Mike Adams

The 2009-2010 version of The Duke Community Standard in Practice: A Guide for Undergraduates states that "Freedom of inquiry and the free exchange of ideas are essential for the fulfillment of the university's mission." Duke's Harassment Policy, promulgated by the Office for Institutional Equity, likewise notes that "Duke University is committed to the free and vigorous discussion of ideas and issues..." But not for those who oppose abortion.

The website of the Women's Center says its mission is to promote “a campus culture that ensures the full participation and agency of women students at Duke." The section entitled "A Feminist Framework" elaborates: “The Women's Center strives to inculcate feminist attributes and goals in every aspect of its programs and administration…We ascribe to a broadly defined, fluctuating and inclusive feminist ideology that welcomes discordant viewpoints from varied experiences.” Also, under the heading of "Strategies," the Center lists, "Offering Support - We believe supportive and inclusive communities enable individuals to do more than they can do alone; the collective action of a community can leverage resources, make positive change and give life meaning."

Given all of these beliefs, it would seem that a discussion on motherhood would be acceptable at the Duke Women's Center. But it isn’t. A discussion of motherhood is too traumatic for campus feminists. Who says women are emotionally incapable of rational debate? Feminists at Duke seem to think so.

A conversation between members of DSFL and Liccardo made it clear that the Duke Women's Center is not open or welcoming to students with pro-life views on the question of abortion rights, as Liccardo suggested in these lines quoted by DSFL: “A mothering discussion during Week for Life that to me, well, I should not even say to me, but to the students we actually encounter, had a smack of political agenda.”

It was not the presence of a political agenda that was Liccardo's problem. It was the prospect of a political opinion different than his opinion.

Atop the Duke Women’s Center's homepage is an announcement of an upcoming speech by Jessica Valenti, a well-known pro-choice speaker. Furthermore, the Duke Women's Center advertises that it advises the student organization Students for Choice, which is "committed to reproductive and gender justice, and we plan actions designed to alter anti-choice culture, while promoting understanding of pro-choice ideas to the general public and to anti-choice individuals."

Duke is a private university and is therefore not bound by the First Amendment. But they are bound, morally speaking, to honor their stated commitment to diversity – especially given the high cost of attending Duke University. Students can ill afford to throw away even a single semester learning that the promise to respect divergent views was simply a false promise meant to lure students into an environment where only ideas which produce “comfort” are given support and encouragement.

If Duke intends to officially declare itself a pro-choice university it should do so now. If it intends to recommit itself to “Freedom of inquiry and the free exchange of ideas” it should do so now. It cannot do both.


Mike Adams

Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Letters to a Young Progressive: How To Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don't Understand.