Revised policy on consensual relationships between faculty and students

The Duke University faculty handbook policy on consensual romantic or sexual relationships between faculty and students was revised effective July 1, 2018. I sent the following email to all faculty at Duke on August 30, 2018; a similar email was sent on June 14, 2018. The Duke Chronicle had a piece comparing Duke’s new policy to those of other universities.


Dear Duke Faculty Colleagues:

The new policy on consensual relationships between faculty and students (Appendix Z in Duke’s Faculty Handbook) took effect on July 1, 2018.

I especially want to bring to your attention the following changes to the policy:

  • Sexual or romantic relationships between faculty and undergraduate students are now forbidden in all cases; this prohibition includes faculty who are in schools with no undergraduate students.
  • The rules for consensual, sexual or romantic relationships between faculty and graduate students were revised and clarified, and any such relationship between a faculty member and graduate student within the same school must be reported to the relevant Dean immediately. Sexual or romantic relationships between faculty and graduate students are forbidden if the faculty member has a position of power over the student (such as teaching them in a class, or sitting on their dissertation committee). Failure to report an otherwise acceptable sexual or romantic relationship with a graduate student in the faculty member’s same school is a violation of the policy.
  • Violation of this policy is considered misconduct, which is one of the ways stated in the Faculty Handbook that a tenured faculty member can be fired, or a termed appointment faculty member can be fired prior to the completion of their term.

I discussed this policy with the Deans at the August 27, 2018 Deans Cabinet meeting, and Deans will be planning school-specific adjudication procedures as allowed in the policy. Faculty should look for communication on this front from their Dean.

After broad and wide ranging consultation with the Provost, President, Counsel’s Office and the Deans, the Executive Committee of the Academic Council (ECAC) presented the policy proposal at the April 19 and May 10, 2018 meetings of the Academic Council. The Council enjoyed a robust discussion over the course of these two meetings and the revised policy that is attached was approved at the May 10 meeting — it was added to the Faculty Handbook and became effective on July 1, 2018.

Best wishes for a productive fall.


Duke is proceeding as a community of scholars to consider Carr Building renaming

I suspect that Rob Christensen’s piece in today’s Raleigh, N.C. New and Observer Opinion section was finished by him before the full text of the Duke History Department’s proposal to rename the Carr Building on Duke’s campus was made public on Friday afternoon, August 31.

You can read the History Department’s piece for yourself, but I would like to respectfully submit that the proposal developed by my historian colleagues is not characterized by what Mr. Christensen assumed must be true of it:

“…full of anger and fury, what is often missing is any context or nuance, or a sense that things are more complex than today’s sloganeering.”

The historical aspects of Mr. Carr’s legacy that Mr. Christensen noted in his column are included in the History Department’s proposal, and more. They have been working on the proposal for over 6 months, and they wrestle with the multifaceted legacy of Mr. Carr. The proposal was approved by the full History faculty in May, 2018, and further honed over the summer keeping in mind the process and principles laid out by the University for such renaming considerations.

Duke is proceeding as a community of scholars to consider the renaming of the Carr Building. And the goal is certainly not to wash away Duke’s history, but to fully tell it, using the best scholarship available as our guidance, and a commitment to reckon with what our history means for us all today.


My letter to UNC BOT and Chancellor Folt on Silent Sam

Dear Members of the UNC Chapel Hill Board of Trustees and Chancellor Folt:

As a lifelong North Carolinian from Goldsboro, and as a 3 time alum (’90 BSPH; ’92 MPA; ’95 Ph.D.), let me first thank you for your service to my (and for most of you) our alma mater.

I came to UNC in the fall of 1986 as an uninitiated student who went to college because I thought that I was supposed to do so, and left nearly a decade later on a trajectory that has seen me become a professor, and now Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University. I have been truly blessed. These blessings were only possible because at Carolina I discovered that school was not only something you were supposed to do, but through some incredible professors and classmates, I found that the life of the mind was engaging and exciting. I have given my professional life to being a scholar and an educator. None of this would have been possible without UNC, and I am forever grateful. Thank you Carolina.

