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Duke Honor Council Welcomes the Class of 2021

The Duke University Honor Council was privileged to help welcome the Class of 2021 during O-Week with messages on honor and integrity delivered by council chair Kushal Kadakia. He delivered a welcoming address (transcript below) to the entire class followed by a signing of the Duke Community Standard banner, and he led an informational session on academic integrity. Read the transcript of his speech below:

Good evening Class of 2021!

My name is Kushal Kadakia – I’m a junior serving as the Chairman of the Duke Honor Council – and I am so excited to welcome you to campus tonight.

Today has probably been a bit of a blur – new faces, sights, and sounds. And as you’ve begun to meet the rest of your class, I bet you have been asked same questions a few hundred times:

“What is your name?”

“Where are you from?”

“What dorm are you in?”

“What are you planning on majoring in?”

Hopefully O-Week’s seemingly never-ending icebreakers have begun to reveal Duke’s most special quality – the diversity of its students. Over the past two years of being at this university, I have yet to find two Duke students who are exactly alike. Some of you, like me, are the only students in your class from your hometown. Others of you might have flown in from across the world, while a few of you might have driven in from just down the street. But after today, all of you, no matter where you came from or what you look like, will proudly call Duke home.

On the surface, this process is already underway. Over the next week, your class will begin to color in the blank slate of East Campus, from the murals that you will spray paint on the bridge to the home-makeovers that you will give to your new dorm rooms. And as the weeks turn into months, you too will begin to leave your mark on this place – whether it is adding your own voice to the sound of Duke’s acapella groups, or putting your own name on the ballot for a Duke Student Government election.

And although these experiences at Duke will push you to new highs and lows, it will be the people you meet and the friends you make who will keep you grounded through it all. Because what makes this place special is how students who start off as strangers from all across the world can converge together and build each other up around the principles of honesty, fairness, and integrity.

It is that ethic of community that I would like to share with you tonight. At Duke, I lead the Honor Council, a student group commissioned by the university to promote the values upon which our school was built, which are known as the Duke Community Standard. The Community Standard synthesizes aspiration with action into three core principles:

  1. I will not lie, cheat, or steal in my academic endeavors;

  2. I will conduct myself honorably in all my endeavors; and

  3. I will act if the Standard is compromised.

The first one is easy enough – after all, Duke is first and foremost a school. But ethics are not limited to the classroom. In college, we live where we learn, and that special privilege requires extending the same respect and kindness wherever we go – from the dorm to the dining room, from the lab to the lecture hall, from Duke into Durham.

That leads us to principle number two – which extends Duke’s definition of ethics to all endeavors. Did you know the Community Standard was written by Duke students for all members of the Duke community? That includes administrators, faculty, and staff. These are common norms that we pledge ourselves to, because at Duke, we are one community – one where students like you and me have the privilege to set the example and take the lead.

But ethics is also a two-way street. It is not enough to simply preach moral action – it is imperative that we engage in it ourselves. Principle number three is that call for accountability – to “act if the Standard is compromised”.

Without a doubt, Duke is a community built around action. Let me give you a few examples. If you choose to tent for the Duke-UNC game like I did this past spring, you will learn that the Line Monitors who run the tent checks and maintain order in K-Ville are none other than your fellow Duke students – because at Duke, students trust one another to keep the community in check. And if you ever encounter misconduct on campus, you will discover that every disciplinary hearing includes undergraduate panelists just like you – because at Duke, students enforce the norms they create.

I hope you will join me in continuing this history of action. After tonight’s speeches, come up to the front and join me in one of your first Duke traditions – the signing the Community Standard. Later this week, the Honor Council will hang this banner in Marketplace as a reminder of what our community can and should be.

Because at Duke, and in life, you’ll be confronted by moments of right and wrong and you may not always choose the right one. But make it your mission to be just a little bit better every day. Never forget to question the actions you’re doing and the systems you’re a part of. After all, accountability is a collaborative effort – and I can’t wait to see how your class will join the Honor Council in preserving and protecting the academic and social foundations upon which our community is built.

Thank you for your time, and welcome to Duke!

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