In 2003, Sigma Chi hosted a “Viva Mexico” party. This was a party in which fraternity members dressed as border patrol agents, handed out green cards and danced in construction vests. President Keohane shortly responded by saying “officials would look at party registrations more closely now.” Almost 20 years later, the university continues to be plagued with racist incidents.
On May 2, members of Alpha Delta Phi (ADPhi) drafted a message promoting their party stating: “Need help crossing the border? Lucky for you ADPhi has a few too many Latinos who are extremely skilled at evading law enforcement. Join us in [location]. Just don’t get deported.” It is both racist and classist to undermine and stereotype the experiences of Latinx students and their families. This statement criminalizes and dehumanizes Latin American immigrants whilst ignoring the hardships faced by them. We unequivocally condemn these racist statements, and the many others that have historically and continuously occurred. These incidents speak to quite a few issues that Duke University needs to resolve.
Even outside Greek life, people continue to be affected by racist incidents at both systemic and direct levels. Last year, the Cardea Fellows Program was attacked with a racist printout that tried to justify the murder of George Floyd. Students said Duke administrators’ response characterized the incident as an opinion rather than an attack on their identity. Similarly in this case, there is a rhetoric among members of the Duke community that the ADPhi message was ‘just a joke’ or that ‘there is a different time or place to discuss racial issues.’ These are classic examples of tone policing, prioritizing comfort among participants in the attack rather than addressing the racist issue. When we begin to minimize the hardships of marginalized identities, and not just Latinx—all those who come from historically underrepresented backgrounds—we are trivializing the experiences of hundreds of thousands of people. Trivialization is always the first step in diminishing someone’s fight against injustice. Without accountability, this leads members of the university to continue promoting these behaviors and even escalating them.
The disaffiliation of Greek life from Duke University has ignited this behavior. When Duke allowed Greek life to go off campus, Durham residents and those from marginalized backgrounds were left facing the consequences. Many Durham community members have come forward against ADPhi and their behavior. We stand with Durham residents and urge the university to take any action possible. This is not to say fraternities should be on campus with increased regulation, but all around Duke there seems to be no accountability in any form from the university. Many fraternities, sororities and selective living groups (SLGs) put up black squares and made posts supporting Black Lives Matter (BLM) following the summer of 2020. However, little to no meaningful action was taken during the summer or the time following that directly impacted the Duke or Durham community. Furthermore, disaffiliating executive members of Durham IFC justified the move by stating it would reduce racial bias incidents, but this has still not been the case. Statements have no substance if they aren’t met with transparent actions to reduce the rates of racial bias and prejudice. There is still no online mechanism to report racially motivated attacks that is widely available or accessible to the general public. Other than a hotline promoted during a rise in COVID cases or through messaging Durham IFC on instagram or Facebook messenger, there seems to be no way to easily contact them.
Selective social groups, unaffiliated or not, need more transparency in their systems to address racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism and sexual assault. Money and statements don’t mean much when the behavior you promote internally through members counters the actions you try to promote externally as an organization. Although some organizations such as Durham IFC are unaffiliated, they still interact with members of the Duke community and, therefore, should be held accountable for their actions. As an organization with entirely Duke students, these fraternities are still within Duke University’s purview and must still oblige to the Duke Community Standard which includes the Duke and Durham community. As such, to Durham IFC we demand:
- More systems to allow confidential peer reporting from both inside and outside Greek life including a visible counter of racial bias incidents, along with what specifically was done to address an incident.
- A peer judicial board that allows peer to peer accountability, partially run by students who are not in Greek Life.
- Bystander training for all events on and off campus with alcohol.
- Equity and bias training for all executive members, with an easily accessible way to see which groups choose not to.
- A publicly available list identifying every executive member of Durham IFC and the executive boards of fraternities within its purview.
Arab Student Organization
Asian American Studies Working Group
Asian Students Association
Black Student Alliance
Duke Disability Alliance
Duke Pamilya (Filipino Students Association)
Duke Student Government
La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda, Rho Chapter
Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Incorporated Zeta Mu Chapter
Latinx Business Organization
Muslim Student Association
Native American/Indigenous Student Alliance
Our Urban Future
Pakistani Students Association
Persian Students Association
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
Students for Justice in Palestine
Students of the Caribbean Association
We await your response.
If your organization would like to add onto these statements or if you have any comments please add them here. To sign the petition to support Durham residents and urge Durham City Council remove fraternity members and their fraternity houses from residential neighborhoods sign here. For a running, daily updated list of organizations signing onto the statement, click here.
Correction: An earlier version of this column incorrectly said the ADPhi message was sent on May 3. It has been updated to reflect that it was sent on May 2. The Chronicle regrets the error.
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