Students involved in greek life are more likely to feel that they belong at Duke than non-greek students, according to a survey.
A report recently published by the Greek Culture Initiative measured the impact of greek life and gender roles on student confidence, belongingness, leadership and sexual assault. Some of the main findings reveal that greeks are more likely than other students to believe that their affiliation increases their likelihood of becoming a leader, few undergraduates feel that greek life at Duke builds confidence, and greek women are more likely to experience unwanted sexual contact than other women. Now, leaders of greek organizations are looking to act on the results.
“There was some positive and some negative data that came from this study that will allow conversations about change and improvement to happen in a way that action can occur,” said Sarah Loge, program coordinator for the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. “It is helpful to have an honest look at the fraternity-sorority community.”
The survey found that only 17 percent of all undergraduate students agree that Duke’s greek culture makes them feel confident. Additionally, 41 percent of females feel more confident at home, compared to 17 percent of males who also feel that way.
These statistics regarding confidence might not be an accurate reflection of the impact of greek life on campus, said junior Ian Zhang, Inter-Greek Council president.
“Confidence is tricky to measure,” he said. “Our [Greek Council] members strive daily to make Duke a better place through programming, philanthropy and service, and [they] hope that our positive effects of involvement extend across the entire Duke community.”
The Greek Culture Initiative reached out to 4,500 undergraduates in 2012, and 636 students responded—including members of greek organizations and selective living groups, as well as independents.
The community effect
The study found that compared to SLG members and independent students, greek students are more likely to report that they belong at Duke, which some attribute to the sense of community found in the groups.
The survey found that 82 percent of greek students feel that they belong at Duke, compared to 67 percent of students involved with an SLG and 64 percent of independent students.
“Greek life is a system based around brotherhood and sisterhood, and this sense of brotherhood and sisterhood permeates through everything that we do,” said junior Jack Riker, president of the Interfraternity Council.
Loge said these findings are representative of national statistics of greek students.
“They create a smaller community that helps students to feel very connected,” she said. “Any time an organization on campus can create that sense of making a large space feel smaller and assist in navigating the larger community, students are going to feel more at home.”
The survey found that there is a significant difference in the feeling of belongingness between genders and academic years.
Men are significantly more likely to report they belong at Duke. Overall, 80 percent of males compared to 69 percent of females feel that they belong. The feeling of belongingness can be seen more in freshmen than seniors, with 84 percent of the class of 2016 agreeing that they belong at Duke, compared to 60 percent of the class of 2012.
In addition to feeling more likely to feel that they belong, students involved with a fraternity or sorority are more likely to take leadership positions than members of an SLG or independent students.
Of greek men, 76 percent reported that their affiliation plays a role in potential leadership opportunities, compared to 30 percent of independent men and 39 percent of men in SLGs. Although less so than men, greek women are also more likely than other women to agree that their affiliation plays a role in potential leadership opportunities. Forty-nine percent of greek women reported that their affiliation plays a role in potential leadership opportunities, compared to 25 percent of independent women and 41 percent of women in SLGs.
Preventing unwanted sexual contact
The survey defined sexual assault as “any unwanted physical contact that is sexual in nature.”
Of those surveyed, 38 percent of greek women reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact, compared to 30 percent of independent women and 29 percent of women in SLGs.
“The sexual assault findings were particularly alarming,” wrote senior Laura Starzenski, vice president of the Greek Culture Initiative, in an email Tuesday. “Before this survey, there was no denying that sexual assault was a problem at Duke. But seeing the actual numbers for our university compared to national data really put the prevalence of this problem into perspective.”
Starzenski also said that at the time the survey was administered in the Fall—five weeks into the semester—16 percent of freshmen women polled had already experienced unwanted sexual contact from another Duke student.
“O-week is one of the most exciting experiences you have as a Blue Devil, but we clearly need to do more to ensure the safety of our fellow students,” she said.
Riker said the four greek councils are working with the Women’s Center to create programming to educate their members. IFC plans to have all of their members trained in bystander intervention and sexual safety in the near future, Riker said.
“The reduction of sexual misconduct is something that the four greek councils have put on the forefront of their agendas, for we feel that a united Duke is one where all people feel safe in all walks of campus life,” he said.
The Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life will not overlook the significance of the survey’s findings of major cultural issues, Loge said.
The sample of students polled is highly representative of the sentiments of the entire undergraduate student body, said Director of Institutional Research David Jamieson-Drake, who aided the Greek Culture Initiative in conducting the survey.
“Their findings should be taken very seriously,” Jamieson-Drake said.
In addition to encouraging greek leadership to consider the implications of the survey’s findings, the report recommends all greek students be required to complete the Prevent Act Challenge Teach bystander intervention training program.
Loge added there are always ongoing conversations about how to improve the greek community at Duke, but that it is important to have a clear view of where they face the most challenges.
“The first step, as always, is mass awareness of the findings and the campus culture issues,” said senior Allison Schulhof, president of the Greek Culture Initiative.
She said the Duke community should consider measures such as evaluating freshmen orientation programs and implementing house courses that discuss campus culture issues like sexual assault and stress management.
She added that it was important for the survey to continue in future years to track improvements in culture.