A Petition to Increase Duke's Course Offerings Pertaining to the State and Local Community
In her inaugural address nearly ten years ago, President Keohane affirmed that “one of Duke's great strengths today is the extent to which we have retained our roots deep in our region, the South, at the same time that we have become a truly world-class university.” Four years later, President Keohane encouraged students “to get to know this city of Durham, your new hometown, this region called the Research Triangle, and the state of North Carolina” while studying at Duke.
Duke students, indeed, have much to gain from the rich sociocultural, political, economic, historical and scientific opportunities the state and local community have to offer. In fact, from 1924 through 1992, the University offered a variety of courses which allowed students to interact with, learn from and contribute to the very community and state in which they reside.
Such courses included “City and County Government,” “Problems in State Government and Politics,” “Municipal Government and Administration,” “City School Administration,” and “The History of North Carolina.” Today, there are very few similar courses. “Race in Durham” and“Regulatory Processes and Conflicts in North Carolina” are two of the handful of courses that the University will offer next semester.
The University’s peer institutions differ significantly with this regard. Brown University, for instance,offers courses such as “City Politics,” “Rhode Island Government and Politics,”and “Urban Politics and Policy.” Stanford University offers “Regional Politics and Decision Making in Silicon Valley and the Greater Bay Area” and “Politics and Policy in California.” Columbia University and the University of Chicago offer “State Politics,” “Critical Issues in Urban Public Policy,” “History of the City of New York,” “Introduction to Black Chicago” and many other similar courses.
Additionally, Wake Forest University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, among others, offer courses similar to those offered by Duke in the past.“State Politics,” “UNC and American Higher Education,” “History of North Carolina,” “State and Local Government,” and “Municipal Government” are among a selection of dozens of courses offered by the University’s neighboring institutions.
One can dismiss these differences with the argument that Duke offers service-learning courses and courses such as “Race in Durham” that allow students to interact with and learn from the state and local community. Even so, the University’s neighboring and peer institutions offer such courses consistently, every year, with professors devoted to teaching students about all the state and local community have to offer.
The very few courses at Duke, which rely on a connection with the local community, are inconsistent, rarely interdisciplinary and often directed at underclassmen. The University’s neighboring and peer institutions offer such courses regularly, across various disciplines, for all years. Princeton’s “Engineering Projects in Community Service” course, for example, is offered to all engineering students annually and remains one of the most popular courses at the institution—so popular, in fact, that it has developed into a program at over 15 institutions across the United States. Additionally, Stanford students of all years who are interested in education may enroll in “Issues of Education Equity” and other similar courses offered on a regular basis. In this particular course, students volunteer at nearby private and public schools throughout the semester and conduct a final presentation on inequalities in the state’s system of education based on their personal experiences and research.
The University currently has many resources at its disposal, through the Offices of Durham and Regional Affairs and Public Affairs and Government Relations, and faculty members including, but not limited to, Orin Starn, Michael Munger, Gerald Wilson, Stephen Schewel, Robert Korstad and William Chafe. Through the help of the University’s administration, these professors, and many others, may work to implement a stable, consistent, interdisciplinary offering of courses which will better connect students with the state and local community. Resultantly, students will not only interact with their community, but learn from and contribute to it as well.
Nonetheless, one cannot venture to implement such a course offering without first demonstrating student and faculty support. If such support is demonstrated, the Duke Student Government will work with faculty members, as well as the administration, to introduce a few courses similar to those offered at Duke in the past and at the University’s neighboring and peer institutions to this very day. In the long term, we envision this to develop into a stable, consistent, interdisciplinary offering of courses which may appeal to all students.
President Keohane once told students, “North Carolina is a state with a lot of beauty, in both directions—the mountains and the sea—and an interesting history, politically and economically.”