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Invitation to Faculty to Submit Comments for Fall Planning

This message was sent by email to all Duke Faculty on June 11, 2020

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

Summer is usually a time of relaxation and restoration after the intensity of the academic year, and an opportunity to advance your research and scholarship.  This particular summer, of course, is anything but relaxing.   I know that you have devoted considerable time and energy to transitioning your classes and research to the new work-from-home and remote teaching realities and that preparing for the fall will require continued hard work.  I want to offer my sincere thanks to every member of the faculty for your extraordinary dedication to your students, your scholarship and to Duke.

In planning to meet our goal of welcoming students back to campus, President Price and I, along with many members of the university and academic administration, have engaged with our faculty colleagues in the schools, on various committees, and the Academic Council to talk about the various options for the fall semester.

Since there are many aspects of the upcoming semester that are still being refined, from classroom configuration to campus dining, I invite you to the share your questions and concerns on this open-ended survey form (open until Wednesday, June 17 at 11:59pm EDT).  Your submissions will be anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and will be shared with the appropriate university leaders for consideration and, as needed, action.  If you have questions or concerns about specific situations or issues, I encourage you to contact your dean or department chair.

I want to reiterate here that our foremost priority is the health and safety of every member of the Duke community, including faculty, staff, and students as well as our families and neighbors.  And as we noted last month, you will not be required to teach on campus if you have concerns about your health and safety, nor will you have to disclose your personal health information or seek special accommodations if you choose to teach through an online or remote delivery.

Thank you again for being part of this inspiring academic community.  I look forward to hearing from you, and to seeing you either virtually or, hopefully soon, in person.


Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D.
Provost and Jo Rae Wright University Professor

Update for Staff from President Price on Fall 2020

Dear Colleagues,  

As we continue to prepare for the 2020-21 academic year—a year that will be unlike any other in Duke’s history—I want to provide you with an update and further direction on our planning. As it has from the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety of our campus and Durham community is our paramount priority and will always drive decisions.  

Across the university, many are working around the clock to continue our core missions of education, research, patient care, and service with the excellence that characterizes Duke.  Already we have reopened—deliberately, thoughtfully and safely—numerous research laboratories and clinical practices, bringing several thousand faculty, staff and graduate students back to campus with new safety practices, and we are learning every day from their experience.  We have also been in contact with many university colleagues over the last several months to understand their interests and concerns during this challenging time.  

We are still on track to decide many details about the upcoming academic year by the end of June. Let me tell you where we are now:   

Our goal is to enable as many of our students who are able and who choose to participate in an on-campus experience for the fall semester to do so, but only if it can be done safely.  We are fortunate to have, in Duke Health, the resources of a world-leading academic medical center to help guide and support our university community.  As our faculty and academic leaders collaborate to prepare a dynamic and flexible educational experience, we are working with medical and public health experts, as well as with specialists in residential and classroom facilities, food service and environmental health and safety to reinvent our living, working, and learning spaces and adapt to the new realities that we will confront in all aspects of our lives.  I will describe some of those details below.  

Our academic calendar will change to maximize our time on campus, and to minimize the disruptions and potential health hazards of travel during the semester.  Fall semester classes for undergraduates will begin a week earlier than originally planned, on Monday, August 17, and final exams will conclude before Thanksgiving.  We expect the arrival of residential students to be staggered over several days before the start of classes. There will not be a Fall Break in 2020.  The spring semester will begin a week later than normal, on Tuesday, January 19, and final exams will be held the week of April 26. Commencement for the Class of 2021 will take place on Sunday, May 9.  There will be no Spring Break in 2021. More information on course registration and re-registration, and housing assignments, will be available by the end of June.  

Our first-year students will receive additional information on move-in and orientation programs, which are being developed now. Orientation will include online programming prior to first-year students’ arrival on campus, which we now expect will take place over several days during the week of August 10.  Final details will be provided by the end of June.

Graduate and professional schools will operate on calendars specific to their needs, and students will be notified about the schedules directly by their schools.  

