The nine sororities in the Panhellenic Association have initiated petitions among their members to end Duke’s affiliation with the gossip website CollegeACB.com.
Panhel President Jenny Ngo, a junior, said members of the group’s leadership have learned that their counterparts at other institutions successfully removed their schools’ forums from the site earlier in the academic year. After Ngo became president in January, many sorority members began searching for ways to curtail the site’s presence, which they consider detrimental to Duke student life.
Ngo said Panhel aims to have the majority of members in each chapter sign petitions and then present them to Student Affairs. As of now, she said there are two options to remove Duke from the website: blocking the site internally—which Ngo said she does not think is feasible—or attempt to take some sort of legal action. Panhel will continue to explore options as well, she said.
“It has affected our chapters on a collective level,” she said. “It fuels a social hierarchy that leads to competitiveness between our sororities.”
Ngo added that she knows members of sororities who have deactivated their sorority membership or withdrawn from Duke based on negative posts on the Duke forum of the site.
Each chapter is distributing its own petition, she said, though a number of the petitions consist of similar wording.
One such petition obtained by The Chronicle is an online form that reads “College ACB has become a negative forum for hurtful gossip that should no longer be associated with this school. Campus organizations have come together to petition against Duke’s affiliation with this site. Sign the petition and help demonstrate to our administrators that we do not want to be exposed to College ACB any longer.”
Ngo said students at Cornell University and Tulane University are also attempting to remove their schools’ forums from the site, but Panhel chapter presidents are still researching which schools have already had success disassociating themselves from the site.
“We have the capability to educate our members, and we’ve already done a lot of that,” she said. “Now the question is, ‘What can the administration do to support us?’”
Interfraternity Council President Zachary Prager expressed support for Panhel’s efforts and said that IFC has been working “to start the conversation” among its members.
“It’s an issue that affects all greek life at Duke,” he said. “We got the ball rolling at our [most recent] meeting with Panhel.”
Ngo plans to open a broader dialogue about College ACB with other greek organizations, including the National Panhellenic Council and Inter-Greek Council.
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“It’s very rare to find a person who isn’t in support of [the petition],” Ngo said, noting that a forum held last year on Internet gossip drew a diverse crowd of greeks and independents who objected to the content on College ACB and similar websites.
Ngo said that Panhel leadership met with University officials such as Vice President of Student Affairs Larry Moneta and Zoila Airall, assistant vice president for student affairs, to discuss their concerns about the web site.
Moneta said that he considered some of the posts on the website “disgusting” and said the University should actively try to understand what aspects of the social culture at Duke motivate students to anonymously post negative comments about others.
“The long-term solution is... to raise awareness of the outrageousness of the comments on this site to the Duke community,” he said.
Airall said that students will raise concerns about free speech if Duke’s forum is removed from the website. She said she too believes in free speech and added that an effort to confront hateful speech would require legal considerations.
Ngo also anticipates objections but noted that the anonymity of the posts does not hold individuals accountable for what they write.