Rally Urges Students to Participate in May Election

On-campus site will enable early voting on Amendment One

Sophomore Hannah Brown was among the Duke students who registered to vote at Friday’s rally on the Bryan Center plaza. Photo by Jon Gardiner/Duke University Photography.
Sophomore Hannah Brown was among the Duke students who registered to vote at Friday’s rally on the Bryan Center plaza. Photo by Jon Gardiner/Duke University Photography.

"Do you know you can vote
here on campus about Amendment One?" Amanda Duffy called out to a student
walking across the Bryan Center plaza Friday afternoon.

The student paused, then
turned to the small tent where Duffy and others were helping Duke students fill
out registration forms to participate in the upcoming primary. North Carolina
voters will vote then on the proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit any
legal recognition within the state of same-sex partnerships.

"I had been meaning to
register in North Carolina and this was a very convenient way to do it," said
Kenneth Hoehn, a junior from Georgia who was among several dozen students to
sign up as speakers voiced their concerns about the proposed amendment.

"It's important that my voice
is heard and the voice of the Duke community is heard," said Hannah Brown, a
sophomore from Dallas who also signed up.

Students and others at Duke will
be able to cast their ballots April 19 to May 5 in the Old Trinity Room in the
West Union Building. Potential voters -- who include students currently
registered in another state -- will also be able to register and vote at the
same time.

Campus officials said the early-voting process is especially important since Duke's spring semester ends three days before the official May 8 vote, which also includes elections for a number of federal, state and local offices.

"We are grateful to the Durham Board
of Elections for creating this important opportunity for the Duke community," said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government
relations. "Students played an essential role in bringing this to the attention
of the administration, and in generating widespread interest and enthusiasm for
having an early voting site on campus."

"Having this
on-campus voting site allows Duke students to participate despite a quirk in
the calendar," said Steve Nowicki, dean of undergraduate education, who spoke at
Friday's rally. Students should get involved regardless of how they choose to vote,
he said, arguing "it's important for students to be aware of the public
environment in which Duke exists and to understand the consequences of issues
like this one."

"Anything we can do
to enhance citizenship and participation in government is a good thing," said
Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs.

The kickoff rally organized
by Duke Together followed last Friday's statement by Duke
University and Duke Medicine saying they "have a strong commitment to diversity
in our missions of education, research and service to society. We put this goal
into action by valuing all members of our community, including our lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender (LGBT) faculty, staff, students and alumni."

A variety of student leaders
and campus officials spoke at the rally, with students Jacob Tobia and Elena
Botella leading chants of "Discrimination is no fun. Vote against Amendment One." Both also encouraged students to serve as volunteers, with Tobia reading from
an op-ed
he wrote for Friday's News & Observer.

"Is anyone else here a little
angry?" Pete Schork, president of Duke Student Government, asked the students
and others gathered on the plaza. "I am. This is discrimination."

The rally went "much better
than expected," said Adrienne Harreveld, a freshman from Jupiter, Florida, who
helped students fill out the registration forms. "With the rally, the speakers
and free pizza, people stopped to see what was happening. A lot of students are
concerned about the issue but didn't know they can vote in North Carolina if
they come from another state."

"I feel like as students we
also have a responsibility as citizens to stand up for what we believe in," said another freshman, Tiffany Chien of San Jose, Calif., who signed up to

"This is an issue we need to
be concerned with as Christians who believe people should be in loving
relationships," said Lynda Berg, a Divinity School graduate student from Santa
Rosa, Calif., who stopped with a friend to listen to the speakers.

Janie Long, director of
Duke's Center for LGBT Life, said the upcoming vote could affect whether future
students, faculty and staff choose to come to Duke. "I hear from parents of
LGBT students who want to know if their child is coming to a campus and an
environment that is going to be supportive," she said.