by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Students at Duke have joined their contemporaries at Yale, Mizzou, and other campuses across the country in demanding the the university do something about a level of racism on campus that, they claim, is so extreme that it makes them feel “unsafe.” The Chronicle reports:
Students presented a list of demands regarding racial equity and campus inclusion to administrators during another contentious discussion in Page Auditorium Friday. …
The event began with a brief history of previous student demands regarding the racial climate on campus as well as a full reading of the “Demands of Black Voices”, a list of desired administrative actions and changes in policy, divided into 10 categories. The categories address bias and hate speech, racial and socioeconomic diversity, mental health and faculty unionization. They conclude with a demand that [the President, the Provost, and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences] agree to the other demands and announce their agreement to the Duke community by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Students noted that recent student activism at Yale University and the University of Missouri show that they are not alone in their struggles. Many also expressed concern about the lack of immediate tangible actions by the administration to combat racism.
“We acknowledge the administration for creating a task force in an attempt to work towards the elimination of bias and hate on campus. However, it is extremely inappropriate to expect students to wait until April 2016, five months from now, for mere recommendations to be made,” declared one student on stage. “The oppression and lack of safety we feel as students on this campus will not wait until April 2016.” …
Sophomore Zachary Faircloth, president of Duke Students for Justice in Palestine, noted that administrators were quick to address recent faculty unionization efforts, as well as outside pressure to prevent the Muslim call-to-prayer being led from the Chapel bell tower in January.
“It seems like…you all respond a lot quicker to people threatening your money than people threatening your students’ safety,” Faircloth said. …
The discussion briefly descended into shouting when one student asked about how to maintain free speech while still combating racism.
“When did we decide that, in the name of tolerance, we are intolerant to others?” freshman Elliot Lin asked. “Instead of challenging that racism, we have decided to shut it out completely.”
Another student shouted from the balcony that racism is not free speech, sparking a heated argument about limits on free speech. Sophomore Taylor Jones, who moderated the event, asked students to take the conversation outside of Page.
[President] Brodhead stated multiple times throughout the event that he wanted to ask a question, but was ignored each time.
In the closing minutes, Jones challenged the administrators to acknowledge certain problems that students face. The last question of the night cut to the center of student concerns.
“Do you promise to move forward honestly and quickly to effectively put an end to the institutionalized inequalities currently instated on this university?” she asked.
Brodhead responded by encouraging the student body to take ownership of the issues moving forward.
“I said it last week and I’ll say it again. We’re here because this is all of our university,” he said. “It affects all of us, it needs all of our work, it takes all of us working together to make