In an unprecedented sting operation that looked more Hollywood than higher education, undercover Alcohol Law Enforcement officers in conjunction with uniformed Durham police officers stormed an off-campus fraternity house Thursday night. Three days before classes even began, the two law enforcement departments handed out 87-plus citations that evening, including more than 20 to freshmen. The University will be well-represented in local court on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
After cordoning off the house, more than a dozen officers engaged in a warrant-less search of the entire premises. Refusing to let anyone leave, the officers remained at the site for more than three hours. Forget Miranda; students present said the officers not only strong-armed students into taking breathalyzers but also harassed many young females in attendance—in one instance, even making derogatory comments regarding one student’s clothing.
It is obviously difficult for me to remain objective considering that I am a member of the aforementioned fraternity and that some of my closest friends were targeted by the overly aggressive behavior of law enforcement officers. But, for me, this is not about police brutality or abuse of power but rather about the Duke administration’s failure to address the diminishing social options at this University.
Princeton has the Street; Emory, Fraternity Row; and Yale, the Residential College system. Duke, meanwhile, has a half-cocked quad system that has yet to create any sense of intra-quad unity outside of the bottle-openers and barbecues RAs are compelled to organize. Instead of trying to accommodate the needs of greek life, the administration has decided to punish greek and non-greek students alike by forcing fraternities to reside in dorms with non-greek students living above and below them. The University has driven fraternities to rent non-contiguous housing off campus, interspersed with families and young professionals.
Fraternities at Duke are a far cry from their out-of-control counterparts depicted in Animal House and Old School. They are composed of future doctors, lawyers, politicians and academics who want to enjoy their four years of college before entering the workforce full-time. We are more than capable of acting as “civilized adults” and curbing any outlandish behavior. But we want some form of organized release from the regular routine and workload similar to what our friends enjoy at other top universities across the country.
I am not calling for a return to the mythic Duke of old when beer trucks lined the quad and the Hideaway was open for business. I am instead asking for a coherent social policy that recognizes students’ need for large and significant social gatherings. Basketball games are great, and I am really looking forward to the upcoming Michael Franti and Spearhead concert. But the games end by 10 p.m. and the concert is only one Friday night out of the semester.
The long-term solution lies in the renovation of Central Campus where fraternities and selective living groups could enjoy sufficient living space to organize large social gatherings. Students can then be their own neighbors and not worry about justifiable noise complains from the full-time residents off East Campus. The renovations, however, have yet to commence, and students are left without any form of short-term compromise that would keep freshmen from flocking to off-campus houses and seniors from ending up in court. Now, registered parties are closed down for the slightest provocation, fraternities are threatened with probation, and neighbors are understandably upset by the late-night partying.
Instead of provosts and faculty members moving next door to long-established senior off-campus houses and divinity grad student RAs moving into the middle of fraternity sections, University officials need to offer concrete solutions that go beyond the innocuous calls for “meaningful dialogue” among all parties involved. Town hall-style meetings dedicated to the subject of Duke’s dwindling social scene are beneficial, but unrealistic expectations and empty promises are not the key to solving the fundamental problem at hand.
I have had a wonderful three years at Duke and have been looking forward to my senior year all summer. But I am 21 years old and enjoyed large section parties when I was a freshman and sophomore. I am just not sure if I can now recommend Duke to a high schooler looking for an institution with strong academics and a lively social scene.
Good luck freshmen—it is clearly never too early to retain the services of a good attorney.
Adam Yoffie is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Monday.
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