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By Duke Open Campus Coalition
With this letter, we—a group of Duke University’s student leaders—come together in forming the Duke Open Campus Coalition. We seek to invigorate the Duke community’s commitment to supporting an open intellectual climate on campus. During our time here at Duke, we have encountered a community that values identity politics over reasoned discussion and debate when confronting real—and at times misperceived—instances of injustice. Actions taken that emphasize identity politics create a climate of fear on campus whereby people who publicly dissent from the policies being proposed are afraid of being personally attacked and slandered. In this climate, fewer students feel able to speak their mind, and we are concerned that this undermines Duke’s integrity as an institution of open exchange and learning. Many of the challenges we face are not unique to Duke, and we are inspired by the Princeton Open Campus Coalition, which blazed a path for students around the nation committed to preserving academic freedom at our universities.
While we recognize that this climate of fear is part of a broader trend across the country at American universities, we also note that it has a particular character on Duke’s campus. Today, some students consider it morally acceptable to remove copies of The Chronicle from campus when they disagree with its content. Select members of Duke Student Government’s Executive Board have taken to intimidating first-year student government representatives to affirm “politically correct” views regardless of whether they agree with them. The student body has also disrespected you, President Brodhead. Those who disagree with the methods protesters use or the policies they push are afraid to publicly announce their position for fear of being ostracized. We believe that our concerns resonate with a large portion of Duke’s student body and faculty. With grave concern about the tactics of some protestors and the substantive demands they are making, we call for an open and inclusive campus—a campus where all members of the Duke community can communicate openly as Blue Devils without fear that they will be censored if their views differ from, or even offend, other people.
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