On April 1, like so many in our community, I woke to news of what I hoped was just a cruel April Fools’ Day joke: a noose found hanging from a tree in the Bryan Center Plaza, the very heart of Duke’s campus.

However, given our nation’s history, this provocative act was not a simple joke. I understood the symbolic meaning. And while a noose is symbolic of race-based prejudice and bigotry, particularly against African-Americans, this act spoke to intolerance and hatred in all its forms. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

So the very same day the entire Duke community, which Fuquans lovingly refer to as ‘Big Duke,’ came together in a rally organized by President Brodhead, standing together in love against this hate-filled act, driving out the fear that the incident instilled in many. The message was clear: Our community does not stand for this.

While Big Duke does not stand for this, neither does Fuqua—so our business school came together too. One of Fuqua’s core values is collective diversity: we are stronger because we are together, and we are better because we are different. Dean Boulding explained it simply in a message to Fuqua, “this act of hatred strikes at the very foundation of our community.”

As consequential leaders we took action, recognizing the opportunity to reinforce Fuqua values, educate our international community members about the significance of the incident, and spark a conversation around race and the campus climate.

Dean Bill Boulding speaks at a diversity forum
Dean Boulding speaking at the diversity forum

The Black & Latino MBA Organization (BLMBAO) and the MBA Association (MBAA) organized a ‘Day of Solidarity’ against hatred and bigotry, in which community members wore Duke blue to express their disdain for prejudice, and show their commitment to diversity. The Day of Solidarity was capped by a forum, “Dialogues on Diversity,” in which students, faculty and staff discussed diversity issues in small groups after hearing presentations from Daytime MBA students about recent national events and their own experiences.

These conversations are the beginning of a continuing dialogue between students and school leadership about how to emphasize our strong belief that our differences make us stronger and environments that truly embrace inclusion are critical to our school, our nation and ultimately the world. Team Fuqua is a supportive and action-oriented community! I am happy to belong to a community of consequential leaders that follow words with actions, using a hate-filled act to spark meaningful and lasting change.

After this post was written, an investigation revealed details on the motivation behind the incident.