Sign the petition by Duke Diya, Duke’s South Asian Student Association, for Ooha here: DKU misled students. Help Ooha still graduate on time.
When I published the first piece in this column last week, I don’t know what I expected.
I knew what I needed: support and discussion. But I know, in my heart, I did not see any of this coming.
In the last week, I have felt beyond overwhelmed by the love, support and concern I have received across the Duke community. Friends, acquaintances, strangers—all have reached out to fight for me. I have received countless emails from faculty and alumni sympathizing with my situation and asking how they can help. Even walking through Abele Quad, I overhear students talking about “the crazy situation the DKU juniors are in.” People are talking, people care and that’s so much more than I even dreamed of when I wrote my article last week.
When I wrote “This saga ends here,” I was scared and angry, and I knew something needed to happen. What I had underestimated, however, was the care and compassion that I and other students in my position have in this community.
Last Friday, every single story I clicked on Instagram was a new account resharing my article and spreading the word. A few hours after my piece dropped, the presidents of Diya began drafting a petition to fight for my situation. As I held rush events for Maxwell or stopped by my old dance team’s introduction party, my name was recognized as “the one who wrote the article.” My Chronicle section head texted me excitedly Friday evening that the article’s analytics were going crazy. My friends, colleagues, and more took it on their shoulders to make sure people knew my story, and the Duke community listened. This issue, that had become my silent battle every day for the last few years, was now a matter the public felt mattered. No words can really explain how surreal this all is for me.
But that feeling came to a peak this past Wednesday morning, when DKU revised their directive forcing all DKU juniors studying at Duke to go to China next semester (seniors already could stay and graduate in Durham in accordance with the previous announcement). DKU juniors who are currently at Duke can now stay the full year and pursue their plans as originally intended. This was a huge win for so many students who were put in an impossible situation, and one that I pessimistically thought would never come. In my three years now at DKU, I have never seen DKU backtrack on such a large decision. And while the DKU community fought endlessly to make this happen, I also have to thank the Duke community for coming forth with such force on our behalf. I cried real, very happy tears Wednesday morning, and I could not have gotten so far if I were simply a writer with no one to read my work.
While this is a monumental victory in the right direction, my individual battle does not end here. I still have the issue of DKU misrepresenting their major selection upon my commitment, and still cannot graduate in my major (or at all) as a DKU student. Despite being on-campus next spring, if I’m still considered a DKU student, my academic future remains in danger.
I continue to ask this community to push Duke administration towards opening up a pathway for the few of us in these situations. DKU has done what we needed of them within their control; now Duke is left to act. The immediate panic of having to pack up our lives has subsided and the majority of students have gotten what they need. But a couple of us are still in a very bad dilemma, despite the temporary relief this news have given us. So my fight does not end here. I believe more is still possible, so please sign the petition and continue to talk.
Change is still change, and I am beyond proud of everyone who spoke up on this issue and led to this policy reversal. A win is a win, nonetheless.
While there are too many names to thank, I want to specifically give my gratitude to a few people.
To Olivia Bokesch, Marina Chen, Milla Surjadi and Professor Mark Stencel for strengthening “This saga ends here” prior to its publishing. The back-and-forth editing I received helped me shape my anger and fear into something more powerful altogether, and I could not be more thankful. My editors knew my purpose and intentions, and were so incredibly supportive in helping me achieve it. And, of course, thank you also to Emmie Maceda (forever the Emmy to my Oscar) and Viktoria Wulff-Andersen, for being so enthusiastic about my column (and also being the greatest graphics/socials editors).
To Malika Rawal, Krishna Patel, Heera Rajavel, Sanjit Beriwal, and Arushi Bhatia for organizing last Friday on such immediate notice, authoring Diya’s petition and publicizing it on every channel they could. As a freshman entering Duke, Diya was a broad community that I didn’t know if I really associated with yet. Now, I can say Diya is a true family for me—and family has your back.
To Devan Desai for reaching out and mobilizing on the DSG side as soon as I dropped my story, despite barely knowing me. Having someone so early on listen and be ready to act on my behalf was more motivation than I can properly express, and definitely meant more than I can say in a simple thank you. Your work gave me hope when I really had none, even after sharing my piece.
And finally, to my friends, my teachers, my colleagues and my supporters everywhere for showing me the people I love very much love me back. It felt selfish at points to put myself out there and advocate for an issue that felt like it only concerned me, but the people around me assured me that my own cause is still worth fighting for. Thank you for always believing I am capable of changing my circumstances, no matter how bleak.
While writing my first piece, I once stopped to question how so many people believed in me when I had such little hope for change—pessimism is really too easy. A good friend told me then, “It’s because people haven’t seen you lose in a fight yet.” This fight might be one of my biggest yet, but I’m determined to keep my record.
Beginning this column reminded me of the love and passion I have for writing, and also for the power it holds. Thank you for hearing my voice when I thought no one would—I’ll see you next week in the rage room.
Ooha Reddy is a Duke Kunshan junior studying in Durham. Her column “The Rage Room” runs every Friday.
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Ooha Reddy is a Duke Kunshan University junior and an opinion managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously an opinion managing editor for Volume 117.