The report investigates social and gender relations among undergraduates at Duke. Key findings reveal that women are more likely to feel insecure about their appearance and intelligence, and less likely to feel confident running for Duke Student Government positions or securing the job of their choice. Sexual violence remains a prevalent issue—particularly among greeks—and the majority of assaults are not reported, the survey indicates.
“All of the [findings] are important, but to me, the things that cause physical and emotional harm should be addressed first,” said senior Gabby Levac, a student who conducted the survey. “Gender violence should be addressed immediately and shouldn’t be happening in our community.”
Duke Inquiries in Social Relations is a student-run organization that aims to investigate and raise awareness of the state of social and gender relations among undergraduates. Through its research, the group aims to “counter cultural myths and give a voice to the silent majority.”
The survey reached out to 2,601 undergraduate students and received 622 responses—a response rate of 24 percent—from a variety of student demographics, including independents, greeks, SLG members and athletes.
The DISR survey expands upon the Greek Culture Initiative survey last year by focusing on social relations in the Duke community as a whole, Levac said. This year’s survey also added questions to the gender violence section and introduced a new section on alcohol use.
The survey found significant disparities in confidence levels between men and women on campus. In comparison to 48 percent of men, 34 percent of women agreed that Duke culture makes them feel confident. Only 35 percent of women—compared to 44 percent of men—said they felt as attractive as the “ideal” Duke student, and 48 percent of women—compared to 62 percent of men—agree they are as intelligent as the ideal Duke student.
Additionally, a significantly lower proportion of women—9 percent—said they felt confident running for DSG office, compared to 22 percent of men. A higher proportion of men—53 percent—said they felt confident securing the job of their choice, while only 45 percent of women did.
Lower confidence among women can be attributed, in part, to higher social expectations, said freshman Roma Sonik.
“Women are subject to this concept of effortless perfection,” Sonik said. “You see that women have difficulty in this environment, because they’re expected to do it all with little to no effort.”
More than one-fourth of undergraduate women report have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact and 10 percent of women report experiencing sexual assault. In particular, greeks report the highest rate of sexual assault, with 14.3 percent of greek women experiencing a non-consensual sexual act and 46 percent of victims reporting that their assailants were greek.
The presidents of the Panhellenic Association and Interfraternity Council could not be reached for comment.
Of those who experienced assault, a majority did not report the assault or seek support from the Women’s Center.
“We want to spread the word that the Women’s Center is a confidential, private and non-judgmental place to discuss any situation of gender violence,” wrote Amy Cleckler, gender violence prevention and services coordinator at the Women’s Center, in an email Monday.
The report found that a significantly higher proportion of men compared to those who were surveyed last year believe that sexual assault is a problem. In 2013, 51 percent of men believed that sexual assault was a problem, and this year, the number has increased to 61 percent. Cleckler responded positively to the change.
“In general, I think Duke culture is increasingly ready to acknowledge that gender violence on campus is every student’s issue—not just women and not just people who are recipients of such violence,” Cleckler said.
The survey used the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test to investigate alcohol consumption behaviors among student demographics.
SLG members drink more often and in greater quantities than independents. Greeks drink more than SLG members and independents. Of those surveyed, 53 percent of greeks, 26 percent of SLG members and 14 percent of independents report drinking two or more times a week.
The report found that first-year greeks and senior athletes are the demographics with the highest proportion of high-risk drinkers.
First-years tend to engage in more at-risk alcohol consumption due to higher perceived social pressures, noted Thomas Szigethy, associate dean and director of Duke Student Wellness Center.
“Typically when I’ve spoken with first-years, they talk about the social anxiety of drinking in order to fit in, until they really come into their own and recognize that the older students do not expect them to drink,” Szigethy said.
Like first-years, athletes tend to drink less frequently but more heavily, Szigethy noted.
“When [athletes are] training, they’re usually not allowed to drink, so they feel like they have to cram their social life into that small window,” he said.
When asked to indicate their relative level of respect for various student demographics, survey participants ranked athletes as the most respected, independents and SLG members as moderately respected and greeks the least respected for both male and female organizations.
Findings from last and this year reveal a disconnect between those who feel respected and those who students respect, according to the report. The 2013 survey indicates that more greek men feel respected than SLG members and independents, while this year’s survey finds greek men ranked the lowest among male populations.
This year’s survey found that 67 percent of students never engage in sexual acts—a finding consistent for both men and women. Additionally, 75 percent of respondents report “hooking up”—defined as consensual kissing and or touching—one or fewer times per month.
“This shows that it’s really a social and cultural myth that everyone in college is always hooking up,” said senior Amanda Young, a student who conducted the survey.
A higher proportion of greeks want to be in a committed romantic relationship as compared to SLG members and independents, the survey indicates. In total, 39 students report being in a romantic relationship, while 76 percent of students—82 percent of greeks, 73 percent of SLG members and 72 percent of independents—report wanting a committed relationship.
Statistical accuracy and future steps
A disproportionately high number of women responded to the survey—66 percent of respondents were women and 33 percent were men.
Women tend to be more likely to respond to surveys in general, said Director of Institutional Research David Jamieson-Drake said. He added that the statistical analyses would be weighted accordingly to reduce gender bias.
“You can always have non-response bias,” Jamieson-Drake said. “And there are ways to check for that.”
Aside from the gender bias, the sample corresponded “excellently” to actual student populations, he said.
Male greeks and male athletes had the highest non-response rate, according to the report. Young said the organization is working to improve response rate for those demographics in following years.
Duke Inquiries in Social Relations will be meeting with administrators and groups on campus Tuesday to discuss the results of the survey and possible future actions, Young said.
“We’re working with administrators and student groups to use our research as a way to help create solutions to the different social problems we outlined,” she said. “We’d like to think of ourselves as a think tank for the student body.”