“We deplore in the strongest possible terms the new state law, HB2, that prevents municipalities from establishing laws that protect members of the LGBTQ+ community and others from discrimination and eliminates some economic advancement opportunities for underrepresented communities,” said a statement attributed to Duke President Richard Brodhead, provost Sally Kornbluth and Duke University Health System CEO A. Eugene Washington.
The Duke administrators went on to say that the school, a private institution in Durham, North Carolina, is suffering economically, with some researchers and professors unable to travel to their campus due to the law, and prospective students and faculty suggesting they may steer clear of the state due to HB 2.
It’s rare for an elite university to speak against a specific law the way Duke is doing here. But a number of other private colleges and universities in the state have already come forward to criticize the statute.
HB 2 prohibits cities from establishing their own anti-discrimination laws, and requires public institutions — like the University of North Carolina campuses — to bar trans people from using bathrooms that do not align with the sex on their birth certificates. In other words, a student who was assigned female at birth, but who identifies and presents himself as male, would have to use the women’s restroom and locker rooms. UNC has said it has no idea how to enforce this.
Some of the country’s biggest corporations, including Bank of America, Facebook and Apple, have joined campaigns criticizing the new law, while the mayors of San Francisco, Seattle and New York City, and the governor of New York, have banned publicly funded employee travel to North Carolina in protest. The NBA is keeping the All-Star game in the state for now, but said the law is “problematic.”
“As a result of this law, North Carolina has already suffered damage to its national and international reputation as a leader in the fair treatment of its citizens,” the Duke leaders said.
“The economic and material impact is being felt across the state in many ways, including at universities,” they continued. “Scholars from states and municipalities that have imposed bans on government travel to North Carolina have been unable to travel to Duke to continue vital ongoing research partnerships or attend academic conferences. Prospective students, faculty and staff, as well as Duke alumni planning visits to campus, have voiced concerns about whether they will find a hospitable environment in North Carolina. These developments have the potential to limit the value that Duke and other colleges and universities contribute to the state, namely producing trained graduates and expanding the frontiers of knowledge.”
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has voiced similar concerns, stating that prospective students, faculty and researchers are avoiding coming to the state and current and prospective donors are reconsidering their financial support to the school.