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Letter to the editor

Blue Devils United, Mi Gente, The Duke University Asian Students Association, The Asian American Alliance, The Duke Muslim Students’ Association, Duke Voices for Interfaith Action and Women’s Housing Option are in solidarity with student efforts to stop the relocation of the Women’s Center. We call on University officials to begin a process of working with students to find a mutually agreeable space that will suit the Center's needs.

Blue Devils United, the undergraduate organization for LGBTQ+ students and allies, understands the importance of a visible space. Not long ago, the Office of Student Affairs attempted to move what would become The Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity to a derelict house on Central Campus. It took the courageous work of organized students, similar to the efforts of 1,000 students who are in opposition to Women’s Center’s relocation, to assure that the CSGD is located at its current home on the Bryan Center’s first floor.

Many members of Duke’s LGBTQ+ community find safety, support and care inside the Women’s Center. As a result, Blue Devils United feels as though the Women’s Center’s location and the safety of Duke’s LGBTQ+ Community is closely interconnected. We cannot stress the importance of having easily accessible PACT Training, readily available sexually diverse resources and inclusive staff in order to make our campus a place where LGBTQ+ students can thrive.

Mi Gente, the umbrella undergraduate Latinx student organization, is opposed to the proposed relocation of the Women’s Center. There are many factors that make this new location undesirable. Among them are the lack of visibility, the physical distance from the majority of the student body and the disorientation that it would cause for current students.

The staff has managed to establish a safe space in the Few quad (alongside the Women’s Housing Option and the Baldwin Scholars Housing) and this space would no longer exist below the Office of Student Conduct. Instead, this home would become a place where one must go when in need as opposed to where students can continually seek help, learn about their bodies, and educate themselves on safe sex practices. Instead we suggest that the Women’s center maintain its current space and obtain a satellite office on east campus to address the needs of the first year class. This way, students, many of whom are Latinx, in need of these services, are not required to travel long distances to seek help.

The Duke University Asian Students Association opposes the moving of the Women’s Center to the Crowell Building on East Campus. As a student group that seeks to actively engage in and support our constituencies’ intersectional identities, we are concerned that such a move undervalues the concerns and experiences of the students who love and benefit from the center.

Moving forward, we hope the administration can work closely with student leaders and organizations to more clearly identify the needs and opinions of students. We urge our administration to be transparent in their decision-making, and to take this opportunity to grow with us as we all continue to work to make Duke University a better place for all who work, study and live on this campus.

The victory that the Asian American Alliance achieved in demanding our own space and staff person was immediately dampened when we realized that administration decided that the space arrangements necessitated a moving of the Women’s Center. Many members of AAA frequent the center, and a number of us are current or former student staff there.

Whether intentional or not, the moving of the Women’s Center happening in concert with Asian American (and Latinx and Native) students gaining additional space sends the implicit message that different marginalized groups are in competition with each other for space. This is not true. The majority of AAA are womxn, battle sexism and need supportive spaces for both Asian Americans and womxn. We join the rest of the student groups here to stop the move of the Women’s Center.

The Duke Muslim Students’ Association stands against the relocation of the Women’s Center to East Campus. We believe that such a move would hinder students in need from accessing help and other resources provided by the Women’s Center. Accessing these services as is can often be a difficult step to take, and moving the Center to a far less accessible location adds an extra hurdle for the students seeking these services.

Moving the Women’s Center away from its visible location on the West Campus bus circle to the outskirts of East campus signifies a demotion of the importance of gender issues and sexual health that the Women’s Center represents. Furthermore, the relocation to the Crowell building, which is used for Student Conduct hearings, may cause visitors to the Women’s Center serious distress by increasing the likelihood of coming in contact with their abusers. Thus, the Duke Muslim Students’ Association firmly believes that The Women’s Center would best fulfill its purpose by remaining on West Campus.

The conversation about gender violence is often limited in traditional faith settings, but Duke Voices for Interfaith Actions understands that gender equity is an issue that touches all of us on this campus. We believe that moving the Women’s Center would further harm the opportunity for meaningful engagement with the issues of gender equity and gender violence with students across all faith backgrounds. Furthermore, the decision will directly hinder survivors and students in need from accessing vital resources.

Space is a powerful representation of value and accessibility. Basements and invisible locations do not yield a welcoming, inclusive, or productive space for progress, as many religious life groups understand. Our campus should be one in which all voices and stories are visible and heard. This decision serves in direct opposition to that goal.

The members of Duke Women’s Housing Option (WHO), a living learning community, oppose the relocation of the Women’s Center to East Campus. A key component of our organization is our interactive relationship with the Women’s Center. Through our relationship, we are able to plan joint events, receive advice and membership and discuss community building for women’s issues on campus. Moving the Women’s Center to less accessible space hinders our ability to bring awareness to race, culture and gender challenges at Duke.

United in solidarity,

Blue Devils United

Mi Gente

The Duke University Asian Students Association

The Asian American Alliance

The Duke Muslim Students’ Association

Duke Voices for Interfaith Action

Women’s Housing Option


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