February 1, 2010

What We've Got

Let me preface this post by admitting that I am still fairly bitter about the fact that Duke, in all it's wisdom, decided to NOT cancel classes today. That's not to say that I can't deal with a little snow, but the problem is that DUKE can't! 11am this morning and still nothing paved and hardly any roads plowed, all of us left to fend for ourselves to get where we need to go. It's times like these when I wonder at the reasoning of the Powers That Be. What exactly is going on up in those lofty heads of theirs?

On that same token though, I suppose I count myself fairly lucky. For while I can't always decipher the logic behind some of Duke's policies and decisions, for the most part I can feel fairly certain that they have the best of intentions (if not a little misguided). I feel as if there is at least some blurred sense of fairness and justice that guides many of these resolutions. This is no more apparent to me than in the manner in which Duke administration has approached LGBT issues. Has it been perfect? Not nearly. Has it always been informed and just? Probably not. And yet, in terms of policy, I would bet that the Duke of today would shock and surprise that Duke built off the grease of nicotined donations.

Unlike some schools with conservative and religious backgrounds, Duke has surpassed these modes of thought to open its policy (if not its atmosphere) to more liberal endeavors. We are recognized here as a community, as a protected minority. Duke's policy is striking in it's commitment to at least maintaining the semblance of acceptance. The same cannot be said for all our American Institutions. The struggles of the students at Notre Dame University to gain even this modicum of recognition reminds me of what Duke could be. As an institution founded upon religious understandings, Duke certainly had the potential to remain mired in conservative religious thought.

Just last week students marched to the President's office to demand that Notre Dame allow a gay/straight allowance on campus AND add sexual orientation to the nondiscrimination policy. It is so relieving to know that if I were to go to Notre Dame (which isn't completely improbable, as I come from a deeply Catholic family and attended nine years of private Catholic school), I wouldn't be granted the basic rights that even our national government is starting to recognize. Not to mention, Notre Dame is amongst the top 20 of our American universities and yet LGBT students and their allies are still not allowed the freedom to gather as a recognized student group.

Regardless of religious doctrine, Notre Dame is first and foremost an educational institution. And when religious doctrines start to impede the safety and the learning of its students, a university is obligated to address this discrepancy. So while at times I am disappointed with the manner in which Duke chooses to respond to our needs, I find that I must continue to remind myself how far we have come. Lack of Snow Day and all.

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