Valerie S. Ashby, Ph.D., Dean of Trinity College

Memo from the Dean - 4/13/16 - Inclusivity and Trinity College

April 13, 2016

Dear Faculty and Staff,
 
I write today in response to events on our campus, in our state, and across the country that reveal how we are grappling as a society with diversity and inclusiveness.
 
As you know, on March 23, 2016 the North Carolina General Assembly passed and Governor Pat McCrory signed into law the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, also known as HB2. This bill specifically targets individuals based on their gender identity or sexual orientation and limits their ability to pursue claims of discrimination. This situation continues to evolve, with Governor McCrory issuing an executive order yesterday to expand state employment policy to cover sexual orientation and gender identity and to reinstate the right to sue in state court for discrimination.
 
The original legislation is counter to Duke’s core value that every individual has a right to respect and safety. Actions that further bias, hate and division have no place at Duke or in our community.
 
Not surprisingly, the bill and its implications have been a topic of concerned conversation with prospective undergraduate and graduate students and their families during campus visits and online recruitment chats. Duke, as a private university, is not limited by the bill and can establish its own practices for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) employees and students. Private companies are also exempted from the legislation. I want to reiterate Duke’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion because it makes us a better and stronger community.
 
In addition, Duke has publicly taken a stand against HB2 and deplores any effort to deny any person the protection of law because of sexual orientation or gender identity (http://today.duke.edu/2016/03/genderid). The City of Durham is also taking a stand to actively reject discrimination and to protect the basic human rights of all people. The Durham City Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing HB2 and has asked for a repeal of the discriminatory law; and, the Durham Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is also actively opposing the legislation. You may also be aware of the many corporations who are now choosing to boycott business in North Carolina as the state’s position is contrary to corporate values of diversity and inclusion.
 
In my fall address to the faculty, I identified diversity in all its forms as one of Trinity’s three strategic planning themes. Since that talk, you have also heard me say that we learn the most from those who are most different from ourselves. This is a particularly important point because it speaks to the very core of the liberal arts education we so prize—the ability to appreciate the range of human difference and potential.
 
In closing, I want to borrow a phrase from my counterpart Dean Marion Broome at the School of Nursing, who wrote the following to her faculty, staff and students: “During challenging times when others hold different core beliefs than ourselves, it is crucial that we each re-examine our own commitment to not just acknowledging others but supporting those who 'are different' when their personhood feels threatened.”
 
In the past few weeks, faculty, students and staff across Duke have organized lectures, panels and workshops to explore the impacts of the HB2 legislation. I wish to applaud and encourage these efforts. In addition, the Trinity Diversity Advisory Committee has been meeting every other week through the semester and I will report on their recommendations regarding diversity efforts in Trinity soon.
 
Sincerely,
 
Valerie S. Ashby
Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences