I want to commend the campus activists who took a stand on Saturday to deliver the People’s State of the University. It takes both bravery and resilience to stand up in front of a crowd and eloquently advocate for the rights of marginalized students, staff, and faculty on our campus. I am confident that our university would not be the place that it is today without the courageous work of activists who are now celebrated Duke Alumni. Yet, there is more work that needs to be done, and the demands made by the students on Saturday articulated a vision forward. 

Together, they are demanding more from Duke University. Together, they demand a more welcoming, a safer, and a more progressive Duke University that prioritizes the needs of not one marginalized identity or community, but rather for all marginalized identities on this campus. Some may say that the list of demands is too broad or all encompassing, but I would encourage those critics to see the immense value in a group of people, all of varying identities, who so firmly believe that all marginalized communities should be supported institutionally. The People’s State of the University addresses the experiences and needs of students of color, low-income and first-generation students, and students with disabilities. It advocates for the protection and safety of undocumented students. It demands more support for survivors of sexual violence, especially the women of color and students in the LGBTQIA+ community who are disproportionately affected by this violence. It implores the university to hold itself accountable to its staff members and to the city of Durham, as they are continually impacted by the decisions that Duke makes. 

These student demands are important both for the students on campus today and the generations of Duke students to come. To borrow the words of the activists themselves, they deserve to work with an administration that also believes that “it is necessary for us to imagine a better future; and inevitably, to gather the courage to create that future for those to come.” Having worked extensively with our administration, I know that they also want to create a better future for Duke. 

As it is my responsibility to amplify the voices of students and help them raise their questions, concerns, and demands to the Duke administration, I look forward to supporting these activists and working alongside the administration to make their vision for Duke a reality. 

Kristina Smith, Duke Student Government President-Elect