Throughout our four years at Duke, we have often heard anecdotal accounts of the problems with Duke’s culture—a friend who was sexually assaulted during a night out, greek parties with sexist themes, the pressures of effortless perfection.
Until now, however, no systematic quantitative evidence has been put forth to examine greek life and gender culture at Duke. Over the past year, the Greek Culture Initiative (GCI) has implemented a survey of Duke men and women to gather data about the campus culture issues that students often discuss.
The survey explored factors related to confidence, belongingness, leadership, sexual assault and gender relations at Duke. GCI analyzed responses from a sample of 636 students and reached the following conclusions.
The data indicates that gender relations are, in fact, an important issue on this campus. Only 36 percent of women compared to 70 percent of men feel respected by men at Duke. In comparison, 59 percent of women and 70 percent of men feel respected by women. This suggests sexist fraternity emails and party themes are merely a symptom of a deeper problem: Duke undergraduate women feel a lack of respect from men.
That friend of yours who was sexually assaulted? She’s not alone. We found that nearly one in three Duke women (31 percent) have experienced unwanted sexual contact. Greek women experience unwanted sexual contact at an even higher rate: 38 percent. And while those first six weeks of freshman year are filled with crazy parties and new people, already 16 percent of freshmen women had been sexually assaulted by another Duke student. Sexual assault of women at Duke needs to be reduced to well below the national average of 20-25 percent.
Our findings that Duke fails to contribute to women’s confidence are similar to the 2003 Women’s Initiative focus group results, which suggested that women graduate from Duke with less confidence than when they started. We found that significantly fewer women report that Duke’s culture contributes to their confidence in their senior year than in their freshman year. According to the study, 64 percent of women in the class of 2016 compared to 11 percent of women in the class of 2012 agreed that campus culture makes them feel confident. Duke women decline in their belief that Duke supports their confidence levels as they progress toward graduation.
These are not the only startling trends by class year. Upperclass females report that they belong less at Duke than underclass women and that they feel less respected by their male peers.
While generally consistent with national research, all of these findings paint an unsettling picture of a college culture that is problematic for both men and women. The sexual assault statistics are particularly disturbing—the rates of sexual assault at Duke far exceed the 20-25 percent national average.
Since the four Greek Councils received the report in mid-February, they have taken a proactive lead in addressing some of the issues raised by this research, particularly sexual assault. They are working toward implementing Prevent Act Challenge Teach (PACT) training for new members in order to teach bystander intervention skills to prevent sexual assault.
Inter-Greek Council President Ian Zhang said that he plans to have new members undergo PACT training this April. Panhellenic President Katie Howard and Interfraternity Council President Jack Riker stated that their councils will have presidents and risk managers trained in April and all new members trained starting in spring of 2014. The four councils intend to lobby the administration for more funding since the Women’s Center will need more resources to expand the scope of the PACT training program to meet the growing demand.
The greek community has started to serve as a model for the greater Duke community by finding ways to address the gender issues that plague college campuses across the nation. However, the student body as a whole needs to come together to tackle these issues.
The aforementioned findings do not provide answers to the difficult questions Duke students will ask ourselves about campus culture in the coming semesters. However, now is the time to start understanding the causes so that we can implement solutions and push for change.
We are seniors now, and for four years we have experienced the Duke portrayed by these statistics. We’ve often wondered what our Duke experience would have been like if we had known about these issues earlier on.
Underclassmen, here is your wake-up call. You have heard the stories and now you know the statistics. You are receiving this information at a time when you can still change the trajectory of your experience. Awareness of this report may prevent you from drowning in the Duke culture whirlpool. Awareness of this report may help initiate the conversation that can lead to campus improvement. You still have the time and the chance to transform Duke into the place that you want it to be.
Duke can be a better place. And it starts with you.
Allison Schulhof, president of Greek Culture Initiative , and Laura Starzenski , vice president of Greek Culture Initiative, are Trinity seniors.