Last week, the 2022 National Top Universities edition of US News was released. Fortunately, Duke has emerged from the abyss of double digits to a comfortable # 9. Our fragile egos are at rest.
There is one statistic, however, where Duke still remains number one: the percentage of undergraduate women who report some kind of sexual assault during their four years at Duke. In this category, we systematically distinguish ourselves from peer institutions. At Harvard, 33% of female undergraduates report having engaged in some kind of unwanted sexual conduct in their four years on campus. At Yale, that number was 39%. Data collected from a number of other schools tells a similar story:
● Pennsylvania: 33%
● Stanford: 39%
● Cornell: 27%
● Northwest: 31%
● Brown: 25%
● Vanderbilt: 27%
● University of Michigan: 34%
● And, of course, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: 35%.
Duke? 48%. *
These numbers are incredibly high. On average, more than three in ten women in these schools report sexual assault. These data highlight a larger problem in American society: the lack of control for those at the top. We hold these institutions in high esteem. This is where CEOs and politicians send their children. Time and time again we are told that they are incubators for the brightest minds of tomorrow. Yet these numbers suggest that no matter how hard they try to climb the ranks of society, women cannot expect their own safety. Our university – and every like it – is spawning a new generation of film producers, actors, TV presenters, politicians, and executives who feel empowered to have the bodies of others. How can it happen that “Time’s Up” has passed when so few women have the time of day?
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This leads us to an even more uncomfortable conversation: As terrible as these institutions are for women and center women, Duke is distinguished by his horror. There are no definitive answers as to why. This is likely due in part, as previous Chronicle authors have suggested, to Duke’s relatively weak sexual assault prevention training program. Part can be attributed to the prevalence of Greek life. But a lack of access to information is unlikely to be the root of the sexual assault in a place like Duke. In this case, it seems unfair to attribute to ignorance what can be more aptly described as malice. And likewise, Greek schools, like Vanderbilt and Northwestern, have much lower rates of sexual assault than we do. It’s time for us to embrace a difficult truth: that Duke’s women suffer just because no one cares enough to do anything about it. The administration is content with complacency, probably in part because the university’s rankings keep rising despite their inaction. And maybe students have known about this 48% statistic for so long that we started to take it for granted. This is my biggest fear: that once we forget how abnormal our treatment of women is, the less likely we are to change it.
So far, I have also failed to mention the plight of other minority groups facing high rates of sexual violence. The Association of American Universities (AAU) Campus Climate Report, which released statistics on female sexual assault from other schools, distinguishes TGQN students (transgender, genderqueer / non-binary, gender questioning, or gender not listed) as particularly at risk. While Duke does not have specific data on these identities, their statistics on gay, lesbian and bisexual college students (50% of GLB women and 28% of GLB men) suggest that the issues plaguing our campus do not only affect students. cisgender heterosexual women. The AAU data is not comprehensive enough to draw conclusions about Duke’s sexual assault statistics for students and men with disabilities compared to other schools. Yet their suffering – 13% of men, 56% of women with disabilities and 23% of men with disabilities – should not be forgotten just because it cannot be brought to light next to the Ivy Leagues.
Where do we go from here? As with so many things in the world, the responsibility for reform rests primarily with men. I’m sure almost every woman in Duke knows this 48% statistic by heart. But I don’t know how many men do it. Duke’s men need to be better allies, not just performative social media activists. They can be better listeners and more observant gatekeepers. They can share the security that their gender identity gives them with those around them. I will be highlighting the Duke Men’s Project, a learning community sponsored by the Women’s Center that provides a space for middle men to learn and reflect on their own identity. If we collectively take the time to consider the impacts of our actions, large and small, we can create safer and happier communities.
48, not 9, is the number Duke’s students should scroll around campus until he muffles the noise of anything else. After all, I don’t see any statistics on sexual assault counted in US News or any other college ranking system, even though those numbers will affect students’ college experiences. far more than statistics like the faculty to student ratio ever would. 48 is the number we should repeat until it is no longer such a distinctive feature of our university as our athleticism or our architecture. Because the longer we wait, the more we brainwash ourselves into thinking that we can’t change and the more Duke’s women will have to suffer thinking that their pain is just a fact of life.
* Duke did not participate in the 2019 AAU survey, which is where the data for the other schools on this list comes from. This explains the lack of comparable data on students with disabilities and TGQN. There may also be slight differences in the methodology or implementation of the survey. You can read more about Duke’s decision here.
** Thanks to Lily Levin, whose previous article “Forty-Eight Percent” influenced my writing.
James Gao is a second year student at Trinity. His columns are broadcast alternately on Fridays.