Duke students frustrated after off-campus fraternity activities lead to COVID-19 stay-in-place order

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Monday, March 15, 2021
Off-campus frat activities led to uptick in Duke COVID cases: Officials
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There's a strong reaction among Duke students after off-campus fraternity activities led to increased COVID-19 cases and a new stay-in-place order.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- There's a strong reaction on Duke's campus to increased COVID-19 transmission stemming from off-campus fraternity activities.

ABC11 crews spotted "F**K FRATS" painted along the Free Expression Bridge on Sunday morning.

On Saturday evening, the university said more than 180 students have had to go into isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 over the past week while another 200 are in quarantine after being exposed.

"This is by far the largest one-week number of positive tests and quarantines since the start of the pandemic," the university continued.

Those on-campus are asked to stay in dorms or apartments except for "essential activities." A 9 p.m. curfew is in place and classes will be going remote until March 21.

As for off-campus students, they are asked not to come to campus for any purpose other than a few exceptions regarding student health.

If on- and off-campus students were to break these rules, university officials will consider it a 'violation of the Duke Compact' and will be treated as such. Repeated violations could lead to suspension or withdrawal from the university.

Duke University orders undergraduate students to stay-in-place until March 21 following uptick in COVID-19 cases

In response to the mandate put in place late Saturday night, Duke released the following statement:

"This week's increase in positive COVID-19 test results among Duke undergraduates is a stark reminder that this pandemic is still a very real danger to all of us, and that we need to be unwavering in our commitment to common-sense public health guidance and the requirements of the Duke Compact. We have heard from many students who understand the necessity of the stay-in-place order and are just as eager as we are to fight this upward trend in new cases, which was entirely avoidable.

"While the overall positive test rate among the 6,000 undergraduates and 8,000 graduate and professional students who or on or near the Duke campus this semester remains approximately 1%, we believe it is important to take decisive action to attack the spike in infections over the past week. The new cases were detected thanks to our robust testing protocol in which each student is tested, on average, twice a week.

"This stay-in-place order is the direct result of individual behavior in violation of Duke's requirements for in-person activity. These new cases are almost all linked to unsanctioned fraternity recruitment events that took place off campus. Those who are found responsible for organizing and hosting these events will be held accountable through the student conduct process.

"It is important to note that the majority of Duke students, faculty and staff continue to take seriously the practices that have made it possible for us to be together on campus. We are grateful for the patience and partnership of all of the members of our community who consistently prioritize the health of the Durham and Duke communities.

"This coming week will be a difficult (and we hope brief) chapter in a uniquely exhausting year and we are deeply concerned about the mental health and wellness of our students. As we get through this stay-in-place period together, we are encouraging all students to utilize the many Duke resources available, from peer-to-peer calls to virtual meals to guided meditations."

When asked about the sentiment in the Free Expression Bridge, Duke officials said it did not consider the words graffiti and offered no other comment.

There is currently a petition calling for the school to "sue" the Interfraternity Council due to the hazard caused on campus.

ABC11 spoke to junior Bella Caracta Saturday following the announcement. Caracta said she was not surprised there was a lockdown considering the rising cases.

"I can see their anger, I can see both sides of it. But being in a pandemic, it's very socially isolating. I understand the freshman wanting to find social circles. I get it. But they also have to understand the consequences they have on the Durham and Duke communities at large," said Caracta.

The junior said it has been hard being at the mercy of administrative decisions and the actions of others, but after a year in a pandemic setting, students get used to turbulence.

"As someone who's not partying, I feel a little bit of resentment towards those who continue to do so. But I also have the humanity to understand how important mental health is and how connections are to college students. I hope Duke finds a way to control this, because they have had to have known spring semester would bring these problems," said Caracta.

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