian American students
on campus.
5. Duke must commit to cultivating its Latino Studies in the Global South (LSGS) Program,
as support for this program has been minimal since its approval in 2008.
6. Duke must commit to hiring Latinx faculty as well as non-white primarily employed
Africanist faculty in the AAAS Department.
7. Duke must offer regular African and Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, and South Asian
history courses, rather than expecting students to treat these regions as nothing but
“problem case studies” within other courses.

8. Duke must support undocumented students in order ensure their safety on campus, not
merely in words but by divesting from working with federal immigration officials and by
providing both mental health and legal support for undocumented students.
9. Duke must desist from threatening student activists with legal action (for example, by
charging them with trespassing) or punishing them with academic probations.

VIII. Disability Justice

Although Duke prides itself on its diversity, students with disabilities are academically,
physically, and socially sidelined. Many students with disabilities must endure an arduous,
months-long ​process through the Student Disability Access Office (SDAO) to receive necessary
accommodations. SDAO is plagued by under-staffing issues, which contributes to their
unresponsiveness and constant delays in processing accommodation requests.

Because students who need accommodations are left unaccommodated for prolonged periods,
they are often unable to keep up with coursework. This is clearly an inexcusable situation,
especially for those who are just beginning their academic careers. Students are too frequently
embarrassed by professors who lack the basic competency to appropriately and discreetly
accommodate their needs.

While the Disability Management System claims that Duke’s campus is accessible, this is quite
far from the truth. Duke would rather have an aesthetically pleasing campus than one that their
students, faculty, staff, and community members can use. Signage around campus is sorely
lacking; it is hard for people with disabilities both to find buildings themselves and to find the
accessible entrances—which are often partially hidden and far from the main entrances (​Social
Sciences is a notable example - see this map​). An overwhelming majority of campus restrooms
are entirely inaccessible due to the lack of automatic door openers (ADO), forcing some students
to go back to their dorms to use the restroom. Several buildings, such as the LSRC, have doors
without ADOs immediately after doors that are accessible, which is deceptive, counter-intuitive,
and unfair to those who are not physically able. Most concerningly, there are multiple buildings
on campus, such as the Art Building and Bivins, for which only the first floor is accessible, and
the Languages Building is entirely inaccessible (​note the lack of accessibility features for
Languages on this map​). These are only a few of the myriad accessibility issues present around

Finally, students with disabilities receive very little support as a social and cultural identity.
While the aforementioned issues cause students with disabilities unconscionable stress and
anxiety, the university does not facilitate them dealing with their oppression in a collective
manner. Disability is just as valid an identity as any other, yet students with disabilities have no

space akin to the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity or Mary Lou Williams Center that
promote healing conversations about their experiences. The fact that much of the information in
this section was collected anonymously shows that this campus is not a safe space for people
with disabilities. This is a sobering reality that only perpetuates their suffering.

In order to address the needs of and respect the dignity of students with disabilities, we must
work towards:

1. Indoor Maps of buildings made widely available to help those with disabilities avoid
barriers to access.
2. An increased number of Automatic Door Openers on internal doors—especially
3. Better signage and maps around campus so that buildings and accessible entrances can be
easily located.
4. Financial support for students being screened or tested for learning disabilities.
5. Faculty trainings which impart basic competencies regarding accommodations, and
promote a perspective that is considerate of the burden upon students with disabilities and
inclusive of their diversity.
6. Greater efficiency in processing accommodation requests from the SDAO.
7. A ban on meetings, events, and classes being held in inaccessible spaces such as
Languages, effective until these buildings are made entirely accessible.
8. Prioritize the immediate construction of the necessary structures to render the Languages
Building entirely accessible.
9. Most importantly, a physical space to promote community and stability amongst people
on campus with disabilities.

IX. Immigrant and Latinx Justice

In 2005, Latinx students wrote a list of demands that addressed needs in the Latinx student,
faculty, and staff community. Some of those demands included increasing Latinx faculty and
staff and establishing a center for Latinx students. Ten years later, in 2015, most of these
demands stated were unmet. As a result, “A Day Without a Mi Gente,” was hosted to address the
unspoken importance of Latinx students and Mi Gente at Duke University. Due to a lack of
administration interest, Mi Gente, in particular, took a stance to “cease its collaboration with the
Admissions office with respect to Latino Student Recruitment Weekend (​LSRW​)”.