Assuming students will be on campus, all Duke courses will be offered in one of three formats: in-person instruction conducted in classrooms on the Duke campus, fully online courses that take advantage of the best pedagogy and technology available for remote education, and hybrid courses that involve some combination of in-person and online instruction.  Students who are on campus can expect their courses to be taught in both in-person and online modes.  Students who cannot or who do not wish to be on campus, or who have to be quarantined or return home, will still be able to engage in a full curriculum of courses and make progress toward their degrees.  To this end, all in-person classes will also have the necessary online components.  

Our faculty and staff, too, are making the transition to this new environment, and we have engaged experts in digital learning to ensure that we have the best guidance in developing and presenting our courses, whether in a newly-configured classroom or online.  In addition, courses that include labs, performances, travel, and other unique requirements will be revised to accommodate protocols for physical distancing and online access, though we recognize that might not be possible in all situations. We are also looking to create special “immersion” periods when students might come to campus to complete lab, or lab-type, components of courses.  

To do all this safely and successfully, we all must make significant changes to the way we live, study and work, and we are reconfiguring residential, classroom and office facilities to make it possible.  Success will only be achieved if all members of the Duke community do their part—which will call upon extraordinary mutual support, clearly articulated behavioral norms, and an unshakable personal commitment. To this end, we expect that all members of our university community will enter into a compact, the Duke Compact, that recognizes our shared responsibility for our collective health and well-being. Committing to the Duke Compact means we care enough about each other to comply with new policies and protocols. These are under careful development, and final policies and protocols will align with the latest and most reliable scientific information, experience, and local, state, and federal guidelines.  At this point, we expect practices along the following lines.   

  • All members of the Duke community—faculty, students, staff, visitors—will be required to wear masks in classroom and public settings and practice physical distancing as mandated by local law and university policy.
  • Robust and wide-ranging testing systems will be in place. All students living on campus will be tested for COVID-19 before they are permitted to begin classes.
  • All students will complete daily health checks through a monitoring app and report concerning symptoms to the Student Health and Wellness.
  • All students living in on-campus or off-campus housing will be expected to remain in the Durham area during the semester.
  • All students who report symptoms will have to follow the testing, contact tracing and quarantine protocols established by Duke, Durham County and the State of North Carolina should they become ill or exposed to COVID-19.
  • While many co-curricular and extra-curricular activities (lectures, performances, club activities,  events) will be held virtually, there will be opportunities for in-person gatherings that meet university and public health guidelines.
  • On-campus dining centers will provide expanded take-out options and limited in-person service using reservation systems.
  • Access to campus facilities by students, faculty, staff and visitors will be restricted and new guidelines on space configuration, capacity, traffic flow, cleaning and sanitation protocols will be in place.  

Perhaps more than ever before in our lifetimes, the actions of one member of our community can have catastrophic implications for all.  Thus, we will take these commitments seriously at all levels.  For students, failure to adhere to these guidelines could be grounds for disciplinary and other actions necessary to protect the health and safety of the Duke community.  

We remain steadfastly committed to inclusivity, and for its sake, to flexibility. We will continue to encourage, where practical, work from home.  Students who choose not to participate in the on-campus experience in 2020-2021 – or who are unable to be physically in Durham due to travel restrictions, personal circumstances, or family obligations – are assured that we will make every effort to support their continued learning and engagement in campus life while remote.  Our experience this spring has been instructive in many ways, and we will build on this unplanned shift to develop the safest possible working and learning conditions to advance our core missions.   

Finally, and it bears repeating, all of this is subject to change based on public health guidance, medical advice, local conditions and laws, and variables that may not even be known to us today.  Such is the nature of life in and after a pandemic.

Regardless of the circumstances, I know we will get through this.  It won’t look easy, and it won’t look anything like we’re used to experiencing.  But we’ll get through it because our people—faculty, students, staff, families and friends — are thoughtful, collaborative, creative, adaptable, and committed to excellence. We will get through it because we are Duke.     

I so look forward to seeing many of you on campus, in all the familiar places. In the meantime, stay tuned to your email and Duke websites for more information and updates. And please accept my very best wishes for your health and safety and the start of what will be an unforgettable summer.


Vincent E. Price

Securing Our Financial Future

This message was sent to all Duke University and Duke University Health System faculty and staff

Dear Colleagues,

What sets Duke apart are our people and our purpose, and both have been tested over these past few weeks.  We have all lived through what for many has been the most tumultuous and unsettling period of our lives.  The combination of understandable concern for our health and safety, and those of our loved ones, with massive disruptions to society, education, business and even our ability freely move around our communities, is deeply unsettling.

