Duke Was My Muse 

by Sabriyya Pate


My name is Sabriyya Pate, and I am the founder and former Editor-in-Chief for The Duke Muse magazine.


This publication seeks to intentionally empower women by offering a nurturing community and platform, as well as provisioning news for all cosmopolitan woman. The idea for this magazine was borne in part from the anguish I witnessed and experienced as a woman, student leader, and unapologetic learner at Duke University.


In former President Nannerl Keohane’s Women’s Initiative report, she discovered a trend of decreased confidence through Duke women's undergraduate careers. This magazine seeks to facilitate the contrary of Keohane’s findings.


Before The Muse, I wrote as an opinion columnist for The Duke Chronicle. I published two articles in that student newspaper that haunt me; in them, my freshman year, I wrote some very ignorant things about activism.

My editor, it turns out, was racist. I had no frame of reference for what the history of student activism entailed. I knew I was fresh out of three years at a tiny all-girls boarding school in Amish country with virtually no black people, having immigrant parents, and becoming the first member of my family to ever study for a bachelor’s degree in the United States.


I am relieved to say I have since grown.


Nowadays, my activism pertains to gender equity and social justice. I volunteer at a domestic violence and sexual assault crisis center and have been involved with local politics. I have volunteered on local and national campaigns and my senior honors thesis is a robust evaluation of school-based interventions against intimate partner violence in Durham, Wake, and Orange counties. Durham is the closest to a hometown I have ever experienced. As such, I am hyper-cognizant of Duke-Durham relations.


As such, I am acutely aware of the copious issues and dangers of higher education, from consummate student debt to issues of representation. Still, I believe that universities are among the most powerful institutions in the world. As such, they have responsibilities to act justly in the eyes of those who define them.


I will use this space to pose concrete asks of Duke University. With that said, I am grateful to The Muse, as I hope generations of students will experience, for providing an outlet to elevate these concerns. They are far from exhaustive, yet certainly top-of-mind as I graduate.


Duke University administrators, it has anguished my soul to read the name Tallman Trask, (the man who hit a black female parking contracted worker on this campus and yelled the N-word at her), printed on my bi-weekly pay stubs. Fire Tallman Trask.


Second, respect the needs of our community, which makes Duke Duke, by supporting the Durham-Orange light rail project. This University owes this one material “sacrifice” to the Durham community that welcomes, houses, teaches, feeds, and nurtures Duke University. Relatedly, curtail gentrification. Dedicate the soon-to-be empty plot of land on Central Campus to truly affordable housing for those living below or at the poverty line.


Third, revoke housing privileges from all Greek organizations.


Fourth, revoke housing privileges from all selective organizations.


Fifth, let my second-mother see her sweet little boys play at their weekend school soccer games. Change the housekeeping schedules to 5 days per week. The dean of housing and residence life has stated that students wanted the 7 days per week housekeeping cleaning schedule change, but failed to provide any evidence of such a claim despite student organizing against the schedule shift.


Do these demands sound ambitious? As the girl who has repeatedly and successfully advocated for free menstrual hygiene product dispensers around campus, I disagree.


I have found my voice at Duke University, and will forever treasure the memories made and doors opened here. I, an aspiring conflict resolution practitioner, am not, however, above criticizing the contrived aspects of this institution. I recognize that the enormous power and control of wealthy academic institutions levies a particularly potent stench over the local communities whose land on which they operate.


Lastly, a special shout out to the individuals who anchored my watchtower at Duke. Thank you to the sisters I call soulmates, to my sunset-watching, gardens-strolling, comedy night-searching friends, and to the friends whose lives kept layering mine, perhaps the universe wishing us together. I thank you, reader, for helping define my undergraduate experience. My public ramblings have taught me the importance of failure, the influence of rhetoric, and the power of inspiration.


I hope my young words and incipient wisdom can serve as songs of solidarity for younger Duke students to come.


The Muse remains in accomplished and competent arms with our 2019-2020 Editors-in-Chief Stefanie Pousoulides and Samantha Su. I am deeply humbled to have played a part in such a visionary organization, comprised of bold women who attentively joined the team ready to challenge. In our staff meetings, I have been enamored by the sage questioning and self-awareness demonstrated by each of our writers and editors.


We titled the magazine The Muse because we aspire to celebrate the ingenious inspiration that women can offer to themselves. Duke was the muse for much of my labor on campus. And we, the women warriors in all institutions stacked against us, are the muses for each other. I look into my face in the mirror, stroke the new creases from the past four years, and I see a muse for future reference.


Despite my achievements as a Duke undergraduate and the active role I have played in community-building as an active resident assistant, I have struggled to define my own communities at times. In helping to create The Muse, I have carved out a space and platform for both myself and students to come. It has been a heartfelt journey like no other.


I extend my deepest gratitude to all who uplifted this endeavor.