PUBLISHED:March 02, 2023

Jones elected chair of Duke University Academic Council


Trina Jones, the Jerome M. Culp Distinguished Professor of Law, was elected by a vote of the Duke University faculty and will begin a two-year term as chair on July 1.

Trina Jones Professor Trina Jones

Jerome M. Culp Distinguished Professor of Law Trina Jones was elected chair of the Duke University Academic Council Feb. 21.

The council and its Executive Committee are the chief instruments of faculty governance at Duke and represent the opinions of the faculty to the university’s administration and Board of Trustees. Jones was elected by a vote of the university’s faculty and will begin a two-year term as chair on July 1.

“I am deeply honored to serve in this capacity and to have the trust of faculty colleagues across the university,” Jones said.

“Duke has a history of strong faculty governance, and the council has been led by outstanding chairs, including most recently Kerry Haynie, Don Taylor, and the current chair, Erika Weinthal. They've done a terrific job and will be tough acts to follow.”

Jones, who joined the Law School faculty in 1995, is a leading expert on racial, socioeconomic, and gender inequality, particularly as it pertains to the workplace. Her scholarship has appeared in leading law reviews, including Columbia Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Emory Law Journal, and Georgetown Law Journal, and she has lectured around the world on colorism, intersectionality, and sexual harassment.

At the Law School, Jones directs the Center on Law, Race & Policy and teaches Race and the Law, Critical Race Theory, Employment Discrimination, Law and Literature: Race and Gender, and Civil Procedure. She received the Distinguished Teaching Award from the Duke Bar Association in 2019 and the Gavel Award from the Duke Law Black Law Students Association in 2019 and 2022.

Jones has served six terms on the Academic Council and has been a member of its Executive Committee. She cited the council’s deliberations about the launch of Duke Kunshan University and challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic as among the highlights of her time as a member.

In 2014, Jones was asked to co-chair (with Professor Nan Jokerst of Duke’s engineering department) a year-long Task Force on Diversity, which was charged with “articulating a vision for a diverse and inclusive Duke, assessing Duke’s current position relative to this vision, and recommending actions designed to achieve this vision,” according to the report it issued in 2015.

Among the results of the Task Force’s recommendations were the university’s first official position statement on diversity and inclusion and the establishment of the Office for Faculty Advancement to strengthen resources and oversight of strategies to advance faculty excellence, diversity, and inclusion.

“The Task Force was one of the more meaningful opportunities that I've had as a council member, and I believe its work produced positive effects for Duke,” Jones said. “About 60 faculty members volunteered a huge amount of time in that year-long effort, demonstrating the seriousness with which faculty take issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Through our collective voice, I think that we were effective in communicating that diversity is essential to, and not in conflict with, excellence and in encouraging the university to take tangible actions to buttress its commitments in this area.”

Jones currently chairs the university’s Faculty Hearing Committee. She has served on numerous other university bodies, including the University Priorities Committee, the President’s Council on Black Affairs, and the Academic Affairs and Audit, Risk, and Compliance Committees of the Board of Trustees.

“One of the benefits of engaging in university governance is that you learn a lot about how the university operates and how it advances teaching, knowledge production, and service,” she said.

“University service provides an opportunity to make Duke, as an institution, even stronger. It also presents opportunities to meet tremendously talented people, including faculty, students, and staff, from other parts of the university. In many ways, Duke is decentralized – which is not necessarily a negative – but I think that we all benefit when we talk across fields and across institutional, and other, boundaries. My research and my academic agenda more broadly have certainly benefitted from engagement with non-lawyers, who may approach issues in different ways.”

Jones is the fourth Law School faculty member to chair the council, following Professors Paul Haagen (2005-07), Robert Mosteller (1998-2000), and Francis Paschal (1966-67). A 1972 committee chaired by James B. Duke Professor Emeritus George Christie established the council’s right to be heard by the administration and Board of Trustees in matters related to academic affairs of the university, a pillar of faculty governance at Duke that became known as the “Christie Rule.”

“What makes Law School faculty particularly desirable in university service is that we are problem-solvers,” Jones said. “We are trained to listen carefully and to consider all sides of an issue. We want to figure out the best solution among many legitimate options. That training, I think, is real value added.”

Jones said she is looking forward to chairing the council at this moment. Duke is in the midst of several major leadership transitions, including a yet-to-be-named provost and chancellor of Duke University Health System. 

“The commemoration of Duke’s centennial in 2024 also presents opportunities for celebration and reflection,” she said. “This is a really exciting time in Duke’s history.”