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Update from Racial Equity Council: A Report on REAC's First Year

TO: The Duke Community

FROM: The Racial Equity Advisory Council Co-Chairs


Over the past two years, it has become ever more apparent that the success of Duke’s mission as an educational and research institution critically depends on our ability to make sustained progress in creating an equitable environment where all can learn, discover and grow. Quite simply, we cannot be the institution we aspire to be and continue to lead nationally and internationally if we do not meaningfully address disparities in the lived experiences of our staff, students and faculty.

Integrating racial equity in operations and efforts across the enterprise is a Duke priority. Given our location in the American South and our history as an institution that systemically excluded Black Americans from the opportunity to learn and teach at Duke until the 1960s, we have an obligation to actively dismantle remaining effects of that racist legacy. We lead with addressing racial inequities while being mindful of inequities related to gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ability status, or other identities. Focusing on the most pervasive form of marginalization in our community will positively impact equity for all. The results of our first Climate Survey on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion reinforce the importance of addressing challenges facing Black and other underrepresented members of our community, particularly with regard to hiring, opportunities for professional growth and advancement and their lived experiences on campus.

The following summaries describe the background and priorities for each Subcommittee of the Racial Equity Advisory Council. As our work has evolved, one persistent question has been how we will know that the practical work of this structure has had a positive impact on the lived experiences of the staff, faculty and students at Duke. Thus, we begin with a report from the Communications Subcommittee that contains a comprehensive communications plan with a focus on the voices of the people who create the story of Duke University and its evolution towards racial equity. This list is not exhaustive, and we look forward to the advancements that will come in addition to those listed in the following sections.


Kimberly Hewitt, Vice President for Institutional Equity
Abbas Benmamoun, Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement
Sherilynn Black, Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement
Merlise Clyde, Professor of Statistical Science
Leigh-Anne Royster, Assistant Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, OIE
Charmaine Royal, Professor of African & African American Studies
Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of African & African American Studies
Rob Odom, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer and Vice President, DUHS



An update on the efforts of the Racial Equity Advisory Council


The REAC Communications Subcommittee is charged with helping to create transparency and awareness of insights gleaned from the survey and actions Duke is taking in response. This work will be done in collaboration with and support of communicators across Duke. During the spring of 2022, working groups came together to determine activities that will inform the ways in which REAC will communicate with and receive communications and feedback from members across the Duke community.

The following items reflect our focal points for the Subcommittee’s work in Year 2:

  • Solicit personal stories for storytelling on the lived experiences of Duke community members (planned launch in 2022-23)
  • Update website (ongoing)
  • Define the relationship between advancing racial equity and Duke Values (ongoing)
  • Create and monitor feedback channels to support the resolution of feedback and concerns related to race and racial equity (fall 2022)
  • Create and manage an editorial calendar for communicating about racial equity work and Duke (summer 2022)

Click here to read more about the work of the Communications Subcommittee.

Campus Climate and Assessment

­The Climate and Assessment (C&A) Subcommittee held the primary charge of assisting units with the roll-out and contextualization of the data from the 2021 Duke Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Climate Survey. In year 1, the co-chairs of the subcommittee, in collaboration with Institutional Research, worked extensively with REAC subcommittee co-chairs to provide support to units and leaders across campus as they received access to the survey data. The C&A Subcommittee collaborated with the Office for Faculty Advancement and the Office for Institutional Equity to hold two full-day retreats for academic and administrative leaders to engage in a ‘deep dive’ with the institutional climate data. These retreats were followed by 4 post-retreat sessions to allow for longitudinal engagement with leaders as they continued work in their local units. The C&A Subcommittee also developed a guide to catalog and document institutional data sources for the university community. This guide will be shared on the Racial Equity at Duke Website during the summer of 2022.

The following items reflect our focal points for the Subcommittee’s work in Year 2:

  • Catalog survey instruments developed locally in schools and units for shared access for Duke leaders, and develop a guide for best practices in survey deployment (fall 2022)
  • Develop and conduct pay equity analyses, including retention and promotion studies (winter 2022)
  • Develop toolkit to assist local leaders in translating survey data into measurable actions, including assistance with interpreting survey results while considering local context (winter 2022)

Click here to read more about the work of the Climate and Assessment Subcommittee.


The Education subcommittee is charged with understanding and improving the ways we engage and integrate racial equity in educational opportunities offered to learners (staff, faculty, and students) across Duke. In the early stages of the Subcommittee work, members focused on relationship building and sharing expertise that would eventually lead to the development of our strategic priorities. A primary priority emerged for determining what opportunities are available for learning about issues of racial equity, anti-racism, and racial liberation. With this knowledge, the subcommittee expects to better understand how these opportunities might inform our continued racial equity work across the enterprise. We also expect this mapping exercise to illuminate how we might grow and differently support existing opportunities while developing needed opportunities and streamlining duplicative offerings.

The following items reflect our focal points for the Subcommittee’s work in Year 2:

  • Develop a tool for soliciting information from units (summer 2022)
  • Develop a database of educational activities Duke-wide focused on racial equity and anti-racism spring 2023)
  • Explore strategies for engaging each school to reimagine its curriculum with regard to racial equity, anti-racism, and racial liberation (in planning)

Click here to read more about the work of the Education Subcommittee.

Infrastructure and Policies

The purpose of the Infrastructure and Policy Subcommittee is to examine capacity and structural support for the various strategic initiatives designed to advance racial equity and make recommendations to support them. This work includes identifying gaps and opportunities in the infrastructure of the institution necessary to support the overall commitments. The Infrastructure and Policy Subcommittee focused on examining ways to measure progress on racial equity goals across the Duke System and specifically how to make them transparent to the Duke Community. The second important focus in the first year of this Subcommittee has been to identify specific responses to the climate survey data that revealed concerns about salary equity and the need for more clarity related to opportunities for advancement.

The following items reflect our focal points for the Subcommittee’s work in Year 2:

  • Apply Duke Annual Report on Racial Equity (DARRE) that was developed in Year 1 for measuring progress on racial equity to selected units (fall 2022)
  • Coordinate with Climate and Assessment Subcommittee on salary equity study pilot
  • Work to address concerns about advancement opportunities (ongoing)

Click here to read more about the work of the Infrastructure and Policy Subcommittee. This message has been sent to all Duke staff, faculty, and students.

This message was sent via email on June 15, 2022 to all Duke staff, faculty, and students.