The newly formed governing body for fraternities that have disaffiliated from Duke began its spring rush process on Sunday.
As of Sunday, nine fraternities have officially disaffiliated from the University to form the Durham Interfraternity Council. This new organization expects to hold a completely virtual recruitment process.
Durham IFC President Will Santee, a junior member of Kappa Alpha Order, said that no organizations should have plans for in-person events. The rush schedule was designed to be completely virtual, with “no need for events occurring outside of that,” Santee said. “All the chapter presidents are filled in on that.”
Santee added that after recruitment, chapters are also expected to keep everything virtual “or within Duke guidelines.”
Since the Durham IFC is not a Duke group, Santee said that they have had “little coordination” with Duke in planning the recruitment process. However, he emphasized that they are “very much committed” to following state, local and University rules.
Emilie Dye, director of student engagement and leadership, told The Chronicle last week that students who are members of disaffiliating groups will still be held accountable for off-campus actions, including violations of Duke’s COVID-19 guidelines.
The Durham IFC has not yet finalized enforcement measures to hold chapters accountable for virtual recruitment and COVID-19 safety. Santee wrote in an email to The Chronicle that “the details are still being worked out” on such protocols, “which will include a judicial process to hold chapters accountable.”
Following an organization-wide Zoom information session on Sunday, Santee said that the rush process will involve one-on-one virtual conversations and final presentations hosted by individual chapters over Zoom. Bids will be given out virtually on March 2 and returned March 3.
Dean of Students John Blackshear wrote in an email to The Chronicle that to his knowledge, the Friday night social event that involved an off-campus gathering of more than 50 maskless students was not affiliated with rush activities.
Santee wrote that the Durham IFC is still looking through the details from Friday’s gathering and awaiting more information from Duke and Durham police, and does not know whether the event was related to any of the Durham IFC chapters or recruitment. He reiterated that the Durham IFC is “actively encouraging chapters to follow COVID-19 guidelines” and “threatening punishment for violations.”
An attempt to ‘rewrite the rules’ of Greek life
Santee said that the chapters are trying to use the Durham IFC as an opportunity to “rewrite the rules of what Greek life looks like at Duke.”
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In the statement announcing their formation, the Durham IFC wrote that they plan to use the organization “as an opportunity to emphasize our commitment to positive action, as we will expand upon efforts to vastly improve fraternity culture as it pertains to sexual assault, racism, hazing and more.”
“This is an opportunity to start from scratch. There's a handful of problems with Greek life with regard to sexual assault, diversity, inclusion and racial inequality. We see this as an opportunity to say we recognize those problems… and we're going to do everything we can to fix those problems to make sure that this new IFC is different from the old IFC,” Santee said. “We don't want to just be the same exact thing.”
Duke fraternities and sororities faced have heavy criticism in recent months, resulting in growing calls for abolition of Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association groups—historically white Greek organizations—on campus. Abolish Duke IFC and Panhel was formed in July with the goal of abolishing the Duke’s 24 fraternities and sororities. The activists cited systemic inequities in Greek life that they say make the organizations incapable of reform.
Santee said that while the Durham IFC doesn’t have more resources than the Duke IFC to make that happen, they also won’t have any fewer resources. As an example, Santee said that all rush participants will attend a required virtual sexual assault prevention training.
Santee wrote in an email that the training will share content from the Women’s Center training given to all affiliated Duke selective living groups “as well as material specifically created for future fraternity members.”
Mary Pat McMahon, vice president and vice provost for student affairs, told The Chronicle last week that disaffiliated groups will not have access to Duke’s “trainings and group accountability structures.” Dye added that disaffiliated fraternities will lose access to “University funding, facilities, communications, housing and direct advertisement.”
Students in the groups are still accountable for off-campus actions, including COVID-19 safety violations, according to Dye.
Santee said that the Durham IFC is also working on improving diversity and inclusion through the recruitment process. They waived the $75 rush application fee this year to ensure that “every single first-year and every single sophomore has an equal opportunity to be a part of recruitment.”
Santee added in an email that the Durham IFC’s recruitment will be limited to Duke students. Since all chapters in the Durham IFC are private organizations, they have the ability to decide who is invited to their virtual recruitment events, he wrote.
New policies ‘do not include us’: Forming the Durham IFC
Duke announced in November that spring recruitment for first-years will be delayed to sophomore fall and only juniors and seniors will live in selective living sections in 2021-22. The changes are part of the guidelines for the Next Generation Living and Learning 2.0 Committee, which is reimagining the campus residential experience.
The University announced this month that all Greek and non-Greek selective housing sections will be in Edens quad next year.
Former IFC president Rohan Singh, a senior, told The Chronicle last week that following the November announcement more than 400 students signed a petition urging the University to reconsider the decision. Santee said that delaying rush to sophomore fall would be difficult “especially since so many juniors go abroad” and limiting selective living sections to juniors and seniors “wasn’t exactly conducive to the best living situation for sophomores.”
Santee said that the former Duke IFC brought their grievances to meetings with Duke administrators, but “got the impression that those rules were not going to be changed just because we said we don’t like them.”
“It seems as though Duke has a very set plan of where they see social life going at Duke and we just feel like [those plans] do not include us,” Santee said.
The Durham IFC “was a collective idea, but an individual decision for each chapter,” Santee said. Each of the now-disaffiliated chapters discussed the idea of disaffiliating among their members and with their respective national organizations before coming to the ultimate decision that joining the Durham IFC would be “most beneficial” to maintain the “integrity and continuation of the chapter,” Santee said.
“We understand that [the administration] has places that they want to see Duke progress, but we just felt that within those rules, there was this underlying idea of edging out Greek life,” Santee said. “We didn’t feel like the environment that was being created by these new rules was conducive to Greek life functioning the way that we wanted to.”
McMahon told The Chronicle last week that she sees a place for selective living at Duke, but as part of the junior and senior year experience rather than as the primary structure that upperclassmen housing revolves around. The changes are part of an effort to create a more inclusive, consistent experience for sophomores, she said.
As of Sunday, nine fraternities have disaffiliated from Duke’s IFC and joined the Durham IFC: Alpha Delta Phi, Alpha Tau Omega, Delta Tau Delta, Kappa Alpha Order, Pi Kappa Phi, Sigma Chi, Sigma Nu, Alpha Epsilon Pi and Pi Kappa Alpha. All of these chapters are supported by the national organizations to which they belong, Santee said.
Hopes for a long-term organization
Santee said that while the Durham IFC hopes to rebuild a partnership with Duke in the future, it isn’t currently their primary objective. Instead, the organization is focused on “becoming independent and functional on [their] own” and running recruitment this semester “without Duke’s help,” Santee said.
“Once we get our feet off the ground, we’ll definitely consider some sort of communication with Duke and some sort of partnership,” he said.
Despite this openness to eventually working with Duke again, Santee says that the organization was created with the intention of continuing to function for the long-term future.
He added that while the chapters in the Durham IFC are no longer officially Duke groups, they hope to still stay in touch with the Duke community and other student groups.
“We're not trying to be these outlaws running away from Duke or running away from Duke rules. This was the decision that was best for us, but we're still Duke students; we still interact with other Duke students. And we're going to do everything we can to maintain those relationships with other Duke groups,” Santee said.
Santee added in an email that the majority of their attention right now is on the recruitment process, so he does not know what future interactions and social events between the Durham IFC chapters and other affiliated Greek groups on campus will look like.