Today’s Chronicle includes an important and beautifully written column by Duke senior Kristin Butler.
When the rest of the country pauses to honor America's military personnel (both living and dead) next Monday, Duke University won't join in. There will be no on-campus remembrances a la 9/11 or Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Classes will proceed as normal. Even our University calendar-which advertises activities like an open house tour for the Home Depot Smart Home Nov. 12-makes no mention of the occasion.Butler goes on to cite other instances of Duke’s failure to recognize and honor servicemen and women connected to the University, including those who gave what Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.”
Considering how much we have to honor, that sort of neglect is a University-wide disgrace. Veterans Day at Duke should be a time to acknowledge the service of thousands of former soldiers receiving treatment at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, to remember our brave classmates serving overseas and, most important of all, to pay tribute to the thousands of selfless alumni who fought and died for our country in times of war.
Excuses abound for Duke's current policies, among them the difficulty of fitting federal holidays into a jam-packed academic year. But the thought that this University-with its thriving ROTC programs and relatively large numbers of alumni in uniform-does so little to recognize former students' courage and sacrifice is all but inconceivable. As we edge toward national Veterans Day festivities, there is still time to end a larger cycle of broken promises at Duke.
Let's start with the sorry state of our physical tributes to the fallen. At present, Duke has only one war memorial, a low wall dedicated to alumni killed in World War II. When it was built many decades ago, this humble remembrance stood against a grassy hill along the right side of the Chapel (recall that there was no Bryan Center, no engineering campus and no research labs behind West Campus back then).
Today, with the encroachment of the Westbrook Building and Goodson Chapel, the fixture stands as little more than an airshaft between large buildings. It appears on no campus map, is absent from guided tours and remains unnoticed by longtime students, faculty and employees alike. Over the past three years, I walked by that wall more than 500 times before noticing its purpose, largely assuming that it prevented soil erosion or honored Divinity School donors.
A proper memorial will not make these untimely deaths any less tragic, just as on-campus observances will never repay the debt we all owe living veterans.I’ll say more about Butler’s column in a day to two.
But such efforts do show our collective gratitude for the sacrifices made by our classmates in uniform, along with our respect for the contributions they've made to the University.
This Veterans Day, let's channel our admiration for Duke's current and former soldiers into a tradition that is finally worthy of their service.
Right now I just want to call it to your attention, urge you to read the entire column here, and invite your comments.
Well done, Kristin.