One year, three months and 16 days ago, the Duke Interfraternity Council launched a task force charged with a mission to investigate the role Greek life plays in sexual assault on campus. The task force was to meet weekly, analyze findings and report back to the wider student body with conclusions. 474 days later, it has all but vanished into thin air.
The IFC task force was launched roughly two years after a Greek Culture Initiative study found that over a third of Greek women at Duke reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact and that the vast majority of women on campus did not feel respected by men. Amidst a nationwide crisis of sexual misconduct at universities, the task force was hailed by Greek leadership as a groundbreaking entity that would move Duke—a university whose social scene is dominated by Greek life—in a better direction.
It has failed to do so. The IFC task force never published any of its findings. In fact, there have been no (save one tangential) public comments by the task force’s members about its progress, and there exists no public evidence that it even met. Privately, the only information the Editorial Board was able to glean about the task force was that it had supposedly created a PowerPoint presentation recommending fraternities hand out water bottles at parties to keep attendees hydrated. Attempts to reach out to public contacts for the task force were near fruitless. Two student leaders quoted in the task force announcement article claimed they had no affiliation with it. A staff contact from the Office of Fraternity & Sorority life failed to maintain correspondence with us. Five more contacts, including the current chairman of the task force, the current president of IFC and the former president of IFC totally ignored requests for information.
The woeful state of today’s IFC task force lies far from its roots. During its founding, the task force was pitched by Greek leadership as a trailblazer—a group that would push through bluster in order to explore the realities of a less-than-safe sexual environment. Greek leaders acknowledged that sexual assault, rooted in a lack of respect for women, was the biggest issue facing Greek life on campus—that something had to be done to resolve it and that the task force was a strong first step. The task force’s sneaky disintegration and spotty contact raises questions about whether fraternity leadership is really invested in diagnosing pervasive, self-acknowledged problems of sexual assault in their organizations. While no task force research presentation could totally prevent sexual assault, a clear set of findings and suggestions would go a long way towards taking the first step.
Alas, it appears that that first step will not be taken. The task force, which could have provided a framework for Greek organizations to proactively prevent sexual assault, has shirked its responsibility and dropped the ball. That it failed to produce anything is disappointing to the great majority of Greek students who strongly disapprove of sexual misconduct and disrespect to the women of Duke who have experienced a sexual assault. Over a year after Greek leaders acknowledged that sexual misconduct was a problem for them, we’re back to where we started—waiting to react to the next tragedy.
Ultimately, the disguised dissolution of the IFC task force has been little more than another predictable disappointment for many of Duke’s students who have long since forgotten about its creation. Task forces are a joke to them. This one missed the chance to change that perception.
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