Guiding Principles

As outlined in the 2017 Commission on Memory and History Report, the following principles were developed to guide memorialization and naming of facilities at the university.

  1. The educational mission is central. Therefore, the goal should be to engage with history and never to erase it. Duke’s guiding principle when thinking about its history must be its commitment to teaching, learning, and scholarship. Histories lend themselves to reinterpretation, and monuments and debates over them provide learning opportunities—especially at a university. The goal should be to gather and assess everything that can be learned about the origins of the name or the monument and the person’s life and legacy.
  2. Both past intent and present effect of the representation matter and should be given weight. With the acknowledgment that human beings are complex and flawed, is the principal legacy of the person who is memorialized or honored aligned with or in opposition to the university’s enduring values as we understand them today?
  3. The meaning of campus symbols should align in totality with Duke’s highest aspirations.  Is the current symbolism or understanding of this figure or name consistent with the fundamental values of the university as we now express them, including a commitment to foster an inclusive campus community? Is the name or monument a source of institutional pride?
  4. The process of changing an historic structure must be thoughtful and deliberate.  History and tradition are important to Duke, and removing or renaming historic structures should be an uncommon event, undertaken only in extraordinary circumstances that clearly warrant a change. Nothing should be destroyed or erased; if a decision is made to move a memorial, it must be retained and preserved for study, so that it can become the focus of education in the future.