I played football at Goldsboro High School, and we had three foes in our conference from Wilmington: Hoggard, Laney and New Hanover High, and I spent many hours riding to and from games in activity buses thinking about Wilmington. However, I never heard until I was in my 30s of the 1898 “Wilmington race riot” that was as a matter of fact, essentially a coup d’etat that saw a multi-racial elected local government run out of town in racially motivated violence. Governor Charles B. Aycock is the most famous person from where I come from, and in several visits to his birthplace homestead just outside of Goldsboro, I never heard one word of his role in fomenting the political climate that enabled this event just before he became Governor, in spite of having taken an entire year of North Carolina history in 4th and 8th grade. I placed out of U.S. history via the AP exam, so did not take it at UNC. The version of post-Civil War U.S. history that most of us have been taught and told in the South is faulty and incomplete, and Carolina should play a key role in fixing this problem, not only for your students but for the entire state, country and world.

I am sure that I have walked past Silent Sam hundreds of times, beginning when I was 5 or 6 and went to UNC football games with my parents (both alums of UNC), and then of course during my nearly a decade as a student on campus. I really never thought much about the statue one way or another, until I learned more about its history, and the history of the erection of confederate monuments, generally. I have heard from many students, fellow alums and current faculty who do think about it, and they experience it as a symbol that they did not fully belong at UNC. I regret and am sorry for how tone deaf I was for so long. The faulty telling of history is not just a historical error, but it effects our world today. The University has a chance to demonstrate Lux et Libertas by keeping scholarship at the forefront of how Carolina proceeds, as is befitting of a great research University. We should commit to a full and accurate telling of the post-Civil War American experience, and the role that white supremacy played in it, and most importantly, to struggle with what this history means for us today.

Silent Sam belongs in a museum, perhaps in the Wilson Library, where a full contextualization of the statute and the role that confederate memorials in North Carolina played in imposing Jim Crow and enabling violence against black persons in our state is described and owned. The history of the epidemiology of confederate memorials most certainly does not need to be washed away, but interrogated, laid bare and communicated widely. In fact, Professor Jim Leloudis has provided an example of what public facing scholarship should look like  This 5 minute lesson on the history of Silent Sam in particular, and of confederate monuments more generally, is how a research university should proceed. We need more of this, and as many voices who are willing to own their words should be invited to contribute.

As a final thought, after moving Silent Sam to the Wilson Library, the question of what to do with the plith will arise. I urge you to consider leaving the plith as it Is, a ruin of sorts, while adding more information in McCorkle place about the statue, and pointing people to Wilson Library who want to know more. This will rehabilitate Silent Sam as a tool for education, and not a symbol of white supremacy at the front door of Carolina.

Best wishes and with deep gratitude for what Carolina has done for me.

Don Taylor

Donald H. Taylor, Jr. Ph.D.

Professor of Public Policy

Chair, Academic Council

Duke University

Summer Listening Hours for the Duke Community: Students, Staff or Faculty

The last few weeks have been difficult ones at Duke, but the high profile incidents have merely elevated awareness of simmering problems that have long plagued our community. I tend to quickly move into problem solving mode, and my training in Public Health means that I think in terms of harm reduction–looking for small improvements or small reductions in harmful things. However, this moment in our shared history at Duke feels like a time for me as Chair of the Academic Council to listen.

In that light, I would like to invite the Duke and Durham Community to open office hours over the Summer to discuss any topic of interest to you. I set out four days between now and the middle of June below, and if there is interest I will pick some more dates for the latter part of the Summer. If you want to chat but cannot make any of these times, or if you would prefer another time, just email me and we will work out a time and place to meet. If you have an event scheduled and you would prefer me to attend that event so that we can chat, I will try and work that out as well. I will be in Durham all Summer finishing a book so I have some flexibility.

My Academic Council Office is in 203 Flowers Building, near the Chapel. We have a conference room that can seat ~12 people, and if we need a bigger room than that, we will find one.

