Brodhead unusually frank in confronting alcohol use, sex with Class of 2015

✔✔✔✔In a switch from his traditional, grand sweeping philosophical speech, President Brodhead used opening Convocation for freshman on Wednesday to address drinking and sex. He made oblique reference to illegal drugs when he said other "adult pleasures" are also available on campus.

While speaking bluntly, he was also confusing.

He told the new students "you know the law and are obliged to obey it," but one breath later he said the freshmen were entering a "domain of freedom," where they could make a "conscious and thoughtful choice" about drinking.

✔✔ Separately, the Supreme Undergraduate Dean Steve Nowicki advised students to avoid the easy road in their class work, to take reasonable chances in choosing their academic courses -- and not be afraid to fail.

The message on alcohol and sex formed only one part of Brodhead's address, the rest being devoted to the expected.

Some quotes from the text as furnished by Duke PR follow. Often the President drifts from the text and rewrites while he is speaking.

"In college you will have freer access to alcohol, sex, and other what used to be called adult pleasures. I trust this is not news to you: the association of college, drinking, and sex in an alcoholic haze was already well documented in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, written in the fourteenth century.

"As for drinking, you know the law and are obliged to obey it. But such laws have never made alcohol and the conduct it aggravates less prevalent on any American campus. Many of you have strong values on this score, and many of you will find those values tested. My message to you all is, this is a domain of freedom. Make it the object of your conscious and thoughtful choice."

And on sex: "I say it seriously: take responsibility for your conduct; don't do things you are not proud of. And if you say, of any practice you'd really rather not partake of, well, I have to, or what will They think? I reply, have some courage and see where it gets you. Having escaped the tyranny of all kinds of adult supervision, it seems a poor sequel to cave in to the tyranny of some imagined Them. Here's the truth: if they were candid, "They" might turn out to be ambivalent too and to welcome alternatives and frank discussion."

And the peroration of this part of Brodhead's address:

"My first rule for the use of your freedom is, build a life you can be proud of. My second, at least as important, is: make great education happen for you."

✔ While in previous years, Brodhead has cited with fanfare his Open Office Hours for students, often leaving the impression that it was easy to schedule an appointment, there was no mention today. As reported by FC, Brodhead's website did not even list any dates for the spring semester.

✔✔✔✔ The Supreme Undergraduate Dean, Steve Nowicki, also speaking at the Convocation, advised freshmen not to take the easy road.

"...if you try to always be perfect, then you'll only do things you know you'll succeed at. And if you never attempt anything where you might not succeed, where you might fail, then you can never know what you're really capable of, you'll never know the full range of what you can possibly do. And so, now that I've assured you that we expect you to succeed at Duke overall, I want to suggest that you risk some failure, just a little bit of failure. I want to suggest that you allow yourselves the luxury of chancing failure once in a while."

Nowicki's text as released by Duke PR did not have him leading the traditional GO DUKE cheer, the first from the Class of 2015.

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