That year, a ​new list of relevant demands were drafted. The demands urged for a Latinx center,
more funds and staff for LSRW, more Latinx faculty and staff, funds for an annual Latinx
awards event, and an apology from the university for Dr. Jason Mendez—a former visiting

professor in the Program of Education who had been racially harassed within the program by his
all-white colleagues. Eight out of the ten demands strictly addressed issues that Latinx,
specifically Mi Gente-affiliated students, felt were necessary to be amended by the
administration. The last two demands included “providing need-blind admission for
undocumented students” and for “all black and brown laborers” to be paid $15 an hour. The call
for need-blind admission for undocumented students would affect both Latinx and non-Latinx
students who were undocumented.

Due to active efforts from both sides, the university changed its ​financial aid policy on
undocumented students stating that “Beginning with the class entering in the fall of 2017, Duke
will meet 100 percent of the demonstrated financial need for undocumented students (both
DACA and undocumented) admitted to the University.” The amount of undocumented students
that we know of had risen from 5 in the class of 2020 to 13 in the class of 2021 as result to the
change in policy. Despite Duke being more accessible to undocumented students; the university
needs to take more action in favor of the undocumented population currently existing on campus.

In the Fall of 2017, Duke Define American was established on campus as an organization for
undocumented students and allies to organize, share narratives, and advocate for issues that
deeply affect us. Prior to ​Duke Define American​, there was little to no community among
undocumented students and virtually no support from the Duke administration. Given the
urgency of the political climate, something had to change. Students came together to establish a
coalition in which they can support each other, demand change, and have their voices heard on
the local and national level.

Despite the work of Define American, some students still prefer to live in the shadows and are
fearful of sharing their status openly. There are high levels of anxiety and uncertainty that CAPS
needs to be trained on. North Carolina is home to over 27,000 DACA youth and over 290,000
undocumented immigrants, but the state has demonstrated animosity towards immigrants.
Certain counties promote the rounding up of immigrants through cooperation with federal
agencies and the use of traffic stops. Furthermore, the state does not grant undocumented
students who have been living here most of their lives in-state tuition. As an influential entity in
the state of North Carolina, the University needs to take an active role in promoting inclusivity,
not only within its campus, but also within NC.

The students that are a part of this organization are passionate, determined, and fierce. We want
the Duke Administration and community to understand that these immigration issues are close to
home, and are affecting students on this very campus. Only recently has the University began to
take steps to address our needs, but there is so much more work that needs to be done. The

University needs to show more support on these issues that are affecting their student body,

1. More vocal support from staff and administration.

2. Support for Durham’s pro-immigrant policies that are threatened by the state of North
3. Proper training for staff and administration, including CAPS counselors, and a staff
member who specializes in meeting the needs of undocumented students.
4. Access to proper resources regarding scholarships during undergrad and postgraduate
years, lawyers, etc.

X. University History and Memory

The university should openly, honestly, and consistently come to terms with its troubled past and
the oftentimes student-led activism and collective action that moved the university forward.
Currently, Duke’s mode of operation is to obscure its problematic past and highlight its progress
without recognizing the labor of often marginalized students, staff, and faculty. The issues we
are confronting today, in April 2018, are not new. We know our ​history​. We’ve been here before.

Most students do not know about past generations’ activism at Duke, or that a building on East
Campus (​Carr Building​) is named after a violent white supremacist from the 20th century.

Confederate monuments were constructed throughout the South post-Civil War as an

intimidation tactic and a strategy to nonverbally communicate a clear message of white
supremacy. These monuments were installed on Duke’s campus and were not addressed until the
statue of Robert E. Lee was vandalized during the summer of 2017. Even then Duke quickly
removed the statue, side-stepping the difficult conversation about why Lee had been installed
there in the first place. The ​administration furthermore failed to remove the statues on either side
of Lee: Thomas Jefferson, who owned hundreds of slaves, and Sidney Lanier, who is considered
to be “spokesman for the defeated Confederacy.”

What is more striking than the monuments and memorials on campus, is what is missing from
Duke’s physical landscape or institutional memory. Duke was built using exploited
labor—beginning with black woman tobacco workers who underpinned the success of J.B.
Duke's American Tobacco Company. The erasure of those who have supported and built this
university is as shameful as the memorialization of Confederate leaders and racist figures.

The "​Silent Vigil​"—pictures of which are now put on display by the university for a sanitized
type of remembrance as if the demands’ historical moment are no longer relevant—has had its

radical roots neutralized. Duke wants to portray this meticulously planned, Black-led coalition of
workers and students as your quintessential spontaneous, student-led protest. Images of students
on the quad are ripped from their political contexts and sanitized to erase the driving force of the
demonstration: a general strike by housekeeping, dining, and groundskeeping staff. The
university must take the moral courage to be transparent and truthfully engage with its ugly past
while being extremely intentional about making this university more just and equitable campus.

