On a windy Tuesday morning, Pratt junior Ryan Dunman enters the Perkins Library COVID testing center on the way to his 10:15. The nursing staff and nearby students immediately stop in their tracks, gasping through their N95s at the spectacle before them. No, not at Dunman’s *robust* 6’3” frame, nor his eyebrows that remain dangerously close to touching.
It’s his XL white shirt with a crossed-out picture of a syringe and the words “MY BODY, MY CHOICE.” He smiles proudly, which everyone sees because he’s unmasked.
This isn’t Dunman’s first time in a situation like this. As the founder and president of Blue Devil’s Advocate, Dunman has visited numerous testing centers around campus in this same outfit, excited for the reactions that ensue from his peers.
“Duke students are in the midst of a major identity crisis. People will just believe whatever other people tell them, and that is a violation to our basic human right to own our own opinions. We think Blue Devil’s Advocate is the solution to this widespread injustice.”
Dunman was eventually escorted from the premises by a Duke Security staff member.
Club Treasurer Grant Pierce considers Blue Devil’s Advocate to be a “unique, interdisciplinary opportunity” that revolutionizes the way we talk about current issues.” It sparks, as he believes, “courageous conversation” through exposing others to egregiously opposite and sometimes controversial topics, usually at unexpected times among the unknowing and unenthused.
“We don’t actually believe in any of that shit,” Pierce chuckles. “No, that would be crazy. But we think by voicing those diverse perspectives so often silenced through crippling institutional bias, we can reinforce the moral strength of character among our peers that our corrupt campus culture works so tirelessly to take from us.”
Despite its bold intentions, the new organization has been met with less-than-ideal responses. “It was awful,” says freshman GSF and Public Policy double major Paul Zheng, “I was in a Zoom for my Gender Studies first year seminar, and this guy who I’ve never seen in my life joins the call, and said, ‘So if what you’re saying is true, how do I know what pronouns to give my pet rock?’ Before anyone could say anything, man just up and left the Zoom.” The Blue Devil’s Advocate member who attended the class, Zheng, assures that he had full permission to be there, although the professor of the course refused to weigh in on the matter.
“To be confused was an understatement,” says Alice Phillips, an executive member of the Environmental Majors Union. “Last night I received an email from an unknown NetID with a list of 100 links to articles from climate change denying organizations. I tried going to OIT to trace back the email, but my files were encrypted and eventually my entire hard drive was wiped out. It just makes no sense why and how someone would do such a thing.”
Numerous students have voiced their complaints in response to Blue Devil’s Advocate. SOFC President Drew Flanagan recalls “no knowledge of ever hearing about or chartering this group” and calls it “a problematic parasite in our attempts to create a more safe and inclusive campus.” Yet, even with the many attempts to shut the club down, it seems that Blue Devil’s Advocate has its own small but tenacious group of, well, advocates, who refuse to change the organization’s current status as a “necessary disruption to the soul-sucking monotony of 21st-century late-adolescent development.” Whether or not administrative action is taken, Blue Devil’s Advocate doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.