National Catholic Register


Pro-Life Group Shut Out at Duke University

BY Danielle Bean

| Posted 3/30/10 at 5:00 PM


Lest anyone think that the Ann Coulter post below means that Canadian universities have a monopoly on shutting down the free speech of those with whom they disagree, I must share this story:

Duke Keeps Pro-Life Group Out of Women’s Center During ‘Week for Life’:

“‘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,’ said FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley. ‘This treatment is a deeply hypocritical violation of the Women’s Center’s promise that it welcomes discordant viewpoints from varied experiences.’

As part of a ‘Week for Life’ series of events held at Duke over March 15-19, DSFL had reserved a Women’s Center space for a ‘Discussion with a Duke Mother’ on March 18. A Duke student and mother was to speak about motherhood and the challenges of being in both roles. But the day before the event, the reservation was abruptly canceled in a voicemail to the group.

Meeting with the group on March 18, Duke Women’s Center Gender Violence Prevention Specialist Martin Liccardo said that because the event was associated with the Week for Life and DSFL, the event could not be held at the Women’s Center.’”

So much for students’ freedom of expression at this American university. Particularly ironic is the fact that Duke University women were denied the right to discuss women’s issues at the Duke University Women’s Center. Perhaps they should re-name the center something more appropriate ...

Center for Women Who Advocate for the Killing of Unborn Children, perhaps? Then the shut-out would be understandable.

“‘This treatment violates Duke’s public commitment to free speech,’ said Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. ‘If Duke’s promises of inclusiveness are honest, Duke must repudiate the Women’s Center’s decision and ensure that such viewpoint-based discrimination does not happen again. 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.’”

Obviously, this could not stand. Ada Gregory, director of the Duke University Women’s Center did (kind of) apologize to Duke Students for Life with a letter dated yesterday:

“Mistakes were certainly made that should not have occurred,” wrote Ms. Gregory, “I have taken steps to ensure that such an incident will not happen again.”

Did I read that right? Did she really write “mistakes were made”? Am I the only one that finds that phrase ridiculously vague and passive, particularly when the offensive actions taken to stifle pro-life women’s voices on campus were both clear and active?

I hope that the members of Duke Students for Life will demand more than a vague half-apology to ensure that the right to freedom of speech for all university students will be respected.

UPDATE: More follow up on this story.