XI. Demands

As we push from the Duke that is to the Duke that should be, we demand 12 preliminary actions.
These 12 demands are by no means an exhaustive list of the changes necessary to create a more
perfect campus, but they do represent significant first steps on the journey to do so. We demand
that Duke:

1. Implement $15 per hour pay for all Duke employees (including undergraduate
workers, graduate workers, contracted workers, and all other laborers on campus not
benefiting from current wage increases).

2. Make Board of Trustees meetings open and transparent to the entire Duke community.

3. Guarantee need-blind admissions for international students and loan-free financial

aid for all recipients.

4. Commit to increasing on-campus financial resources—like grants for necessary

educational materials—for all first generation and low-income students.

5. Rename the Carr Building on East Campus.

6. Create a community space for students with disabilities by Spring 2020.

7. Ban medically unnecessary surgery on intersex infants in Duke Health System.

8. Increase CAPS and the Duke Women's Center funding for additional trauma trained
counselors and psychologists.

9. Create and enforce a standardized set of consequences for acts of hate and bias on

10. Mandate training for all staff and administration (including CAPS counselors) to
better serve the needs of undocumented students on campus. Additionally, hire a staff
member who is specifically designated to support these students.

11. ​Hire at least one (1) Black Africanist in the African and African American Studies
Department by Spring 2019; hire at least one (1) Black faculty in the Nicholas School for
the Environment by Spring 2019; hire at least one (1) indigenous faculty member by
Spring 2019, hire at least two Latinx faculty by Spring 2019; continue its commitment to
its Asian American Studies Program, as has been demanded by and promised since the
early 2000s to Asian and Asian American students on campus; and hire at least one (1)
trans-feminine identifying faculty member by Spring 2019.

12. Ban the box: Eliminate the unjust hiring practice of requiring applicants to disclose
their criminal-legal histories for all Duke University positions, including those in the
Duke University Health System and undergraduate student applications.

XII. Conclusion

We believe that it is necessary for us to imagine a better future; and inevitably, to gather the
courage to create that future for those to come. The future we imagine is one free of oppression,
suffering, and exploitation.

Because there are many injustices that exist here on this campus and in the world beyond, the
issues and demands listed here are not comprehensive and only scratch the surface of the work
we have yet to do. ​This is a living document to be amended and improved by the student
body, particularly those who have lived experiences with injustices at Duke. The manifesto
is characterized first and foremost by its ability to evolve and change to reflect the needs of
students over time. Our demands are only the beginning.

This document contains our principles and issues around which we will fight for the near future.
We will mobilize and organize, educate and agitate, and continue to show up in full force for
each other.

We conclude with the ​words of the brilliant student activists of Atlanta who are also engaged in
the fight for justice:

We stand in solidarity with each other and will protect each other. To come for one of us is to
come for all of us. In honor of the courageous students who previously carried the torch, and

those who will lead the struggle after us, we commit ourselves to carrying on the fight for human
rights as long as injustice exists anywhere. None of us are free until all of us are free.

Hadeel Abdelhy ‘19
Leah Abrams ‘20
Sanjidah Ahmed ‘19
Doha Ali ‘21
Aamir Azhar ‘18
Elizabeth Barahona ‘18
William Bernell ‘19
Liz Brown ‘18
Miles Burnette ‘20
Bryce Cracknell ‘18
Arilia Frederick ‘20
Alejandra Gomez ‘21
Damary Gutierrez Hernandez ‘21
Esperanza Hernandez ‘21
Axel Herrera Ramos ‘20
Kendrik Icenhour ‘19
Razan Idris ‘18
Mumbi Kanyogo ‘19
Nisha Uppuluri ‘19
Christine Lee ‘18
Eliza Moreno ‘18
Gino Nuzzolillo ‘20
Jay Pande ‘20
Vinit Parekh ‘20
Varun Prasad ‘20
Ana Ramirez ‘20
Ethan Ready ‘20
James Rees ‘20
Syd Roberts ‘19

Ivan Robles ‘20
Colleen Sharp ‘18
Sara Snyder ‘18
Kevin Solomon ‘20
Shom Tiwari ‘19
Trey Walk ‘19
Claire Wang ‘19
Caroline Waring ‘20
Madelyn Winchester ‘20
Annie Yang ‘20