Many students are frustrated by current plans to move the Women's Center to East Campus at the end of the semester.
The center—which is currently located next to the West Campus bus stop—will relocate to the Crowell Building on East Campus and replace the Duke Student Wellness Center, according to Stephanie Helms Pickett, director of the Women’s Center. The space that the center presently occupies will become the new home of the Center for Leadership, Development and Social Action.
“We anticipate that students who have connected and found affinity in the Women's Center will continue to utilize it and call it home, albeit in a different location,” Pickett wrote in an email. “We also hope to attract students who have not interacted with the center.”
Students, however, have raised concerns about the decision, noting that the center's new location will be harder to access.
“I think the move is a horrible decision that perfectly illustrates how women's issues are treated on this campus,” wrote senior McCall Hollie, a student intern at the Women’s Center, in an email. “The center is literally being moved to a back corner of East Campus, one that very few students even know exists.”
Pickett noted that the move is the result of a need to expand the office, explaining that relocating to East will allow the center to have additional space to serve the student community.
The services currently provided will not be interrupted by the change, she added. In addition, she wrote that the center is looking forward to closer collaborations with the women's studies program, Housing, Dining and Residence Life and the Baldwin Scholars program.
Freshman Sherry Huang said that the current location of the center is ideal and can effectively protect students’ privacy.
“Because it’s near the bus stop, it’s convenient for the whole student body to get there," Huang said. "It’s also a relatively secluded location so the students who go in there for consulting feel more comfortable. The new location wouldn’t have these advantages. ”
Hollie added that the majority of the center's programs targeting students—including the Prevent. Act. Challenge. Teach. training, known as PACT training, that aims to prevent gender violence on campus—happen after the usual office hours, so the center will have to compete with the Duke Coffeehouse, which is located right above the center’s new space.
Some students also questioned how the relocation could affect sexual assault victims. The center will be in the same building as the Office of Student Conduct, where student conduct hearings for sexual assault occur.
“It would be so damaging and dangerous to have something that is supposed to be a resource and a safe place for women to be so close to a place that has such negative connotations and could be so triggering to women who have to go through those sexual assault trials,” said senior Elizabeth McGlamry.
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She added that the move is a “step backward” in the efforts to support and protect women on campus.
In response to students’ disappointment, Pickett explained that the center values students’ opinions and encourages students to consider how to address their concerns proactively.
“What is inconvenient is the fact that gender inequity and gender violence still exist," she wrote. "It is inconvenient that patriarchy remains alive and well. It is inconvenient that women of color and trans women are further subjected to discrimination.The Women's Center will continue to create and offer programs that dismantle such inconveniences despite its location.”