But we have as a Duke community met these unprecedented challenges with an extraordinary outpouring of creativity, commitment and courage from thousands of people spanning the globe.  Each of you has contributed in your own way, through actions that have saved lives, supported our students, faculty, staff and patients, and ensured that our important work continues despite the challenges we confront every day.  Many of you have done so while balancing health concerns, caring for family members, and navigating the mental and emotional challenges of an uncertain and isolating time.

Your extraordinary effort brings home the truth that we can only do great works through great people, and that ensuring the well-being of our people is critical to our purpose of seeking knowledge in the service of society.

Even as we confront present challenges, we must be clear that the pandemic will also produce profound and lasting effects, including severe and negative effects on our operations and finances.  Duke is not alone in this, of course: every business, government, nonprofit organization and family is now making difficult choices. While it is too soon to determine with precision the magnitude of disruption to our finances, it is clear that the impacts will be both severe and prolonged.  All of our formerly reliable sources of revenue – tuition, research grants, clinical revenue, private philanthropy and income from our investments and endowment – will almost certainly be significantly and adversely affected, even as we face increased expenses in our education, research and patient-care services.

The responsible institutional course is to engage in a thoughtful, comprehensive, and strategic review of our operations and finances, and we are initiating exactly that.  In the meantime, we must also act responsibly now by taking immediate steps to mitigate our deepening financial challenges.  As a result, we are today either confirming (in the case of actions that were announced earlier) or implementing the following Duke University policies, which do not apply to the Duke University Health System:

Expenditures:  All schools, units, departments and programs will need to pause new non-salary expenditures, including (but not limited to): contracts, service or consulting agreements; computer, office and laboratory equipment; renovations; furniture; travel and entertainment; meetings and conferences. Any ongoing expenditure of university funds (including grant, gift and endowment funds) greater than $2,500 will continue to require pre-approval by the Executive Vice President, Provost or Chancellor for Health Affairs or their designees.  There will be additional guidance forthcoming regarding information technology services, including software licenses.

Hiring:  All staff hiring is paused until further notice.  Requests for exceptions for positions that are essential to the operation of the university can be made through the vacancy management process, which requires the approval of the Executive Vice President, Provost or Chancellor for Health Affairs, depending on the unit.  Subject to the approval of the appropriate dean, ongoing faculty searches may continue provided that all salary and startup funds are identified.  Likewise, searches for staff positions that are fully funded by external research grants that have already been received by the university may continue, subject to review through the vacancy management process.

Salaries: For the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2020, there will be no salary increase for University employees making more than $50,000 per year.  Employees earning up to $50,000 who earn satisfactory performance evaluations will receive a one-time, $1,000 payment.  The only exceptions to this policy will be certain academic promotions.   Positions covered under collective bargaining agreements will be governed by the terms of the contract.  This action also does not cover Duke University Health System (DUHS) employees.  DUHS administers compensation on a different calendar from the University, and guidance for the next year will be provided to DUHS employees at a later date.

Benefits: At this time, we do not anticipate making any changes in our insurance programs (health, dental, vision and disability).  We are reviewing our 403b program to determine whether adjustments are now appropriate.

Construction:  All new construction projects are on indefinite hold, except those related to safety, repairs, infrastructure, virus research and a small number of obligations to new faculty.

As we adapt to this new reality, I pledge to you that Duke will never lose sight of our highest commitments, to our people and our purpose.  We remain firmly committed to meeting the financial aid needs of our students, which are likely to rise.  Our decisions will be guided by and aligned with Duke’s overarching strategic framework, Toward our Second Century.  We will be mindful of the needs of the most vulnerable among us and committed to the health, safety and security of our students, faculty and staff.  And we will be true to our shared values of respect, trust, inclusion, discovery and excellence.

We will get through this, together, by supporting one another and our shared mission as a university.  Thank you for all that you are doing for Duke. I am proud to call you colleagues.


