Monday, March 29, 2010

"Discordant Voices" at Duke

[Update, 3/30: FIRE reports that Duke has reversed its ban on the pro-life group using the women's center--through, in an ironic touch, a letter from director Ada Gregory.]

At this point in time, it’s hard to imagine anything surprising coming from the Brodhead administration—which, after all, has responded to the lacrosse case by promoting numerous members of the Group of 88.

But it’s still possible for a Duke decision to raise eyebrows.

Duke’s Women’s Center claims that that it “welcomes discordant viewpoints from varied experiences.” Yet, as we saw in the campus reaction to the lacrosse case, some “discordant viewpoints” are more equal than others at Duke.

In a line that could almost qualify as a parody of political correctness, the Center asserts that it works “to build a community that acknowledges and supports resistance to racism, classism, sexism, ablism and heterosexism.” The Center also tells Duke women that they can find their “feminist voice” through participating in its programs. In a couple of weeks, the Center will welcome an address from Jessica Valenti, a former volunteer for Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-choice America, on the “enthusiastic consent” standard.

Pro-life Duke women, it seems, are not as valued by the Center. Today’s Daily Caller features a column from Duke student Michelle Barreto, president of Duke Students for Life, who had requested to use a space inside the Women’s Center for what was described as a “Discussion with a Duke Mother,” as part of the campus-wide “Week for Life” event.

A Duke student who’s also a mother—this would seem to represent the type of “discordant viewpoints” the Center celebrates. Instead, according to Barreto, Women’s Center staffer Martin Liccardo vetoed the event, because of its association with a pro-life viewpoint, adding, “We had a very strong reaction from students in general who use our space who said this was something that was upsetting and not OK . . . So based on that, we said we are going to respond to this and stop the program.” I e-mailed Liccardo to ask if he had a response to the Daily Caller column; he did not reply.

FIRE has come to the aid of Barreto: FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley accurately noted that “Duke appears to have an unwritten but officially enforced stance regarding abortion that has resulted in pro-life groups being shut out of the Women's Center.” Since Duke isn’t a public university, it isn’t bound by the First Amendment. But—as we all learned in the lacrosse case—the university purports to value open discussion on campus. As Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, commented, “If Duke wants to be officially a pro-choice university where only women with ‘correct’ views get full access to campus resources, it should stop misrepresenting itself.”

This seems like a pretty clear-cut case of upholding student speech. Will the Brodhead administration do the right thing?

[Disclosure: By the way, I should probably point out that I am pro-choice on abortion rights.]

22 comments:

Gayle Miller said...

"Since Duke isn't a public university, it isn't bound by the First Amendment" - what sophistry is this? Is Duke located in AMERICA? Then it IS indeed bound by the First Amendment - all Americans are so bound in my view.

glenn said...

"Discordant?"

Maybe this product of higher education means "Divergent"

False Rape Society said...

According to the purveyors of gender political correctness, it should be "rape" if one of the parties has not manifested active enthusiastic consent. The principal problem with this suggestion, among many, is that this isn't how the vast majority of men and women choose to interact, and to punish young men for not conforming to a standard manufactured out of radical feminist whole cloth is barbaric.

Newsflash: some people don't manifest much enthusiasm about anything, but the absence of "enthusiasm" has nothing to do with "consent," as a legal concept. Anyway, who the hell would decide if it consent was enthusiastic?

You see, it is lost of the representatives of the sexual grievance industry that men and women in a committed relationship regularly do things for each other out of love and often without all that much "enthusiasm," no matter how that word is defined. That includes fixing her mother's roof and cutting her sister's grass. And, oh, yes, that includes sex sometimes, too. Mirabile dictu! -- it can even work both ways: when a woman is trying to get pregnant, her partner often has sex out of obligation even when it's not convenient and often when he is not especially enthusiastic (despite the male gender's reputation for wanting sex 24/7, sometimes it takes some cajoling). Has he been "raped" since he gave into her cajoling without being "enthusiastic"? Their inane "enthusiastic consent" proposal has to cut both ways, doesn't it? No? I should have known better.

It would be so refreshing if these angry young women would focus on enhancing the credibility of actual rape victims by helping to eradicate false rape claims instead of attempting to transmogrify garden variety sexual relations into rape.

Anonymous said...

This action is so stupid it qualifies as its own parody...

Anonymous said...

Actually, you shouldn't have to point out your pro-choice beliefs on abortion rights. Defending free speech and the free interchange of ideas on campuses should not require that you, or anyone else, make such revelations. I know why you did it and why you (correctly) believed that it would strengthen your arguments with many people. I am simply saying that it shouldn't.

Gary Packwood said...

So they didn't take a vote!

Duke's Women's Center welcomes discordant viewpoints from varied experiences as long as you don't vote or attempt to influence the vote of the FEW in the Women's Center who make decisions for the MANY.

I think we ID those type of organizations as 'collectives' who embrace collectivism which is soviet style communism. [Google = Collectivism]

Lord help you as an outsider should you try and influence the outcomes of one of these modern 'collective' organizations.

High energy visible male athletes (with a swagger) have been known to eat campus communist collectives for breakfast.

Don't Ya know.
::
GP

Kenneth A. Jones said...

I can only assume that your question "Will the Brodhead administration do the right thing?" was wholly rhetorical. As we all know, the administration never answered the important questions put to it regarding its behavior (and the behavior of the Group of 88) during the lacrosse hoax.

