By Kaye Burnet | Editor-in-Chief
When I started at The Duke, there was a generally accepted notion ever-present in the newsroom: Duquesne students don’t care about anything. School sports? They don’t care. Politics? They don’t care. While students at the University of Pittsburgh were blocking traffic to protest for a higher minimum wage, Duquesne students were…watching Netflix in bed? While students at Carnegie Mellon University were staging a “die-in” to support Black Lives Matter, Duquesne students were…going home to their parents’ house for the weekend? We knew there were some students at Duquesne with drive and passion, but such campus leaders were few and far between.
Yet over the four years I have spent with The Duke, I have been honored and impressed to watch more and more students become active participants in their campus community. I witnessed the return of Duquesne’s gay-straight alliance, Lambda, and the creation of the Gender Forum, which just hosted a pop-up museum on femininity in the student union. Just recently, I watched as more than 40 students lined the hallways of College Hall outside a faculty meeting to show support for the liberal arts college and the DU Press. The Students for Liberty Libertarian group hosted free speech walls, students rallied to support the adjunct professors union, and this weekend, a bus from Duquesne will attend the climate march in Washington, D.C. You might not necessarily support all these actions and events (after all, Duquesne is very conservative-learning for a college campus), but that’s beside the point. What matters is that, instead of being passive people who allow other to make decisions that affect the world around them, Duquesne students are taking action. They are speaking up, and that is inspiring and humbling.
During my time at The Duke, I have learned what a huge influence speaking up can have. It has been such a privilege to lead a team of talented and dedicated writers who helped bring attention to issues ranging from mold in the Honors Dorms (which are now nicely renovated!) to the hazards of walking down the icy City steps in winter (still a problem). Duke writers have honored deceased students and faculty with beautiful obituaries, and celebrated when students received national grants or when professors win prestigious awards.
Of course, speaking up comes with risks. I’ve stood by, enraged, as strangers online have verbally attacked and insulted my writers just for doing their jobs. I’ve seen my writers be shunned by their friends for completing an assignment I’ve given them. Just this month, I’ve watched students at Duquesne be subjected to ridicule on a national scale for daring to oppose a company whose values don’t align with their own. I’ve fielded phone calls and emails from readers who just want to spew vitriol, and I’ve had to develop a very thick skin as a result.
So, members of my Duquesne family: It might be hard to get involved, to become engaged and to put your voice out there. People can and will mock you. You will face opposition. But by doing so, you can make Duquesne a better place for future generations of students. I hope that as News Editor and then Editor-in-Chief of The Duke, I’ve been able to contribute to that goal in a small way, but there’s still so much to do.