INC NEWS -
Fw: [DukeDurhamTownGown] Student column re. Duke on social issues
and Duke-Durham relations
Mike - Hotmail
mwshiflett at hotmail.com
Tue Apr 5 18:50:07 EDT 2005
----- Original Message -----
From: Susan Kauffman
forwarded by Mike Shiflett to the INC Listserve with permission
April 05, 2005
My Duke pride
Hazzards of duke
by Andrew Collins
Hate to admit it, but I’ve never been much of a Duke basketball fan. I
started hating the Blue Devils around the time they met my Arkansas
Razorbacks in the 1994 men’s championship game (and—ahem, Scotty
Thurman—lost). Matriculating at Duke meant I had to lose the hate, and I
did, but being a sports fan is serious business to me. I like to see the
team do well, but can’t artificially manufacture that diehard love I have
for the Hogs.
My Duke pride comes from something different. I am happiest to call myself
a Duke student when the leaders of our institution show courage and deep
morality in the public sphere. That may not be as exciting or universal as
a J. J. Redick three, but it is a very real pride to me. And given the
frequency with which the administration has done right in the past few
years, my pride is getting to be a darn near permanent condition.
Duke Stores is a great place to start. Last March, Director Jim Wilkerson
severed Duke’s relationship with Lands’ End due to the company’s alleged
blacklisting of union workers in El Salvador. Partly due to the pressure
exerted by Duke and other activist universities, Lands’ End agreed to fix
its problems in a lightning-quick 36 days after Wilkerson’s announcement
and subsequently renewed its contract with Duke.
The University has successfully taken this step before, most recently
against the New Era Cap Company in 2001. Wilkerson and his Allen Building
counterparts are hardly impetuous, but when a company that services the
University is falling short, they are generally good at taking a firm line
and getting results.
For this reason, I am inclined to trust President Richard Brodhead and
Senior Vice President for Public Relations and Government Affairs John
Burness in their handling of alleged worker mistreatment by Angelica Corp.,
another of Duke’s corporate partners. On the face of it, local activist
organizations seem to make valid points about Angelica’s failure to provide
workers with a “living wage.” Durham County agreed, severing its contract
with the company. But there’s a lot that a bunch of scruffy protesters
might not know about the situation. On something as complex as labor
practices, the best we can do is put our most righteous people in positions
of power and trust them to act well.
Burness and Brodhead (and before him, Nan Keohane) have, in fact,
established a tremendous track record on a wide variety of social issues.
Duke’s underreported decision to raise its minimum wage to a de facto
living wage of $10 per hour was a triumph for its low-end workers. I’m
proud of that decision.
Our University is perhaps most misunderstood when it comes to our
relationship with the city of Durham. For years, a vocal minority of
intransigent anti-Duke zealots have capitalized on the latent uneasiness
many Durhamites have with our institution and have made our students’ and
administrators’ lives difficult. Duke offers its police force to patrol off
East Campus? Count on these people to object. Duke begins plans for a
Central Campus renovation that will bring retail traffic into the city?
They cry foul. No matter how often Burness assures this coterie of enraged
citizens that Duke does not intend to crush unsuspecting Ninth Street
mom-and-pop operations, they continue to make the Central renovation as
miserable as possible.
Thank goodness our administrators are patient and have a plan that promises
to strengthen Ninth Street by putting a pedestrian thoroughfare from West
through Central to Ninth and then to East. Thank goodness the Duke-Durham
Neighborhood Partnership Initiative continues to strengthen local civic
projects. Imagine if Duke were actually antagonistic toward Durham!
The list of noble and good projects goes on. From genuine devotion to
academic freedom to the Women’s Initiative, our administration has been
more courageous than most of us realize. I am also proud of the men’s
basketball program—not because of the number of Ws, but because it is the
cleanest program in a dirty sport.
Some people will never be satisfied by Duke’s social conscience. I’m glad
we have those long-hairs around to make sure we are not getting lulled into
a false sense of security, but I am not among their number. Good people are
running the show. Go Duke.
Andrew Collins is a Trinity senior and former University editor of The
Chronicle. His column appears Tuesdays.
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