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Duke administration condemns in-person rush events held by Durham IFC, puts restrictions on recruitment

Duke administration on Wednesday condemned in-person rush events held by the newly formed Durham Interfraternity Council and implemented restrictions on recruitment “until further notice.”

Of 102 undergraduates who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 5 and 9, the majority  “either have a known Greek affiliation and/or are first-year male students in the Class of 2024,” wrote Dean of Students John Blackshear, Gary Bennett, vice provost of undergraduate education, and Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president for student affairs, in an email to undergraduates.

Many of the cases are connected to rush activities hosted by people connected to the Durham IFC, a governing body for fraternities that have disaffiliated from Duke, the administrators wrote. Those activities are currently under investigation by the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and “other authorities,” the administrators wrote.

Durham IFC President Will Santee, a junior, told The Chronicle last month that Durham IFC organizations should not hold any in-person rush events and that all chapters were expected to keep everything virtual “or within Duke guidelines.”

Santee did not immediately respond to a request for comment after the administration’s Wednesday email. 

The administrators reiterated that students may not host or attend in-person events with 10 or more people without Duke approval, and instructed students to not host, attend or participate in any on or off-campus in-person rush events. Students seeking to affiliate with any selective organization—affiliated with Duke or not—may not participate in any in-person rush, pledge or selection activity for any group.

“Failure to comply with these expectations will be considered a flagrant violation of The Duke Compact and Duke Community Standard and will be dealt with accordingly in the student conduct process. Individuals and groups that violate Duke and Durham public health guidance are also subject to disciplinary action,” the email states. “Students found responsible for hosting off-campus events or other flagrant violations of The Duke Compact may face serious sanctions up to and including suspension and/or expulsion.”

Blackshear, Bennett and McMahon added that should it be necessary, next steps may include “instituting a nightly curfew, further restrictions on campus navigation and access, ending in-person courses or cancelling planned activities.”

Wednesday’s email follows a Monday message from administrators urging caution after weekly COVID-19 cases more than doubled among undergraduates. 

“Following our Monday message, we each heard from students who asked that we be more transparent about the individuals and groups whose actions are disproportionately impacting their classmates,” administrators wrote on Wednesday. “We are doing so by reiterating specific restrictions on, and consequences for, conducting or participating in rush events and will not hesitate to take further action if needed.” 

The Chronicle in early March asked Blackshear whether Durham IFC groups had held in-person events violating the Duke Compact. 

Blackshear directed The Chronicle to Office of Student Conduct staff, who in turn directed The Chronicle to Emilie Dye, director of student engagement and leadership; and David Pittman, senior director for student life. Dye and Pittman did not respond to a request for information.

Additional information about travel

The email noted that students living on- or off-campus who missed their surveillance tests this week “will be presumed to have traveled” and must sequester until they have received their results from two rounds of surveillance testing.

The sequester requirement is “firm and failure to adhere may result in loss of campus privileges or suspension from the university,” the email read.

In the “near term,” many undergraduates will also be called for more frequent testing to “help the modeling team track and respond to any patterns in transmission.”

Jake Sheridan contributed reporting

This is a developing story and will be updated if new information becomes available. 

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