Credit: Mi Jiang

Duke University President and former Penn Provost Vincent Price has taken a stand on the national debate over statues of Confederate leaders, ordering the removal of a statue commemorating Confederate General Robert E. Lee from one of Duke’s most iconic buildings. This came a week after violent protests erupted in Charlottesville, Va. over the planned removal of a statue of Lee from the University of Virginia's campus. 

Price announced Aug. 19 that he had decided to relocate the Lee statue from its public location outside the interdenominational Duke Chapel. In an email to the Duke staff, students and faculty, Price explained his reasons for removing the statue. 

“I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel,” Price wrote. “[I took it] to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university.”

The announcement came two days after the University discovered the statue had been vandalized — an action which Price denounced in a statement that day. 

“Each of us deserves a voice in determining how to address the questions raised by the statues of Robert E. Lee,” he wrote. 

Price’s actions were not met with unanimous approval. On a Facebook post linking to Price’s statement, there are more than 4,000 comments arguing for and against the removal of the statue. 

"What an astoundingly cowardly decision," wrote one user. "As a Duke alum, I feel ashamed." 

Others responded more positively. "Duke's campus has been rife with racial incidents for the past few years, from nooses hung on East campus to a black lives matter speaker's poster being defaced with racial epithets," wrote one graduate student. "This is a step in the right direction." 

On top of removing the statue, Price has also announced the creation of a new commission comprising students, staff, professors, alumni, trustees and members of the local community to “assist [the University] in navigating the role of memory and history at Duke.” 

Academic events are also being held around the controversy, including forums on freedom of speech and injustice at Duke. 

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