A Meeting of Very Important* People to Discuss a Very Important Problem
(and a somewhat smaller, less important PR problem re: “diversity”)
Duke University, Spring 2016
*Importance determined by salary, relative whiteness (in skin and spirit), and ability to not cry while selling Duke students’ souls to AccentureTM.
President Richard “Dick” Brodhead: Thank you for convening on short notice all the way in this conference room at Stanford University to discuss the pressing matter of a contingency plan for our next Mini Golf outing. But while we are all conveniently here, we might as well take care of discussing diversity for a few minutes. Let’s go around and have everyone give their update on efforts to diversify Duke and their first preference for a mini-golf relocation. Sally?
Provost Sally Kornbluth: Dick, you know I love tropical islands and hate resident pirates — we need to incorporate Mayday Golf at North Myrtle Beach into the contingency plan. In regards to diversity, I set up that task force and blasted it out that in that email.
Dick: Any results?
Sally: Still blasting. We promised them free Chipotle if they signed up, and I’m pretty sure Chipotle is an ethnic food so we’ll attract the right crowd. Also, the student a cappella group that I have been singing with has been doing covers of Iggy Azalea and Macklemore.
Sally: (whispers to Dean Valerie Ashby) They’re black, right?
Dean Ashby: (whispers to Dick) Is my salary six figures?
Dean Ashby: (to Sally) They are whatever color you want them to be.
Dick: Val, what about you? Any updates re: mini golf or diversity?
Dean Ashby: Still the token Black in this room. Oh, and put me down for Cosmic Golf in Oregon.
Dick: Wonderful. Thank you. Guttentag?
Everyone in the room: Hallo, Präsident Brodhead.
Dick: No, I mean Christoph.
Dean Christoph Guttentag: … is it my turn? (tapping imaginary microphone) Is this thing turned on? (nervously laughs at own joke) Well, uh, thank you for your attention, because, honestly, after Convocation, I feel like no one around here gives me two seconds of their attention.
Christoph: Alright, well, Duke University’s Office of Admissions is proud to present the Profile of the Class of 2019.
Christoph: Look at that — lots of color and full of happy students’ faces.
Dean Ashby: I’m pretty sure some of those pictures are used more than once…? Are those students even in the Class of 2019? Is that Malia Obama?
Christoph: Don’t we look diverse???
Dean Ashby: (murmurs to self under breath) Six figures, six figures, six figures…
Christoph: And as far as mini-golf preferences are concerned…
Dick: Sorry, Christoph, you’re not invited to mini golf. (clears throat) I also thought it might be nice to get a brief update from the person we suckered into heading our curriculum overhaul. Suzanne?
Suzanna Shanahan: Thanks for inviting me, Dick. Spoiler alert: our new curriculum is extra diverse. I can’t give away all of its secrets just yet, but we’re planning to do an interdisciplinary, immersive, and engaging program on Race for first-years. Over-worked grad students with no previous experience or scholarship in critical race studies will teach the classes…this is to make sure the Friedl building Commies don’t exert too much influence over the vulnerable minds of first-years. We wouldn’t want them reading Angela Davis, god forbid, but we’ve confirmed some black people—excuse me, people of color—they will be exposed to through Ted talks, podcasts, or YouTube clips. (We don’t believe in reading anymore, too cumbersome and not appropriate for our new curriculum in the digital age). These include Oprah’s master class series and World Star Hip-Hop videos.
Dick: Thanks, Suzie. (looks down at list of invited) Oh…next up is Tallman Trask, but he unfortunately won’t be able to join us today. He’s currently undergoing rehabilitation of his public image at The Clinton Image Rehab Center in Little Rock, Arkansas, where they have a renowned program in how to appear less racist. Don’t forget to write him notes of support during his time of recovery! Kyle, why don’t you let us know what you’re up to?
Kyle Cavanaugh: Thanks, Dick. These past few weeks have spurred a lot of reflection for me. I’ve asked myself, “Does racism still exist? Is Duke racist? Am I racist?” After deep reflection and watching The Help, I realized, yes, racism might still exist and, in fact, Duke can be a little bit racist.I don’t know if I’m racist or not, but I know I can help pretend I’m not racist by really listening to these here student activists who’ve been graffiti-ing our facilities with “Black Lives Matter.”
Dean Ashby: Really? Wow. What are some of their suggestions you’re going to take up?
Kyle: Well, first off, we’re no longer going to send black janitors to clean up that graffiti. That’s insensitive and problematic, so only white janitors will be cleaning up the “Black Lives Matter” graffiti from here on out. But, of course, black janitors can still clean up other kinds of graffiti around campus. Equal Opportunity. Also, we’ll be trying to hire some more black administrators whose sole job will be to show up at forums and meetings with activists in order to assure them that we’re “working” on diversity. Dean Ashby was a good look for us at those community forums, really saved our asses. We should prepare some more back-up black people to swoop in during moments of racial tension. As far as mini-golf locations, let’s just say that rumor has it that the Koch Brothers have their own mini golf park on a private jet, and I’d really like a chance to ride on a private jet.
David Rubenstein: (walks through the door in the middle of Kyle’s suggestions) Been there, done that, they didn’t even have a working windmill for their final hole. I appreciate that you’re having this conversation, Dick, I really do, but it’s not necessary. I’ve hired a team of consultants from Bain to consult us on how to “diversify” Duke. And after a preliminary review, they’ve come up with a few suggestions…
(A phalanx of consultants walk in.)
Consultant #1: We’re here to advise you on how to make Duke a more “diverse” place and we’ve compiled a list of three recommendations for you based on interviews, surveys, and reviews we did, including a deep investigation into the DukeStudents Instagram account. Our first recommendation is probably the most sensitive for this room, but we think it is an important step for giving the illusion of change: fire President Brodhead and hire Morgan Freeman as President. Everyone loves Morgan Freeman and can you just imagine his voice at Convocation?
Consultant #2: Second, the Blue Devil mascot should trade in its jersey for a dashiki. This shows that Duke is inclusive of all cultures and really interested in providing visibility to its African descendent students. Lack of visibility was a common concern among students and what better visibility can we give to them than a mascot dressed in the garb of Africa cheering on the Blue Devils at the Sweet Sixteen game? If all goes according to plan, maybe we can convince Coach K to cover that receding hairline with a Duke Blue fez.
Consultant #3: And last, but not least, a lot of student activists have been asking for dedicated resources and spaces for certain cultural groups. However, given that space in the Bryan Center and West Union are hotly contested, we’ve come up with some small-scale solutions to answer the student demands. When Duke chose to make certain bathrooms gender-neutral, it got a lot of great student feedback, so, in that spirit, we think it’d be great to assign students of color their own dedicated bathrooms. We’d create signs saying “people of color” so that students will respect that these bathrooms are dedicated space for those who are most marginalized on campus. If all goes according to plan, then we might be able to adopt this approach for other sections of campus: water fountains, dorms, even a dedicated separate line at the back entrance of Cameron Indoor Stadium. The possibilities are endless.
David: Thanks, boys. I’ve already written my check to make these changes possible and the Chronicle article is coming out tomorrow. Now that we’ve taken care of that whole “diversity” problem, who’s up for mini golf on my yacht?
Christoph: I’ve never been on a yacht before!
David: Sorry, Christoph, you’re not invited.