Vincent E. Price

Duke Student Assistance Fund Now Open

Dear Duke Students,

Today we are opening up applications for funding from the Duke Student Assistance Fund which has been established to assist undergraduate, graduate and professional students with unexpected and extraordinary expenses related to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students may now submit applications for grants using your Net ID at  All applications will be reviewed individually by the Duke Student Assistance Fund team, which includes Student Affairs professionals who have experience with the many unique experiences of our students.

While the Duke Student Assistance Fund has been established with funds from the university, we are also receiving contributions from generous alumni and donors who want to help in providing relief to our students.  The university has also created and funded similar relief efforts for patients at our hospitals and for the Durham community.

We know this is a challenging time for every member of our community, but at the same time we are all a source of inspiration and resilience for each other.  Duke is committed to providing support for all of our community, particularly those members who have the most urgent and compelling needs, and we will continue to do so for the duration of this crisis and beyond.


Sally Kornbluth, Ph.D.

This message was sent to all Duke undergraduate, graduate and professional students.

Faculty and Staff Parking Fees Suspended through June

This email was sent to all faculty and staff

While many of our faculty and staff are now working remotely, others are continuing to report and serve our students, patients, and vital research operations. Each day we are confronted with new challenges, which our faculty and staff continue to rise and meet. We are also seeking ways to help support you during this time to make life slightly less challenging.

To that end, Duke will suspend all faculty and staff parking permit fee deductions from paychecks issued April through June.

Existing permits will remain active and valid for access to assigned lots and parking facilities. Permits requirements and parking facility restrictions will continue unchanged during this period.

We hope this measure provides some financial flexibility for individuals who have had to make accommodations to address personal or childcare needs to continue to support our vital work at Duke or those who have had to make adjustments to work remotely.

Thank you for your continued support, dedication and perseverance in support of Duke’s missions during this unique and challenging time.

Kyle J. Cavanaugh,
Vice President, Administration
Emergency Coordinator

North Carolina Stay At Home Order

March 27, 2020

TO:      All Duke Students, Faculty and Staff

On Friday afternoon, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order for residents statewide to stay at home beginning Monday, March 30, at 5:00 pm through April 29, 2020. 

The order directs people to stay at home except to visit essential businesses, to exercise outdoors or to help a family member. Specifically, the order bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to physically stay at least six feet apart from others. Essential activities such as health care, human services such as child and elder care, and food production, among others, are excluded. 

Durham, Orange and Wake counties have already issued stay-at-home orders, but the Governor’s action expands the restriction to residents of all 100 counties in the state.

As a reminder, anyone at Duke who is currently supporting critical operations should continue to report to your designated work location as scheduled.  As needs evolve, there are some that may be redeployed to roles that also require you to report to campus.  Individuals who are maintaining critical research laboratory functions may continue to do so provided they observe safety guidelines.  

Students who are currently living in Duke residence halls must remain on campus in their assigned residence hall and assigned room as much as possible and observe the guidelines that have been circulated by Student Affairs.  

Social distancing remains our best hope of limiting the impact of the outbreak and protecting our health care providers, their patients and the community.   We’re in this together, which is why we need you to keep your distance.


Kyle J. Cavanaugh,
Vice President for Administration and Emergency Coordinator

Message to off-campus students about Mayor’s stay-at-home order

This message was sent to all students who live off-campus in Durham

Dear off-campus students,
We are writing to follow up on Mayor Schewel’s announcement that the City of Durham will enact a “stay at home” order effective Thursday, March 26 at 6 p.m.

All Duke students who are living in Durham must abide by this order, just as we expect Duke students to follow local and state laws.

 We understand that many of you have already left the Durham area—please continue to take care and stay safe where you are!

For those of you who are still in Durham: during the stay-at-home period, students living off-campus may not come to campus or enter any Duke buildings. (Limited numbers of graduate students may have obtained prior approval to perform their duties in research labs with an essential function.) Failure to abide by these expectations will result in disciplinary action through the Office of Student Conduct. This is in addition to any action that the city and law enforcement agencies may take.

