On February 1, Duke University was made aware at the weekly Interfraternity Council (IFC) meeting that your local chapter voted to forgo recognition as a university-recognized student organization. We realize that you and your fellow members have most likely put considerable thought into this decision. However, we are concerned that disaffiliation from Duke will ultimately be detrimental to your organization’s immediate and longer-term viability and that it may also lead to unforeseen consequences for you, other individual students, and possibly your families.
This letter is intended to ensure that you and your fellow members are aware of the University’s serious concerns. It also outlines your organization’s options from here if you wish to either continue recognition and remain a Selective Living Group (SLG) or if you affirm your recent vote and disaffiliate from Duke. Please also see below for more information about what’s changing for all recognized Duke SLGs in Fall 2021 and what your organization can expect if you elect to stay on campus.
Please be advised of the following considerations:
Duke will always remain steadfast in support of your educational pursuits, wellness, and individual rights and responsibilities as an individual student, but disaffiliation of your organization removes your group’s access to the resources afforded to recognized student organizations. These resources include room reservations, space on campus, use of university name or image, staff support and organizational advising, university funds, among others.
There are numerous local Durham ordinances that govern facility use for organizational activities; any non-Duke-affiliated student groups are advised to be aware of and follow these ordinances. For example, if your organization maintains residential space you may be required to petition Durham for a Minor Special Use Permit. These Special Use Permits also pertain to events. Additional zoning and noise ordinances remain in place for all citizens and community members.
Local residents in Durham, including Durham Neighborhoods United (DNU), an association established several years ago by community activists, frequently direct concerns about student conduct and patterns to the University. Over the years, concerning neighborhood activities (parties, noise issues, neighbor relations) have also been reported to municipal agencies, stakeholders, and local media. Student Affairs and the Office of Durham and Community Affairs actively work to engage DNU, other neighbors, and local government agencies to respond to and engage Duke-recognized student organizations as proactively as possible.
As all students are required to uphold the Duke Community Standard both on and off-campus, any allegations of policy violations referred to Duke will be reviewed for individual responsibility. Students found responsible for violations of the Duke Community Standard will face individual sanctions, which includes off-campus leaseholders and those renting spaces for specific events who may be held responsible for the actions of their guests. Findings of responsibility could potentially create a permanent conduct record (see Duke's reporting policies). This means that a finding of responsibility may have an impact on applications for graduate school, governmental background checks, or other future educational record requests. During COVID, all policies as outlined in the Duke Compact and undergraduate COVID-19 Policy Plan will still be applicable and enforced.
You should consider the potential for personal risk and liability with foregoing recognition. A few questions you may consider: Do you have insurance that fully covers your group’s activities? Have you considered how you would cover a catastrophic injury claim if your insurer refuses to cover the claim for some reason? Have you discussed this with your parents, who could become the target of legal action if there is not adequate insurance coverage?
We strongly recommend that your organization reconsider its vote and remain affiliated with Duke as an SLG. Your group would need to work within the adjusted recruitment timetable for Greek and non-Greek SLGS and only recruit new members who are in their sophomore year. Your group would also need to have junior and/or senior members living in section. We think you can successfully adapt to both of these changes, and we’re committed to working with you on member residency requirements and issues like the junior year abroad, as we know that these factors typically impact your planning. However, we think the risk exposure, logistical and community issues, and loss of support that comes from disaffiliating from Duke far exceed the challenge of adjusting to sophomore recruitment and rebalancing junior and senior on-campus housing needs.
Note that other changes are underway in how SLGs are supported and engaged at the University; our goal is to enhance the support provided to SLG leaders, develop more transparent expectations for SLG members, and maintain SLGs on West campus. These shifts include the following:
Junior and senior students in the SLG will be expected to be the occupants of the SLG’s residential community, and a message will go out to SLG organizations today sharing that SLGs will be located in Edens Quad this coming year.
For Fall 2021, a team in Housing and Residence Life (HRL), Student Leadership and the Dean of Students office will seek student leaders from across the SLGs to help develop and implement an SLG leadership development program. The goal for this program will be to ensure SLG leaders are consistently connected to meaningful resources, logistical support and leadership development opportunities.
Finally, Dean Deb LoBiondo is working now to design a staffing structure in Edens quad that will improve support and connection with and among SLG leaders. Our aim is to help SLGs feel more meaningfully connected to administrative supports in order to navigate organizational challenges and needs.
We recognize that you or your organization may have questions or seek clarification on the items within this letter. Dean Adams, Dean LoBiondo, Assistant Vice President Rossi, and Director Pittman will host two informational meetings for students this week via Zoom:
Tuesday, February 9th at 8:00p.m. ET, Meeting ID: 912 5435 0569 Password: SLG2021
Wednesday, February 10th at 3:00p.m. ET, Meeting ID: 983 8837 0504 Password: SLG2021
If your organization would like to remain a recognized organization at Duke University, please have your chapter President contact David Pittman and Deb LoBiondo by Monday, February 15. Meanwhile, you will be included in communications around SLG housing this week. If your organization chooses to stay the course of forgoing recognition, Duke university will not recognize your group and Student Affairs will not commit to the future return of any group.
Understand that Duke doesnotwish for your organization to forgo recognition. We value the core principles expressed in IFC groups that promote community, citizenship, and service and we are ready to engage your organization’s leaders to foster these ideals in all its members.
Mary Pat McMahon Vice Provost/Vice President of Student Affairs
John Blackshear Dean of Students/Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Associate Vice Provost, Office of Undergraduate Education
Division of Student Affairs 101 Bryan Center Durham, NC 27708 (919) 684-3737