Let’s talk about what equity looks like at Duke, and more so, let’s talk about what equity looks like in a land far, far away called the real world. Students come to Duke with varying socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, and, in these politically polarized times, it seems that students from different backgrounds are less able to talk to each other. This leaves students with marginalized identities feeling that their stories are brushed aside.

We are DSG’s Equity and Outreach Committee, and we want to help start conversation on what increasing equity looks like and help illuminate the experiences of students of marginalized identities.

By restarting the You Don't Say? campaign, we want to revive an important conversation about language. The campaign is aimed at highlighting how certain words and terms are hurtful by having students from all walks of life explain why they find them offensive. Many times, and understandably so, students are afraid to engage in conversation because they are afraid they might not be politically correct. And trying to be politically correct can be difficult if you never learned why using certain language can be hurtful towards your peers. So we want to clarify the language that is hurtful in order to prevent conversations meant to facilitate understanding from becoming conversations full of insult. This campaign isn't about “political correctness,” and limiting people’s speech—it’s a campaign meant to facilitate mutual respect between two people, in order to start conversation.

When it comes to equity, it's easy to avoid conversation that makes us uncomfortable. A lack of conversation leads to a lack of understanding, which then leads to mischaracterizing the identities of different students on campus, especially marginalized students. By having our tampon initiative available in all Bryan Center restrooms, regardless of the way they are gendered, we address key issues. First, we hope to reduce the stigma around menstruation by having tampons seen as regular sanitary products just as necessary as toilet paper. Second, we spark thought and then subsequent conversation on why tampons are needed in men’s restrooms, since some transgender men and gender non-binary individuals also menstruate. Through these conversations, we provide space for students to be more cognizant that trans students are part of their community and to realize we can make Duke more equitable for them.

Facilitating space for discussion on identity and equity is another way in which we want to facilitate productively uncomfortable conversations. With our #LeftorRight? photo campaign, we tapped into how beauty is defined by society in a Eurocentric, heteronormative way. In order to be conscious of this, we all have to be conscious of our own implicit biases and talk honestly about how attracted we are to different races, what markers make one “feminine” or “masculine,” and how our society assumes that dichotomy of attraction. That is why we held a panel aimed at discussing beauty standards honestly and admitting how our implicit biases affect who we say we are attracted to and who we say we aren't. Although It's hard to admit you have implicit bias, but it's that discomfort we all need to delve into in order to start talking and start understanding.

We work hard to bring equity-related issues to the forefront, and our number-one goal is to get students talking about these issues. But room still remains for our work to be done. We balance advocacy for all students and amplifying the voices of marginalized students by trying to facilitate conversations. We want to create avenues for discussion that don’t rely upon marginalized people to teach the majority about themselves, and we take it as our prerogative to fill those gaps. Because at the end of the day, if we are to fight a polarized national climate that says that we are too far apart to meet in the middle, we all have to listen, and we all have to take the time to understand the different identities of our peers.

So far, here are a few things we’re up to: created a long-term action plan for Gender Inclusive Restrooms; launched a coalition group of student groups dedicated to gender violence prevention (Duke Students Against Gender Violence); restarted the You Don’t Say? Campaign in collaboration with Blue Devils United aimed at talking about hurtful language that serve as microaggressions against fellow students; began the #LeftorRight? Campaign about racialized beauty standards and a Identity Panel on Beauty Standards; worked with Mi Gente and administration to create online resources for Undocumented/DACA students; created a pilot program in the Bryan Center Plaza to provide free menstrual hygiene products in all bathrooms and; created a pilot program for stipends for students staying over breaks (to start Spring 2017) to increase financial equity at Duke.

Projects Completed: created a long term action plan for Gender Inclusive Restrooms: http://tinyurl.com/GIrestrooms; launched a coalition group of student groups dedicated to gender violence prevention (Duke Students Against Gender Violence); restarted You Don’t Say? Campaign in collaboration with Blue Devils United aimed at talking about hurtful language that serve as microaggressions against fellow students; began the #LeftorRight? Campaign about racialized beauty standards and a Identity Panel on Beauty Standards; worked with Mi Gente and administration to create online resources for Undocumented/DACA students; created a pilot program in the Bryan Center Plaza to provide free menstrual hygiene products in all bathrooms and; created a pilot program for stipends for students staying over breaks (to start Spring 2017) to increase financial equity at Duke.