Why Duke University Needs To Change Its Campus Culture Amid Porn Scandal

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When I read that Duke is in the midst of a porn star scandal, I was struck by the irony of the situation. As a former Dukie, I know Duke is a campus that prides itself on celebrating diversity, upholding liberal values, and a work hard/play extra hard ethic. Now, someone a young woman who has eschewed none of these values is being slut shamed

As an alum, I can attest to the strength of many of the institution's academic programs and community service initiatives. Its fierce devotion to athletic prowess, dedication to medical breakthroughs, and ability to turn out the next generation of ground-breaking lawyers, doctors, and engineers is a well-documented reality. But I can't extend the same praise to the social mores that exist on campus.

One night, I recall vividly being brought into a fraternity's common room under the guise of a date, only to discover that other unsuspecting girls were being brought in one-by-one by the same man. A half-drunk beer can collided with my head as I escaped out the door. Maybe it was the residual throbbing from the beer can's impact with my head, but I certainly didn't feel comfortable on on my campus that night.

Duke's attitude towards sex can be summed up perfectly by Allison of The Breakfast Club

Duke's male-dominated social structure operates in much the same way. Girls are promised notoriety, respect, and above all social dominance if they win over (read: sleep with) a man who belongs to one of several well-regarded fraternities. Once the deed is done, however, the girl in question becomes a proverbial notch in the bedpost unless she is deemed attractive enough for a repeat encounter. I have unfortunately experienced both sides of this double standard. 

Though a long-distance relationship firmly planted me in the "Boring, do not disturb" box my Freshman year, my Sophomore year was fraught with failed attempts to be both socially relevant and respectful of my values. Coming from a liberal high school in the Bay Area, I wasn't prepared to be treated like a commodity by men who felt like they were entitled to a piece of me. 

One night, I recall vividly being brought into a fraternity's common room under the guise of a date, only to discover that other unsuspecting girls were being brought in one-by-one by the same man. A half-drunk beer can collided with my head as I escaped out the door. Maybe it was the residual throbbing from the beer can's impact with my head, but I certainly didn't feel comfortable on my campus that night.

Sadly, I have heard similar cringe-worthy tales from other Duke women. Comments like, "That girl is a whale,"  guffawed by a frat boy within earshot of a girl at a raucous party were not uncommon. I often heard that women passed out from drinking at parties were "probably fine." This behavior is not only accepted, but expected, at Duke. Women were objects to be casually thrown around like toys

Duke women live under the unspoken rule of "Effortless Perfection." You are simultaneously expected to be promiscuous and virginal at the same time, all the while looking like a contestant from The Bachelor. And much like the aforementioned television series, each woman is meticulously judged by her peers via the Gossip Girl-esque site CollegiateACB. Unfortunately for the porn actress known as Lauren, the website latched on to her story and refused to let go.

On CollegiateACB, you can find winning captions like "Full streaming facial abuse video. Truly a must watch" and "How do I Hook Up With Girls in Tridelt? We don't mix with them and they have all the hottest girls." I had the distinct horror of finding my own sorority mentioned negatively in multiple conversation chains, most notably an anonymous comment that attacked nearly every aspect of the group:

Chi Omega,
Unlike your male peers like Phi Delt and SigChi, you have the blessing of being women. You can easily rise out of your meandering social status if you guys put effort in your appearance, read/learn about fashion, and try hitting the gym or something. And most importantly, LEARN TO FLIRT. 


CollegiateACB's free-for-all public gossip format is made for hookup inquiries, slut shaming, and rumors. It is the socially-active Duke student's bread and butter. Several years ago, the University made a feeble attempt to shut down participation in the website. It was a well-meaning (if ultimately ineffectual) effort. 

A club I was in, The Duke Women's Center, met with a certain high-up administrator to ask what the next steps in resolving these deep-seated issues might be. Bewildered by the suggestion, the administrator looked at our group and parroted the same question back at us. He explained that changing the school's social atmosphere was really in our hands, and had absolutely nothing to do with the administration or its handling of student affairs

The change in campus culture Duke so sorely needs isn't going to come organically from the student body — especially not the frat boys who currently hold all of the power. There is a reason why college is referred to as higher education. Students seek to be elevated by knowledge; not demeaned by antiquated attitudes. I'm well aware that certain Greek life and its questionable antics perpetuate similar attitudes at other institutions across the country, but there is a reason why Duke continues to take center stage. Something has to give.



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