Public Policy Class Creates Website to Question Duke Social Norms

Students from Rachel Seidman’s public policy seminar “Women as Leaders” have continued work they started for a semester project by launching a website aimed at bringing about positive change in Duke’s social scene.

The site, Duke Life, provides personal stories, student commentary, administrative voices, and resources for individuals interested in changing campus norms in relation to gender equality and relationships. The content from the website began as print “zine,” and has been refined and expanded with the support of a grant from the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

In addition to launching the website, students from Seidman’s class also hosted a dialogue in conjunction with the Women’s Center on September 22, entitled “Sexposé: Women & Duke Life.”  The forum aimed to promote more awareness of the ethical dimensions of Duke’s social scene. 

Last fall, Seidman challenged the 11 female students in her “Women as Leaders” class to produce a final project that could bring about positive change among their peers. Inspired by social movements they had studied throughout Seidman’s course, the students hoped that publishing the zine would make students -- especially freshmen women -- more aware of the attitudes and structural factors that shape the campus experience. 

After the course was complete, the students continued to collaborate during the spring semester with the goal of distributing the zine to a larger audience – a goal they have fulfilled with the online publication. With a mission of “raising awareness on issues surrounding Duke’s hookup culture, encouraging gender equality and eliminating social myths,” the student authors “hope that (the website) will foster action-oriented discussion and inspire readers … to not only think, but act to create desired change through collaboration.”