SHAPE's demands to administrators for a safer Duke

guest column

To President Price, Vice Provost McMahon, Duke administration, and the Board of Trustees:

As of 2018, 48% of cis women, 13.5% of cis men, 68.9% of trans women, and 44% of trans men at Duke experienced sexual assault during their undergraduate careers. We demand action from the University to address this injustice.

Since the last student experience survey when these statistics were collected, the world has changed. We have gone through a pandemic which transformed the college experience. Duke campus culture has also shifted with the disaffiliation of Greek Life and residential life has moved towards QuadEx. Yet, Duke has not shown a similar commitment to addressing sexual assault on campus and making sure each and every student feels safe here.

While the University administration took drastic measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, launched an initiative to address climate change, and transformed residential life, they have not taken adequate steps to end gender-based sexual violence on Duke’s campus. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and we call upon Duke University’s administration to take action this month and every month moving forward to create a safer Duke.

Duke SHAPE (Sexual Harassment & Assault Prevention & Education) is a student-led organization that fights to fundamentally eradicate sexual violence in the Duke community. We want to see the day when Duke doesn’t need SHAPE. Until then, SHAPE will be on the front line igniting cultural and institutional, survivor-centric change.

On behalf of students and for the safety the Duke community, Duke SHAPE demands the following:

Communication and transparency of campus resources and information

The Gender Violence Intervention and Prevention (GVPI) center was created in August 2022 as a centralized resource for issues pertaining to sexual violence. Yet, only one email was sent to students in mid-December 2022 informing them of this change after advocacy efforts by SHAPE and Duke Student Government. There is a large information gap which prevents students from accessing the appropriate and necessary resources. Outdated stickers in most campus bathrooms have not been updated nor taken down, nor has information about the interim director of the GVPI center been sent to students. 

We demand that Duke University sends regular communication to students informing them what resources and services are available both on campus and in the community. From informal conversations between SHAPE and the Duke student community, resources related to sexual assault appear to be confusing and difficult to reach. We believe information spread to students should also include how to access other necessary measures, such as rape kits, Plan B, PEP, and STI testing, among others. To make information about the GVPI center more accessible to students, the center should have a dedicated communications team leader.

Furthermore, the University should clarify how to report an instance of sexual assault, as well as what reporting options and support measures are available to students, in light of the latest Title IX guidance. The University should be clear about the different reporting options for students, such as restorative justice done through an adaptive resolution. This information should not be made clear only when necessary. All students should be informed of their options even before the need to report arises.

Updated sexual violence statistics

The last student experience survey was conducted in 2018. It has now been five years without updated statistics on this pervasive issue. We demand that the University conduct another student survey in 2023 to understand what sexual violence looks like on Duke’s campus now. It is imperative that this data is collected urgently, as it is difficult to make and measure change without statistics.

Reformed orientation week programming

Orientation week information about sexual assault on campus and student resources should be centralized for all first year students and led by a professional rather than Orientation Leaders (OLs). OLs are not equipped to discuss this topic with students, and often feel unprepared or uncomfortable leading these discussions. Furthermore, OL-led discussions leave first-year students with disjointed information on this important topic. The University should find the time and resources during O-Week to make sure every first year student receives a discussion on campus sexual misconduct from someone who is prepared to do so, including debriefs in small groups with other students and/or OLs. 

Furthermore, online sexual misconduct training for first-years (SAPU) should be mandatory. Students should be barred from course registration if they do not complete this training, as is done for advisor meetings and personal information verification each year. We believe this is both feasible and necessary to ensure that each student receives prevention training.

Continued education for all students

We demand that University-sponsored sexual assault training occur for students of all class years. This has been modeled by our peer institutions. It is unacceptable that sexual assault training ends after students’ first week at Duke. This issue affects students of all class years, so students should have access to a mandatory curriculum throughout their tenure at Duke that is intersectional and engaging.

A physical space and permanent director for the GVPI Center

We demand a physical space for both gender violence prevention and intervention. It is unacceptable that there is no centralized physical space for GVPI on campus. Until this is possible, we request a timeline be made public for when a physical space will be available for GVPI. Additionally, we demand a permanent person be appointed to the role of GVPI director. The center has existed for almost one year now without a permanent director, and has only had an interim director for the past two months. We demand that students be involved in the process to select a GVPI director and that until this is possible, a timeline is provided. The University administration must be transparent with these processes to inform students about the status of the GVPI center. 

We believe that these demands are essential to the well-being of all students on campus. All demands have been communicated with University administration over the past three years, and were reiterated both in-person and via email this semester.

We are unequivocally against sexual violence at Duke University. We cannot ignore this issue and we must take action. 

Any students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, community members, or interested parties may sign onto these demands here.




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