Duke President Begs Duke Students to Stop Embarrassing Themselves

Duke has an image problem: The school's most notable student is a co-ed who sent out a Powerpoint about every dude she banged. Now, Duke's president wants to clean up the school's image by making college students stop being idiots.

Ha, good luck. In a campus-wide email this week, President Richard Brodhead chastised the student population for "a series of incidents that, at least to a distant public, made the most boorish student conduct seem typical of Duke."

Here's a reminder of these "incidents":

What's bad for Duke is apparently great for Internet gossip blogs. But lame President Brodhead (could there be any more perfect college president name than this?) begs students to "have courage to visualize a change." A change from being drunk, horny college students. Well, email sent. Problem solved.

Here's the full email, via Forbes' Kashmir Hill:

Subject: Message from President Brodhead

November 15, 2010

Dear Duke Students:

Twenty-five years ago, President Terry Sanford sent a famous letter. At that time, Duke students were receiving heavy television coverage for shouting obscenities at basketball games. Writing with warm appreciation of students and their enthusiasms, "Uncle Terry" asked if Dukies really wanted to allow themselves to appear so lacking in class. He challenged them to create a picture of Duke that did them better justice, by joining their intelligence to their exercise of high spirits.

It occurs to me that this might be time for a new letter from your uncle in the Allen Building. This fall we've had a series of incidents that, at least to a distant public, made the most boorish student conduct seem typical of Duke. Tailgate, a community celebration that regularly veered into excess and even danger, had to be canceled last week. Cartoonish images of gender relations have created offense and highlighted persistent discomforts. Like every other college in America, we have too much drinking on this campus. We've had our eyes opened to the serious costs of apparently harmless fun.

As you know better than anyone, these episodes can create a wildly distorted image of Duke. Duke undergraduates are, to my certain knowledge, as intelligent, as thoughtful, as creative, and as concerned for others as any student body in the country. Every day you amaze us with your talents. Watching your high promise unfold is the deep pleasure of this place.

But that doesn't mean things could not be made better here-and made better through your own acts. To the extent that there are features of student culture that strike you as less than ideal, I urge you to face up to them, speak openly about them, and have the courage to visualize a change. I myself and the members of my administration will cooperate with you fully. But we won't succeed in making Duke the best that it could be unless you make that your personal project, as you shape your own conduct and your collective life.

I applaud the fact that students have already initiated such discussion.

Duke's best tradition is that it's not stuck in traditions. You'll show yourselves true Duke students to the extent that you regard this university as yours to envision and yours to make. I challenge you to make it something great.

President Richard Brodhead

[Forbes, Image of Duke students tailgating via Azure Elixir]