Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Duke Ignores Its Brave Defenders

Today’s Chronicle includes an important and beautifully written column by Duke senior Kristin Butler.

She begins:

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.

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.
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.”

Butler concludes:
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.

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.
I’ll say more about Butler’s column in a day to two.

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.


W. R. Chambers said...

Well done indeed!

Thanks for drawing attention to Kristin's article.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God!! Honor those baby-killers?? What is Kristin thinking?? Doesn't she realize she's on an American university campus? Academia positively detests our military; just look at the number of the Ivies that have thrown ROTC off campus. If she isn't careful, the 88ers will have her pilloried.

Jack said...

The absence of a suitable remembrance of our veterans is not unique to Duke, or even academia. There is much less attention paid to the sacrifices of members of the Armed Services around the country. In my small suburban New Jersey town, we will have a modest ceremony near the firehouse this weekend, but attendance is not likely to tie up traffic. When my sons were younger, we took them to Memorial Day services and Veterans Day services, but they’ve grown and are either away or want their sleep.

Much of the problem, the apparent disinterest in Veterans’ affairs or military service stems, in my opinion, from the detachment most American feel from those who serve. I have taken three of my children onto numerous college campuses, with one more to go. Maybe modern academia may detest the military, as the previous poster mentioned; perhaps in past generations, there was no great love for the military, but there was respect, for the institutions and for those who served. As I have seen in so many colleges, mostly throughout the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast, there is a prominent place of honor for those from that institution who served and who made the ultimate sacrifice. At Lehigh University, in the Alumni Memorial building is a room of plaques with the names of those who served and died, placed in their memory by their own classmates. Likewise at College of the Holy Cross, Yale, Fordham, the University of Virginia and the Ohio State University. Those were the days when our (mostly) service men came from our own ranks. Blue collar, white collar, college student or factory worker. My parents grew up in Newark in the 30’s and 40’s, and on any street, on any block from 1942 to 1945, many, if not most families that had a son, had one who served. Today’s volunteer army has severed that connection, that link of military service to each and every American family. It is no longer a ‘duty” to serve, but is a job of last resort, one where we have to entice, lure, cajole our kids, not to serve their country, but to see the world, have an adventure, make money for…college! George Bush, the elder, left Yale to fulfill his duty. True, there were privileged individuals who were kept out of harm’s way, but they served. Today, America has a hired Army; we’ve rented out the task of killing and dying for our national interests. We hire people to care for our infants, to cut our lawns; we have personal shoppers and wedding planners. We have delegated to hired hands so many of the ordinary tasks of life, why not soldiering?

Perhaps if we could walk through our neighborhoods today, and point to all the houses where so and so is in the Navy, serving here or there, so and so is stationed in Ramstein AFB, or lost an arm flushing out the Taliban, perhaps there would be more of a felt connection, more pause for contemplation, more remembrances on campuses and in our towns.

Perhaps if our leaders understood that those they commit to life and death tasks come from every walk of American life, they’d think twice about the price being paid.

Anonymous said...

Kirstin for President !!!

Anonymous said...

I just read the Butler article and realized I had not checked in to JiC today. Since I have no connection to Duke and don't comment there, I appreciate being able to have your site to say, another fine article by Ms. Butler.

Anonymous said...

Don't be surprised if Duke erects a monument to the Duke 88 and Brodhead for their courage to slander, lie and distort truths so effortlessly. Honor, integrity and charachter are all lacking from Duke and the administration. Let me clarify, I know not all professors and administration at Duke are evil but if they don't stand up to evil and cower in its presence within their hallowed halls they are enablers. The soldiers today freely will give up their lives for freedom, and honor. And Duke looks down on that. What a twisted world this academia has become.