Drawn by Courtney Fehsenfeld
Jamal Edwards is a senior double majoring in Global Health and Journalism. He spends far too much time at UNC than is socially acceptable. His favorite Instagram filter is Mayfair, but he likes X-Pro II when he wants to look intense. Department Of sat down with Jamal in the BSA office in the Bryan Center to discuss diversity at Duke and YikYak, and to explicitly not discuss his fraternity pledging process.
Just a friendly reminder: this is a real interview. Like, these are real quotes from the real Jamal Edwards.
Department Of: What do you say to those who think you’re running for Young Trustee to boost your resume? I mean your resume is, what, eight pages long and your section for scholarships is practically its own page.
Jamal Edwards: When I first got to Duke, I was scared shitless. I am a first-generation college student. So I wasn’t raised in a resume-padding family. I didn’t know what success at Duke looked like. But truthfully, there have been so many mentors who have allowed me to dream big, who told me to go for it, and try new things. And I’ve really taken that to heart and I think that’s why I was able to be a part of so many different opportunities here at Duke. Being a Young Trustee is about giving back that experience I was given, and giving back all that people have really poured into me. It’s more of a gratitude thing than an activity to boost my resume.
DO: When you talk to your family about running for Young Trustee, what do you tell them? Because, to be honest, my parents didn’t even know what I was talking about when I told them I was doing this interview.
JE: I had a couple family members who were checking out my Facebook and asking, “Jamal, why do you have a website? What’s going on?” And I was like, “it’s a student election, I want to be a representative of the university.” And they were like, “so, what are you actually gonna do?” And I said, “in short, it’s about being a good steward of the university and serving its interests at all levels.” And they said, “Hmm, so why you?” And I was like, “YIKES. Okay guys, no faith.” But I have belonged to so many different communities on campus and have served in so many different positions and so my ability to think about Duke broadly is pretty strong. So this position is very fitting for me.
DO: So it’s not just a ploy to get free shit from Tim Cook?
JE: I mean, that’d be kind of neat. I don’t know if we can do some *wink, winks* at the Board table. I think it will be a neat opportunity to learn from some of the top folks in our world, like Tim Cook, Adam Silver, or Paul Farmer.
DO: What do you think is the most important issue facing the Board of Trustees in the coming year?
JE: I know one of the biggest things that is talked about is Duke in Kunshan. We’ve invested so much money and it’s such a huge project that we as an institution want to due diligence in making sure it is the best it can be and really adding to our institutional identity.
DO: So why do you think there were no women young trustee finalists?
JE: I think the YTNC has a really tough job to balance in terms of pulling together the best candidates and making sure they are diverse and different as possible. To be honest, I was shocked it was us three. I have a lot of qualifications that would make me great for this job, but I also know so many others that could’ve equally done a good job. But I wholeheartedly think that we should have had a woman in the final three. But what I can do now is be able to understand the top issues that face women on our campus today and do my best to be able to give voice to that on the Board of Trustees. I think one of the gaps on the Board is really understanding what’s going on for underrepresented minorities and so when I think of added value, I think can do the full job of a young trustee, but I can also fill that gap on the Board. There’s not an agenda that I can push. There’s no list of demands that I can bring to the Board. But I can translate that experience.
DO: Do you subscribe to any Duke conspiracy theories?
JE: In a short answer, no. Because I’m not aware of any. This is not a conspiracy, but I know that there is apparently a blue devil in the Chapel’s stained glass. It’s not a conspiracy, but it is a fun fact.
DO: According to sources on YikYak, during your time as BSA President, the group was responsible for staging an inflammatory noose, faking a racist chant from a fraternity, and being racist towards white students and faculty. What do you say to these astute observations from the YikYak community?
JE: I would hope to sit down with one of the anonymous folks to really hear more about their thoughts on that. But I would say that there is enough marginalizing experience on campus for students of color that I wouldn’t imagine we’d have time to fabricate an entire racially charged incident that attacks our own identity. That would require a lot more time than we have.
DO: In a Chronicle column published last February, Tony award winner Richard Riddell said that “Trustees are asked not be advocates for a constituency, but for Duke as a whole, always thinking of what is best to support the overall mission of the University.” What do you think is the overall mission of the university?
JE: The mission of the university is to be diverse and inclusive. And that occurs on several different levels, but I think it speaks to everything from the individual student experience, to faculty recruitment, to campus safety, to the academic experience in the classroom. When you leave Duke, you should be more interesting than when you got here.
DO: If elected, who on the Board of Trustees do you try to make your best friend?
JE: I have a friend crush on Janet Hill. I’ve spoken to her on a couple of occasions, and she has such an energetic spirit. I know she often is a mentor to the young trustees, so I would definitely want some best friend time with her.
DO: What is your favorite comedy publication on campus?
JE: DUI. Are they a publication? Does that count?
DO: There’s only one comedy publication on campus…
JE: Really? Who?
DO: Department Of. The one conducting this interview…
JE: Ohhhhhh. My bad. DEPARTMENT OF. DEPARTMENT OF. How many times do I shout it before it makes up for the fact that I didn’t know that?
DO: Earth, round or flat?
DO: Are you thinking profile pictures or cover photos?
JE: Cover photos.
DO: Drake or Meek Mill?
JE: Meek Mill? No. Drake.
DO: Young Money or Young Trustee?
JE: Young Money Trustee.
DO: Worst thing you had to do for frat rush?
DO: Worst thing you had to do for frat rush?
DO: Pro or con Duke’s new hoverboard policy
JE: I like hoverboards.
DO: Would you rather run for a C1 or get to class late?
JE: I’d rather just walk, altogether.
DO: Okay, but, like, what if you had a test?
JE: I’d use the hoverboard.
DO: Can you do an impression of anyone famous?
JE: The gingerbread man from Shrek. Or ginger-non-conforming person.
DO: But they call him gingerbread man.
JE: Did they choose that or did they write that for him? This is the patriarchy at work, y’all!
Be sure to vote in the Young Trustee election on February 9 and 10. After all, the vast majority of Duke students don’t, so your vote will count extra, as if you’re in Florida!