If you have questions, please contact
Join Mayor Schewel’s call for young people to act responsibly for the sake of yourselves and other community members. As he said in this morning’s press conference, “We have to offer another kind of kindness now—the kindness of distance.”Thank you for your attention to this information and for all that you are already doing to maintain social distancing, wash hands, and look out for yourselves and others. We are here to support you in the days ahead and appreciate that this is not easy for anyone.
Sincerely yours,
Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost of Student Affairs
Gary Bennett
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

The Importance of Inclusion

Dear Colleagues,

I have been deeply disturbed by recent reports of bias incidents targeting Chinese, Chinese-American, and Asian individuals throughout the United States.  Meeting the global challenge of COVID-19 calls perhaps as never before on our common humanity and regard for others; it cannot be allowed to become a cause for scapegoating, bias, or hatred.

Duke has benefitted from a vibrant relationship with China since well before we became a university. Our very first international student, Han Jiaozhun, or Charlie Soong, came to what was then Trinity College in 1880 from Hainan province.  And we take pride in Duke Kunshan University, our innovative joint venture in Jiangsu province. Over the decades, thousands of Chinese and Chinese-American students, faculty, staff, and visitors have come to our campus to study, work, conduct research, and treat patients. These colleagues, classmates, friends, and neighbors are a vitally important part of our university community.

The recent spate of bias incidents across America not only reflects the most misguided, distorted, and base biases about the coronavirus, it is also thwarting the public health response to the virus’s spread. I want to be quite clear: Duke resoundingly condemns any discrimination or bias against our Asian or Asian-American neighbors, and we pledge to continue advocating for our shared values of inclusion, mutual trust, and respect.

To that end, Duke is prepared to provide assistance to students, staff, and faculty who may need it. If you believe you have experienced discrimination or harassment based upon your race, national origin or other protected identity, please contact the Office for Institutional Equity for assistance at 919-684-8222 or You may also consider other Reporting Resources to address additional concerns.

In these unsettling times, I encourage every person associated with Duke University to join me in supporting those among us who might need a kind word or some assistance—and to remember to take care of ourselves and one another as we meet the challenges ahead.

Vincent E. Price

Looking Ahead to Tomorrow

To the Duke Community,

Tomorrow morning, we will begin in earnest what may be the greatest experiment in our university’s history: the beginning of virtual classes for all of our Duke students.
For our faculty, the recent weeks have been a crash course in alternative course delivery for more than 6,000 classes. It has been inspiring to see our outstanding and dedicated teachers learn how to extend their excellence in the classroom into Zoom presentations, conference calls, or newly designed independent learning activities.

We didn’t ask for this, but we are rising to the charge. And as we do so, I am very grateful to our students, faculty, and staff for your flexibility as we transition to new models of teaching, enabled by technology and accelerated by necessity.

The coming weeks won’t be easy, and there will of course be growing pains. But we are committed to doing our very best to make our students’ learning experience exceptional.

And if we do this right—and I believe we will—we will give our students the tools they need to complete their programs and keep learning, and growing as scholars, despite the unprecedented challenges to our region and the world.

I’m inspired by this community’s compassion and concern for one another. And whether we are far from campus, or nearby, Duke’s bonds have never been stronger than they are in the face of these great challenges.

I have never been prouder to be a part of the Duke community.
Very best wishes to all of you.

Vincent E. Price
Duke University

COVID-19 Update at Duke

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to advise you that several members of the Duke community have recently tested positive for the coronavirus.

We have now confirmed that three Duke graduate students who have been traveling overseas as part of a group have tested positive for the coronavirus. They are receiving treatment outside of the United States and will remain overseas until they have recovered.  Duke physicians have been in touch with the students and they are all in good condition.  Other students who were part of that group have returned to Durham and will remain in self-isolation off-campus for at least 14 days under medical supervision.  Any individuals who have experienced symptoms compatible with coronavirus (i.e. fever, cough) underwent testing and are awaiting the results. Durham Public Health and Duke Health are engaged in this effort.

We are optimistic for the full recovery of these individuals and remain grateful to health care providers around the world for their courage and commitment.  This is also a reminder to all of us to observe the guidelines on travel, exposure to large crowds and other restrictions designed to stop the spread of coronavirus — not only for your own well-being, but for the health of the vulnerable populations in our community. 

Please be sure to check for updates on information and policies that impact Duke.With all best wishes,  

Kyle J. Cavanaugh
Vice President for Administration and Emergency Coordinator

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