Friday May 18, 3:30-5:30pm

Wednesday May 30, Noon-2pm

Friday June 8, 9-11am

Thursday June 21, 3:30-5:30pm


Dear Duke: Let’s Not Normalize This Mode of Protest

The 25 Duke students who disrupted President Price’s address to gathered alumni last Saturday to issue a variety of demands announced today that their pending Student Conduct case has been closed with an informal letter of admonishment. The issues raised by our students are worthy of discussion, and I give them a lot of credit for activism focused on the well being of others.

However, I am worried that this episode will normalize a mode of protest that begins by telling someone who is scheduled to speak to get off the stage and not speak. I fear that this mode of protest will now be used (and reused) to shut down speakers with views that some find objectionable. That would be a terrible outcome for Duke, and much worse than last Saturday’s event, that could be viewed through the lens of a family squabble.

I would like to respectfully ask that all members of the Duke community pledge to not use this mode of protest to shut down the speech of others in the future, but instead that we commit to a robust ethic of free speech and flourishing academic freedom on campus, a task that can require special attention to insure that everyone has a chance to speak. Further, I would like for us all to imagine what it would look like for Duke to be a leader in this area.

In that vein, I highly recommend Free Speech on Campus, by Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman (Yale University Press, 2017) to us all.

Why did I stop blogging?

I realized over the weekend when someone asked me why I had stopped blogging that I haven’t written a blog post since August 20, 2017. I didn’t intend to stop (and I have greatly slowed blogging in the past two years, particularly as my administrative roles at Duke have increased). And I have commented some on twitter. However, blogging has increasingly felt like a waste of time to me of late, as I don’t think there is much interest in the policy nuances of pending legislation. That is a big change from when I started blogging in June 2009 as I started writing weekly columns (I did 29!; a great experience) for the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer on health reform. The blog was a place where I tried to ‘show my math’ and expound upon my attempt to document the debate over what became the ACA. I loved blogging in those days, as it seemed like there was a genuine policy discussion underway.

So, I never really decided to stop blogging. I mostly just drifted away over the past couple of years as I came to understand it as a waste of time. Maybe I will restart some day.

Thoughts on the Robert E. Lee Statue Removal from Duke Chapel

I became chair of the Academic Council at Duke on July 1, 2017, and was chatting with the Provost a few weeks ago and we agreed there “weren’t any hot button issues” on tap for the Fall semester. That, of course, is no longer true.

I support President Price’s decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from the Duke Chapel Entrance, as well as with his commitment to preserve the statue in a way that will allows students, faculty and all of us to learn from it. The creation of a commission of faculty, students, staff, trustees and members of the broader Durham community to help guide the next steps shows that this will be an ongoing process. The removal of the statue is best understood as the beginning of a new chapter, not an ending.

Duke is a relatively young University, and I think this new chapter may provide a book end of what I often think of as the beginning of modern Duke–the Bassett Affair of 1903 (the University was then called Trinity College). Professor Bassett wrote that Booker T. Washington and Robert E. Lee were the two greatest Southerners of the previous 100 years:

….he inserted a sentence praising the life of Booker T. Washington and ranking him second in comparison to Robert E. Lee of Southerners born in a hundred years. Such a sentiment invited controversy at a time when race baiting was commonplace due to the revival of bitter partisan politics with the division of the Democratic Party, the rise of the Populist third party, and the revival of the Republican Party. State Democratic leaders in nearby Raleigh who were also represented on the Trinity College Board of Trustees demanded that Professor Bassett be fired. When parents were urged to withdraw their children from the college and churchmen were encouraged not to recommend the college to prospective students, Bassett offered his resignation.

The Trinity College Board of Trustees did not accept Bassett’s resignation, a founding chapter in Duke’s history that made clear the critical principle of freedom of speech for the University. Of course, it was non-controversial to so-praise General Lee in 1903, while today his likeness is the source of controversy.

The common denominator then and now is the life of the mind that should be the heart of the University, demonstrated first and foremost by the faculty and students engaging in scholarship, teaching and learning. This is a big moment for Duke and our country, and I believe that the University has special process and educational responsibilities not only to the members of our community, but to society at large. We have a chance to model that difficult issues can be navigated truthfully, respectfully and openly, and if done well, we can help to make our world a better place.

May we be up to the challenge.