With the disaffiliation of Greek groups and the introduction of QuadEx, Duke has experienced some dramatic changes to its social scene over the past few years. But how have the remaining Duke-affiliated Greek groups fared through this time?
In 2020, the University’s Student Affairs website said that the Greek life community on-campus was “home to over 2,000 students, making up over one-third of the undergraduate student population,” according to the Web Archive. Duke listed 14 chapters in its Interfraternity Council; 10 in Duke’s Panhellenic Association; six in the Multicultural Greek Council (MGC), Duke’s governing body for multicultural and identity-based fraternities, and eight in the National Panhellenic Council (NPHC), the governing body for Duke’s historically Black fraternities and sororities.
But in February 2021, nine fraternities, formerly in the Duke IFC, disaffiliated to form the Durham IFC. All of Duke’s Panhellenic organizations disaffiliated and founded a new Durham Panhellenic Council in November 2021.
Today, Duke’s Student Affairs website lists one co-ed chapter in its Interfraternity Council — the Chi Delta chapter of Psi Upsilon — five chapters in the MGC and seven in NPHC. Administrators previously stated that QuadEx would not pose any “barriers” to student engagement with Greek life and that they would have a vibrant presence on campus.
Some chapters from these Duke-affiliated councils noted financial support and programming convenience as being the main reasons they remain affiliated. They also mentioned that they serve a different role for Duke students than the disaffiliated Greek chapters.
At the same time, some haven’t felt that Duke administrators are as enthusiastic about working with them under QuadEx as they claim.
“Our team in Student Involvement and Leadership is committed to supporting the students in our fraternity and sorority chapters, and their communities, to help them flourish and find the deep connection we know the organization provides,” wrote Anna Lehnen, director of student involvement and leadership. “We continue to work with the national office and chapter members to support Psi Upsilon regarding recruitment and community building.”
A ‘pragmatic’ choice
Psi Upsilon remains affiliated for three reasons: access to Duke funds, access to Duke spaces and the ability to advertise on campus given their decreased post-pandemic numbers, according to David Johnston, a senior, recruitment chair and alumni correspondent for Psi Upsilon.
“If we want to be able to recruit new members, there has to be some way to have visibility on campus,” Johnston said.
Daniel Bereket, a senior and president of the Alpha Alpha Chi chapter of NPHC fraternity Phi Beta Sigma, says that the fraternity also remains affiliated with the University because of the funds it receives from Duke to host three to five events per semester on-campus, calling this a “pragmatic” reason.
“We’re kind of depending on Duke funding for that. We’re not sitting here on piles of cash,” Bereket said.
NPHC President Victor Clifton stated that NPHC has been “a safe haven and a community for individuals who share similar values and beliefs by way of the organization they are a part of.”
“I believe that IFC likely have the same goals in large part of providing a community,” he wrote in a message. “However I believe there is a slight difference as NPHC has historically served as a safe haven in a school where minorities are not accepted as freely which is something that many IFCs do not have to consider.”
Bereket also mentioned that NPHC tries to host more on-campus events to engage with the student body, such as those for service, general information or social life. NPHC also has events as an entire council together.
“NPHC as a whole this year has had game nights, tabling to collect female hygiene products, information sessions, and more,” Bereket wrote in a message.
For the Alpha Beta chapter of alpha Kappa Delta Phi, a MGC sorority, its International Leadership Board does not allow it to exist without University affiliation and approval, according to Dianne Kim, a senior and aKDPhi’s president.
Both Bereket and Kim feel their chapters’ recruitment numbers were affected by COVID-19, but not by housing changes brought on by QuadEx as they did not have in-section housing previously. These changes included all Greek and non-Greek living groups being given the option to live in Edens Quad for the 2021-22 academic year, and that the 2022-23 academic year will be the last year that selective living groups will have a dedicated residential section in campus housing.
“We didn't really have [in-section housing] space on campus before [QuadEx] was implemented,” Bereket said. “So we haven't felt [the effects of QuadEx] as a group.”
Clifton wrote that the only year that NPHC recruitment was impacted was during the 2020-21 academic year, when Duke asked selective living groups last month to pause recruitment planning that fall. He also does not believe QuadEx has had an impact on NPHC recruitment.
“There were not many members that I have heard about that joined Greek life due to living in QuadEx. Moving forward, I would love if NPHC had a greater role within QuadEx,” he wrote in a message to The Chronicle.
aKDPhi did not have in-section housing this year and has historically not been given a “full-on section,” according to Kim. Kim said that aKDPhi’s recruitment numbers have been fluctuating, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with as little as a one-member class at one point. Recently, the chapter has been able to maintain a six- to seven-person intake class and looks to recruit larger classes for the future.
