Student leaders met with administrators Monday in a continued effort to improve race relations at Duke following the controversial “Asia Prime” party sponsored by Duke’s chapter of Kappa Sigma fraternity Feb. 1.
At the meeting, members of the Asian American Alliance delivered a set of demands calling on the administration to address the issue. Late Monday night the Coalition for an inclusive Duke and the brothers of Kappa Sigma jointly released a statement pledging to work together to overcome a “problematic environment” existing at Duke.
The alliance’s final demands, modified from those presented last Wednesday at a student protest, are collectively entitled “Demands for an Inclusive Duke.” The demands are threefold and include the establishment of a Group Bias Incident Task Force, an addition to the Duke Community Standard and the hiring of three full-time faculty members who specialize in Asian-American studies.
“We talked at length about freedom of expression, freedom of speech and accountability and the challenge of finding a middle ground,” said Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs.
The third demand, said senior Ting-Ting Zhou, president of the Asian Students Association, stems from the fact that Duke has a larger Asian population than any Ivy League school, but unlike the Ivies, does not have an Asian- American studies program.
As outlined during the protest last week, the Group Bias Task Force would give the students involved the power to “collaboratively decide and implement accountability or reparative measures,” according to the document. It would be composed of leaders from student organizations representing historically marginalized groups. The task force, developed in addition to the faculty-run Bias Analysis Task Force that already exists, would also include leaders from the greek community and would meet on an as-needed basis.
Finally, the alliance demanded in the document presented at the meeting that the statement “I will value others regardless of race, gender, class, sexual orientation or other identity” be added to the Duke Community Standard.
Moneta noted that challenges exist in attempting to enact any of the changes proposed by the alliance. “The Academic Integrity Council would need to convene for that to happen, and they haven’t convened in several years,” Moneta said.
He added that Provost Peter Lange would need to join the discussion about whether the changes to the Duke Community Standard would represent the interests of the Academic Integrity Council.
In the joint statement signed by the coalition and senior Luke Keohane, president of the Eta Prime chapter of Kappa Sigma, both parties acknowledged past divisions and a determination to move forward as allies. “We have acknowledged past actions as being indefensibly racially degrading; we believe it is time to move forward,” the statement reads. “We are currently working together to set a new precedent of reparative measures in response to this incident....”
The Coalition for an Inclusive Duke formed last week in the debate following the Kappa Sigma party and includes Zhou, senior Ashley Tsai, alliance co-President Tong Xiang, a senior, and junior Katherine Zhang—co-president of the alliance and a chair of the independent editorial board of The Chronicle.
“The coalition is not an official group,” Zhang said. “It sprung up spontaneously with the rally, protest and flyering.”
Moneta, Zhang and Zhou all said they have plans to hold meetings similar to the one that took place Monday several times over the next month, including more this week.
Zhang and Zhou will meet with Laurie Patton, dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, Tuesday. Moneta said Patton would be influential in the third demand regarding the hiring of additional professors. Zhang said three members of the coalition and one freshman who has only recently become involved in the cause attended the meeting with Moneta about their demands.
Moneta said that he has not been in contact with Kappa Sigma leaders since his meeting with them last week—after which the Eta Prime chapter was suspended by the University for undisclosed issues other than the Asian-themed party. The fraternity is now being investigated under the purview of the Office of Student Conduct.
“I am no longer the point of direct contact [with Kappa Sigma],” Moneta said.
He also said that though the demands would likely cause positive change, he does not believe that student relations at Duke in general need significant remodeling.
“The culture at Duke is actually quite wonderful,” Moneta said. “[This incident] shouldn’t be misconstrued as the overall culture. In fact, the community’s quick reaction to the incident is actually the sign of a healthy culture.”