Duke University Questions the Value of Black Recruitment Weekends

The Black Student Alliance Invitational Weekend at Duke University is credited with convincing large numbers of African-American students to enroll. But on a campus where racial diversity is in almost all quarters, opposition to black recruitment weekends is growing. Duke president Richard Brodhead, who eliminated black and other minority pre-orientation programs while at Yale, is on record as opposing such race-specific programs at Duke. Yet he has promised to go slowly in implementing any changes.

Opposition to the black recruitment weekend has also come from Karla Holloway, the William Rand Kenan Professor of English at Duke. Professor Holloway has been an active promoter of increasing racial diversity on campus but she believes the black recruitment weekend is not the way to go about it because it presents an unreal picture of what Duke is really like for black students.

In an editorial in the student newspaper recently, she wrote: “Black Student Alliance Invitational Weekend, as well as black student orientations where students meet black faculty and participate in black cultural events (like step-shows), seem an odd introduction to a university that anticipates and hopes for a culture of inclusion. It suggests that the institution anticipates that these particular students’ cultural and academic universe might be best determined by their race.”

Professor Holloway concluded, “I don’t think that any of us would say that we look at students first by their race when they come into our classrooms, so why would we want that in a recruitment weekend?”