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Looking Back and Looking To the Future

I can hardly believe that I have been at Duke for nearly a year and half. It has been an unconventional entré, given that more of my time has been spent virtually than in person and on campus. As I reflect on my comments about my initial impressions of Duke, I specifically noted the beauty of the campus. Though we can find some benefits to working remotely, in those treasured first six months I grew to love the campus, the community, and even basketball games.

We have made major strides in the compliance aspects of our work in OIE, including the addition of staff, major revisions to the policy, and clarification and streamlining the process. Initially, I spent a great deal of focused time working with other University partners on how to collaborate and better define the institutional infrastructure for responding to problems related to discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct. We continue to work with our partners in human resources, legal, and in schools and departments on creative and effective ways to address problems that fall in the gray areas that impact the climate negatively or contradict the spirit of our policies and values, but do not rise to the level of violating policy.

As I approached the end of my first year, I prepared to turn more attention to strategic diversity efforts when we were suddenly overwhelmed with the simultaneous pandemics of COVID-19 and a racial justice reckoning, which led to an ambitious plan around Anti-Racism at Duke. The last several months have been difficult, with many losing loved ones or experiencing sick family members or friends – in addition to the stress associated with the 2020 election or frustration about our country’s seeming inability to properly confront its racial history. However, in spite of these challenges, I feel hopeful about being a leader at a Southern institution and the opportunity to change our culture around racial equity.

I am so grateful for the partnership with and leadership from the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement on projects and initiatives, such as Living While Black, the development of curriculum for faculty, and for providing ongoing support for schools on Anti-Racism plans. Our work together has been invaluable. I am also incredibly thankful for all of the OIE staff members who have worked consistently, passionately and above the call of duty without hesitation. They are all wildly deserving of some rest and respite in the next weeks!

Last month, OIE hosted a re-imagined version of the Annual OIE Diversity Informational Breakfast where we came together to discuss How the Pandemic has Magnified the Challenges of Achieving Racial Equity in a Post-Election America. We were thrilled to be able to reach a much larger audience than we have in past years because it was a virtual event. On January 4, 2021, we will welcome Leigh-Anne Royster as our new Assistant Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I am extremely excited about what Leigh-Anne will bring to our team and the University, including the development of a curriculum for staff on Anti-Racism and Diversity and as a key partner in supporting the continued momentum and support for the Anti-Racism goals outlined by President Price in June. Also on the horizon will be the launch of a University-wide Climate Assessment focused on diversity and racial equity, an OIE Liaison Program to support local reporting of discrimination and harassment concerns, and more opportunities to feature diversity, equity and inclusion programs happening in departments and units across Duke.

I wish you all a restful end of the year and I look forward to returning in January 2021 with renewed energy and excitement.

Kimberly Hewitt
Vice President for Institutional Equity & Chief Diversity Officer
© 2020 Duke Office for Institutional Equity

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