“I think the lack of housing doesn't serve as too much of a problem for us,” Kim said. “I think if anything, it helps us try to actively spend more time together outside. And a lot of our sisters already live close to each other or in a block together.”
This year, NPHC has 68 members, MGC has 63 members and Psi Upsilon has eight members, according to Lehnen.
Johnston and Kyndall Payton, senior and president of Psi Upsilon, however, feel much differently about Duke’s changing social scene. Johnston said Psi Upsilon’s numbers were “ravaged” by COVID-19, Duke’s housing policy changes and the fact that rush was moved to sophomore fall. Next semester, they will have four members.
This year, the chapter was given housing in Craven R and S, but Johnston calls it a “section in name only” because they share space with other students who are not a part of the chapter. They also cannot keep all their items in or decorate the common space like they did last year when they lived in Edens and took up an entire section around one common room.
“It's not that I don't understand the logic, but it has been sad to not really have a full space for us to exist as a group,” Johnston said. He mentioned that their foosball table, which is used by all members and alumni when they return for alumni weekend, has been “basically donated” to the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, whom they work with frequently.
Though Payton and Johnston are understanding of QuadEx’s mission to foster more inclusivity across campus, they feel conflicted with how the new policies are negatively affecting recruitment numbers and their community.
Johnston shared how as a co-ed fraternity that is diverse in both race and gender identity, Psi Upsilon provides community for those who “traditionally have been marginalized by a lot of these spaces.” For example, Psi Upsilon does not do rounds of cutting, he said. But with QuadEx, “it feels like we’ve been caught in the crossfire and caught in a bad situation where Duke is trying to solve a very real problem,” Johnston said.
“I have been that student that Duke is really worried about and whose situation Duke is trying to solve with QuadEx,” Johnston said. “ … I wish that there was some way for us and QuadEx to coexist, but it doesn't really seem like University administration is interested in that possibility.”
Kyndall added that the “lack of support” for Psi Upsilon from Duke has been contrary to the University’s promises.
“[Duke] representatives have said, ‘Oh, we want to work with you, we want to support you, we don't want your group to die out, we think you add something to campus,’” Kyndall said. “But the treatment and the stringency with the rules, and the lack of support for us to really expand rather than just like get by until we die out hasn't been great.”
The Chronicle reached out to Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president for student affairs, for comment, who directed The Chronicle to Lehnen. Lehnen wrote that Student Involvement and Leadership is “committed to supporting the students in our fraternity and sorority chapters, and their communities, to help them flourish and find the deep connection we know the organization provides.”
“We continue to work with the national office and chapter members to support Psi Upsilon regarding recruitment and community building,” Lehnen wrote.
More spacing issues
Although Bereket doesn’t feel affected, he does wish that the NPHC had a larger designated space on campus. The NPHC has a small, 13x13 feet room in 036P of the Bryan Center, but they used to have space in the larger 036B room. He also understands that some identity groups have also expressed frustration with the small spaces they have been temporarily relocated to due to the reallocation of spaces in the Bryan Center in August.
“There will be more members after this spring,” Bereket said. “The growth of people means a growth of space is needed.”
Both Kim and Bereket mentioned NPHC and MGC had storage space previously in the Keohane lockers, but now share a closet in Suite 036 of the Bryan Center.
“You’re putting like 12 organizations’ stuff in [what] seems like one closet … it was never going to work,” Bereket said.
MGC has a designated room 036N that’s the same size as 036P, but aKDPhi does not use that space, according to Kim. aKDPhi does use the storage closet, but Kim says that the space is not large enough for more than two chapters.
“It doesn't affect our social events and things like that … but I think the transition for us would not be ideal,” she said, referring to moving storage from Keohane to the Bryan Center.
Additionally, Payton and Johnston said that Psi Upsilon was unable to get storage space both on or off campus. This places an additional burden on individual members to store things in their rooms. For example, Johnston keeps a folding table, a folding cart and pledging process equipment in his room.
The Chronicle asked Lehnen if there are plans to increase storage spaces for all three Greek councils. Lehnen wrote that there are many student groups that want storage space, and “with over 600 recognized student organizations we aren't in a position to provide more space to organizations right now,” she wrote.
As of now, Psi Upsilon will not have any designated meeting or storage space on campus next year. Johnston said that the chapter will likely reserve space in the CSGD or meeting rooms in the Bryan Center for events, but worries about alumni reactions to the new space.
“I think [there’s a] difference between making a space your own and having a space that is already yours. So that's something that's going to be difficult throughout QuadEx but not impossible, I'm hoping,” Payton said.
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Katie Tan is a Trinity junior and digital strategy director of The Chronicle's 119th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 118.