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Duke President Pledges To Improve Treatment Of Minority Students

Posted April 25, 2001

— In a five-page letter, Duke President Nan Keohane vows to make the university a more inclusive campus after some African-American students complained about the lack of minority faculty and administrators at Duke.

Last month, an advertisement in the Duke Chronicle initially prompted concerns about the racial climate on campus. Conservative writer David Horowitz outlined why he believes reparations for slavery are a bad idea. The ad prompted numerous protests and a list of demands for change.

"As difficult as this period was to go through, it's really been a good learning experience for a lot of people," says John Burness, vice-president of public relations at Duke.

The university is setting up a task force to address student concerns. One complaint is the low number of black professors.

"I'm pre-med myself and I haven't taken a science or math class yet with a black professor. That's a problem," says student Keela Ramsey. "I've never seen one in the chemistry building, I've never seen a black person in the math building."

Many of the complaints are nothing new. In fact, some date back to demonstrations from the 1960s. Students say this time they want concrete results.

"I hope that this isn't just rhetoric and not something that will appease students for the time being," says student Carl James. "I hope students who are really concerned about these issues will continue to follow up and make sure that the university is really addressing them."

Beyond the issue of hiring more minority faculty and administrators, Keohane promises students the university will act on its previous commitments to establish a well-supported African and African-American Studies program.

The university will also come up with a plan to increase funding for minority events and organizations.


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