Seven fraternities have decided to disaffiliate from the Interfraternity Council, and two more may soon.
The fraternities’ decisions to sever official links to the University come after administrators ended the recruitment of first years by Greek and non-Greek selective living groups. The mass exodus marks a permanent and dramatic change to Duke’s on-campus culture.
The seven fraternities that decided to disaffiliate are Alpha Delta Phi, Alpha Tau Omega, Delta Tau Delta, Kappa Alpha Order, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Chi and Sigma Nu, wrote Emilie Dye, director of student engagement and leadership, in an email to The Chronicle. Two more organizations have discussed disaffiliation, and a decision will ultimately be made by their national headquarters, Dye added.
“The consensus amongst the nine chapter presidents is disaffiliating from the University is the lesser of two evils,” said senior Rohan Singh, who served as IFC president until his fraternity, Sigma Nu, decided to disaffiliate from the IFC.
Singh claimed the IFC was not consulted by the University when it temporarily suspended spring recruitment in October and decided to move rush to sophomore year in November, a fundamental change to Duke’s social culture made by the Next Generation Living and Learning 2.0 Committee.
Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president of student affairs, said that IFC was the first student group she met with to seek input on changes to rush. McMahon met with fraternity presidents Oct. 12 to discuss the decision to move recruitment back to sophomore fall, she said. She consulted national Greek organizations, Duke Student Government and dozens of other student groups in over 100 preview meetings ahead of the November policy announcement, she added.
Singh said over 400 students signed a petition urging the University to reconsider its decision when the changes were announced. McMahon acknowledged that the University’s changes, which also included a decision to move selective living groups to dorms off of West Campus’s main quads for the 2021-22 academic year, represent a major shift in fraternities’ status quo.
But she challenged the idea that the new policies pushed the fraternities off campus.
“I really think it’s something that these organizations can solve. … There's a lot of reasons to stay in section, on campus, and partner with the resources,” she said.
Some fraternities may remain on campus: Four have not yet signaled an intention to disaffiliate.
“I see a place for selective living at Duke, but I see it as part of the junior and senior year experience, not as part of the first structure around which the rest of upperclassmen housing works,” McMahon said.
She said the changes are part of an effort to create a more inclusive and consistent experience for Duke’s sophomores. Traditionally, “whatever’s left goes to whoever doesn’t get in [to selective living groups]. That’s the thing we really want to see be different,” she said, adding that the University task forces and committees that have studied residential living at Duke in the last few years have found much lower satisfaction among students not affiliated with selective living groups.
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The first Next Generation Living and Learning Task Force, a precursor to the “2.0” group, produced a 2019 report after some students called for housing reform to decouple housing from selective group membership.
IFC fraternities have faced pressure over the last year. Last summer, a group of students called for the abolition of IFC fraternities and Panhellenic sororities, alleging the groups harbored a culture of racism and sexism. The movement saw approximately 400 students disaffiliate from their Greek organizations, Dye wrote. In August, Duke’s Panhellenic Council voted to no longer allow sorority chapters to host parties with all-male organizations.
What this means for a future Duke
In deciding to leave the IFC, fraternities lose their official connection to Duke. According to Dye, disaffiliating fraternities “will no longer have access to University funding, facilities, communications, housing and direct advisement,” Dye wrote.
She noted, however, that students who are members of disaffiliating groups will still be held accountable for their off-campus actions, including violations of Duke’s COVID-19 guidelines.
“Duke students are still Duke students, which means that the members of these organizations are still expected to follow all Duke policies [and] procedures,” Dye wrote.
Disaffiliating groups will also not have access to “trainings and group accountability structures set in place for recognized groups,” McMahon added. Still, she’s confident new efforts by the University to train and educate student leaders will help address the gap left by the fraternities' departure.
“We’re meeting that need on several different fronts,” McMahon said.
Training and accountability structures have affected the way IFC fraternities interact with issues like sexual assault, hazing and racism in the past, such as when the IFC created a task force to investigate sexual assault in Greek life in 2015 or when the University disciplined four fraternities for hazing allegations in 2019.
Todd Shelton, chief communication officer of the North American Interfraternity Conference, which represents several of the national organizations that encompass the disaffiliating groups, said the groups “will continue to receive training and educational resources, be insured and held accountable to policies of their inter/national organizations.”
Shelton said some disaffiliating fraternities plan to form the Durham Interfraternity Council. Singh did not refer to a new interfraternity organization in the statement he sent to The Chronicle.
“All of the chapters want to continue to have an amicable relation with the school and follow all student conduct guidelines,” Singh said.
On Feb. 8, McMahon and Dean of Students John Blackshear sent members of disaffiliating groups a message expressing “serious concerns” about the consequences of their departure. The University is in the process of officially removing the fraternities as recognized student groups, Dye wrote. Once that happens, it’ll be permanent: “Student Affairs will not commit to the future return of any group,” Dye wrote.
Despite that finality, the fraternities may still interact with Duke in the future. “It’s not like you go off campus and then you’re not in the mix with us,” McMahon said. “It’s not our goal to leave people on their own.”
As the fraternities leave, McMahon sees an opening to construct a new social culture at Duke.
“There is an opportunity for a reset that builds on our best values and traditions, and sort of gives us a chance to examine some of the structures that we’ve had, and how equitable they've been and what kind of community we’ve created,” she said.