Duke University Women’s Center Issues Apology to Pro-Life Group After Dustup

State   Steven Ertelt   Mar 30, 2010   |   9:00AM    WASHINGTON, DC

Duke University Women’s Center Issues Apology to Pro-Life Group After Dustup

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 30
, 2010

Durham, NC (LifeNews.com) — The Duke University Women’s Center has issued a letter of apology after it denied the campus pro-life student group space for an event on motherhood. The center abruptly canceled a Duke Students for Life event on the day of the meeting because it was engaging in pro-life activities elsewhere on campus.

As LifeNews.com reported, a Women’s Center representative told Duke Students for Life (DSFL) that "we have a problem" and an ideological "conflict" with the event, which was supposedly canceled to protect Duke women from encountering the event during the group’s "traumatizing" pro-life "Week for Life."

The group’s president has turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help and it contacted university officials.

Now, Ed Morrissey of the HotAir blog has obtained a copy of a letter Ada Gregory, the director of the Women’s Center, sent to the group yesterday.

"I wanted to write to you concerning the recent problem you experienced after reserving space at the Women’s Center for a Duke Students for Life event during pro-life awareness week on campus," Gregory writes.

"First, I am so sorry the event was canceled due to actions by Women’s Center staff. Mistakes were certainly made that should not have occurred," she added. "I have taken steps to ensure that such an incident will not happen again."

"The Women’s Center is intended to be a place that supports the agency and choices of all women," Gregory added — inviting the pro-life group to continue using its facilities.

Morrissey responded to the letter saying, "It would be interesting to know what those steps are, but Gregory apparently declined to mention them in her apology."

"At any rate, the Duke University Women’s Center has done the right thing in apologizing, even if it’s too late to allow the DSFL to hold their event at the Center — and even if it seems more motivated by exposure than remorse," he added.

As part of a "Week for Life" series of events held at Duke mid-March, DSFL had reserved a Women’s Center space for a "Discussion with a Duke Mother" on March 18.

A Duke student and mother were 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.

Liccardo told the group that the prospect of holding a pro-life event in the Women’s Center during Week for Life was too upsetting for some students.

"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, OK, we are going to respond to this and stop the program," Liccardo said in an email DSFL received.

FIRE wrote Duke President Richard H. Brodhead on March 26, asking him to respect Duke’s promises.

"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.’"

DSFL President Michelle Barreto also explained the situation in an op-ed on the national politics web site The Daily Caller.

"This treatment violates Duke’s public commitment to free speech," said Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program.

He added: 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."

Related web sites:
Duke University Students for Life – https://www.duke.edu/web/life

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