As for today, it is unsurprising that the University could not muster even a lame public comment or a response to a concerned alum about the Women's Center issue. Functionaries at both Brodhead's and Schoenfeld's offices laughingly promised that I would receive a return call today answering my simple questions regarding the facts of the matter. Of course there was never any chance they would keep their word.

Anonymous said...

“to build a community that acknowledges and supports resistance to racism, classism, sexism, ablism and heterosexism.”

Are heterosexual women welcome at the Duke Women's Center, or are they too discordant?

One Spook said...

Excellent post. KC ... it seems that Duke is a serial offender in denying its students their rights.

The F.I.R.E. letter to Brodhead that Johnson linked is excellent.

Curiously though, the letter states in its first sentence that, " FIRE writes you for the second time within a single month about the unfair treatment of Duke students" [My emphasis]

I have searched in vain on F.I.R. E.'s site for any reference to its earlier March letter to Brodhead and could find no reference to it.

If anyone could point me to this letter and/or any discussion of this issue, I would appreciate it.

One Spook

Anonymous said...

Every student at Duke (and at many other colleges and universities as well) should ALWAYS carry one phone number on them: FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). At the first accusation of sexual misconduct, or the first indication of abridgment of their free-speech rights, they should call that number.

Gus W.

Anonymous said...

Oh, come on, girls! Grow a pair!

The Hounds of TASSers'ville said...

Duke sure reversed itself quickly on this one. Duke must be running out of lawsuit insurance fast.

Perhaps Gregory felt that the women in question were not "cunning" enough, therefore
not "manipulative," and she took pity on them? Or does Gregory feel that such brazen categorizations only apply to males?

We wonder if this had been a male group talking about fatherhood and even familial responsibility, Gregory's response would have been much, much different.

Given the lack of answers and accountability from the last time her center was caught involved in this sort of institutional skullduggery,we can only hope that the "steps taken" by Gregory (that she does in no way elaborate upon in her "apology") to guarantee this never happens again, is her own resignation and self-imposed ostracism from Duke.

Posted by Hound No. 2
The Hounds of TASSers'ville

No Justice, No Peace said...

One wonders if Duke has an abortion litmus test on their student admission application...

Anonymous said...

Fire is reporting that Duke is feeling the heat

Anonymous said...

If campus funds such as tuition are used to support the Women's Center, then all women students have the right to have their views presented and discussed at the Center.

Kenneth A. Jones said...

Hats off to Adam Kissel and FIRE. I have never seen an organization so effective in producing results. While Duke failed to respond to many inquiries from alumni, FIRE's ability to shine light on hypocrisy won the day again. I did not expect a quick victory. Extremely well done!
---
As a tiny aside: Am I the only one who found a little humor that the apologies from the Women's Center were couched in the passive tense favored by politicians and all those caught with their hands in the cookie jar? Some folks simply cannot name themselves as the sujbect of the sentence and provide a straightforward "mea culpa". The victim was told only that "mistakes were certainly made". Funny... but good enough!The policy was reversed and congratulations are in order.

One Spook said...

Excellent post. KC ... it seems that Duke is a serial offender in denying its students their rights.

The F.I.R.E. letter to Brodhead that Johnson linked is excellent.

Curiously though, the letter states in its first sentence that, " FIRE writes you for the second time within a single month about the unfair treatment of Duke students" [My emphasis]

I have searched in vain on F.I.R.E.'s site for any reference to its earlier March letter to Brodhead and could find no reference to it.

If anyone could point me to this letter and/or any discussion of this issue, I would appreciate it.

One Spook

The Drill SGT said...

KC,

You might check out the fact that Jamie "the wall" "CRA your way" Gorelick, fresh off her success as the lobbyist for Sallie Mae that just got its whole industry nationalized, has a new gig as a privacy expert.

Stu Daddy said...

So far as I can tell, the Duke Chronicle has not reported on FIRE's successful mediation resulting in a formal apology to Duke Students for Life from Ada Gregory of the Duke Women's Center.

The Chronicle has reported on the 27 year sentence of Frank Lombard, handed down by a court in Washington, D.C.

And the Chronicle reports that former lax coach Mike Pressler and Duke have reached a settlement over John Burness' speaking out of turn about Pressler after Duke agreed not to.

Anonymous said...

Please be true to your beliefs and abort all your children. Your parents should have done that, too.

Anonymous said...

@ Gayle Miller

No, Americans individually are not bound by the First Amendement. Someone is not entitled to come into your house and spout at you what you find offensive or boring or absurd. You are perfectly free to throw them out, never invite them back, and tell all your friends about the abhorent nonsense you were subjected to and by whom. What the First and Fourteenth Amendments say is that the power of government cannot be used to abridge freedom of speech: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech."

Just as you are entitled to exclude from your home speech that you do not want to hear, so is any other private party. FIRE's point, however, is that Duke (like most private universities) purports to guarantee freedom of speech on its campus, and that, having done so, Duke is bound by (implicit) contract to honor that guarantee.

Duke would be perfectly free to say that it will not tolerate students that disagree with its political and social views just as you are free to say what kind of speech you permit in your home. What, according to FIRE's legal theory, Duke may not do is to claim to tolerate dissent in order to get the kids' tuition money when in fact it will not tolerate dissent. That is simply commercial fraud.

JeffM

Bella said...

I'm sorry...isn't choosing life a choice? The Women's Center, and by extension Duke itself, seems to have taken a pro-abortion stance, not a pro-choice stance. They should at the very least be completely honest about their position. Further, if their sole purpose and goal as a Women's Center is to only represent women who agree with their political and social views, then they should have been required to disclose that from the start. I fully agree with Barreto that this is discrimination, plain and simple.