Duke University School of Nursing Makes a Stand Against Offensive Language

Duke University School of Nursing (DUSON) launches its version of a national campaign designed to call awareness to the power of marginalizing words and phrases that are used too casually. The photo project, which will be released over a three-week period, contains 37 photos featuring students, faculty and staff. DUSON is the first academic unit in the nation to join the “You Don’t Say? Campaign,” an antimarginalization social media project.

“Our students, faculty and staff viewed this campaign as a way of making a personal statement to shine a light on our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” says Marion E. Broome, PhD, RN, FAAN, School of Nursing dean and vice chancellor for Nursing Affairs for Duke University and associate vice president for Academic Affairs for Nursing for Duke University Health System. “Nurses have always been advocates. We at the Duke University School of Nursing want to demonstrate our commitment to creating inclusive environments and understand fully the importance of how language can empower or marginalize people. I am very proud of those in our school community who are making their voices heard on this and so many other important issues in our nation.”

The project, inspired by Duke University undergraduate students Daniel Kort, Jay Sullivan, Anuj Chhabra and Christie Lawrence, has a common theme. The Duke University School of Nursing branded photos contain block letters that read “I Don’t Say” or “We Don’t Say,” and accompanied underneath is a word or phrase that impacts a particular group or person.

“Nurses play a vital role in health care and in the dynamics of a hospital community,” says Sullivan. “Seeing the future of this profession stand for values of inclusivity and social justice is a great example of the way professionals and students alike can speak out on important issues.”

Sullivan also says the diversity of language represented in the DUSON campaign alone covers issues from the dynamic of modern imperialistic tendencies to bias toward marginalized gender identities, which continues to expand the original message of the You Don’t Say? Campaign. The campaign also provides unique perspectives on how communities interact with the language used. “I’m excited to see how this can begin building a stronger movement for inclusivity in medicine and health care,” he says.

The co-founders will admit that when the campaign first started there were a few critics who thought the campaign was a form of censorship. However, there is a greater number who do not see this as censorship but as a campaign that speaks to reality. “This campaign has resonated throughout the country – across age, gender, sexuality and race,” says Lawrence. “The success of the campaign speaks to the reality that many routinely experience microaggressions and face discrimination that can easily go unnoticed by the majority.”

Michael Evans, director for Marketing and Communications for Duke University School of Nursing, agrees with the campaign founders. “This campaign isn’t about banning or censoring words. It is truly about individuals who want to bring awareness to things people say every day that disintegrate identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality and ability status,” he says.

Participation from faculty, staff and students in the campaign was voluntary and for some had personal connections that were very dear to them. For instance, the campaign photo of Financial Analyst Jennifer Chamberlain holding up a framed photo of her and her brother, says: "I don’t say retarded because it’s degrading to people like my brother."

Chamberlain says: “As soon as I heard that our School was joining the campaign, I immediately knew what I would say. My brother and I are very close and I wanted to do this for him and others that share his story.”

Kort says: “It is wonderful to see health care professionals take such a powerful stance on inclusivity in their workplaces and in their communities.”

Click here to view the first campaign photos. And check back on June 30 and July 7, for the newest releases.

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