This message was sent by email to all Duke undergraduate students and to all undergraduate parents. A copy was also sent to all faculty from Provost Kornbluth and Vice President Cavanaugh. 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Dear students,

We are writing to follow up on our message from Monday regarding the recent spike in COVID-19 transmission among undergraduate students. Unfortunately, that spike has continued and the university must take additional steps to curtail further transmission in the days ahead. This new guidance will apply to all undergraduate students, and to all student groups regardless of their affiliation with Duke.

Between Friday, March 5 and Tuesday, March 9 at 8 p.m. a total of 102 undergraduates have tested positive for COVID. Tuesday’s total of 32 positive undergraduate cases is the single highest daily count within our student population since the pandemic began. The majority of students in this group either have a known Greek affiliation and/or are first-year male students in the Class of 2024. Many of these cases are connected to the off-campus rush activities and parties hosted by individuals connected to Durham Interfraternity Council, which includes Greek organizations that have recently severed their affiliations with Duke. All of these are under investigation by the Office of Conduct and Community Standards and other authorities.

All Durham-based students must adhere to the follow guidance until further notice:

  • Do not host or attend in-person events of 10 people or more. It remains Duke’s policy that student gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors or outdoors, unless specially approved by the Student Events Policy Committee.
  • Do not host, attend, or participate in any in-person rush events, on or off-campus, whether or not the group is affiliated with Duke. As has been stated, all rush events must also be virtual unless otherwise approved.
  • To be clear, students who are seeking to affiliate with any selective organization may not participate in any in-person rush, pledge, or other selection activity for any affiliated or unaffiliated student group.

Failure to comply with these expectations will be considered a flagrant violation of The Duke Compact and Duke Community Standard and will be dealt with accordingly in the student conduct process. Individuals and groups that violate Duke and Durham public health guidance are also subject to disciplinary action. Students found responsible for hosting off-campus events or other flagrant violations of The Duke Compact may face serious sanctions up to and including suspension and/or expulsion. Disciplinary processes for students found responsible for hosting off-campus events have already resulted in multi-semester suspensions.

It is essential that all students who travel away from Durham this week strictly adhere to the following guidance when returning to campus. Please note that any student who has missed their surveillance test this week will be presumed to have traveled and must also adhere to these requirements.

Every undergraduate living on- or off-campus returning from travel this week must sequester in their room or apartments until they have cleared two rounds of surveillance testing, including the 48-hour notification period following the second test.

Sequester entails staying in one’s room or apartment at all times other than to get food and essential supplies, participate in surveillance testing, or get exercise. Students must not attend in-person classes or access non-essential in-person resources until their sequester period is completed. In the fall semester, we asked students to sequester for a shorter period of time; note that the sequester period here is PENDING THE OUTCOME OF TWO TESTS. The return-to-campus sequester requirement is firm and failure to adhere may result in loss of campus privileges or suspension from the university.

As always, undergraduate students will be called to surveillance testing twice in the upcoming week; many undergraduates will be called for more frequent testing in the near term. This increase is designed to help the modeling team track and respond to any patterns in transmission.

These steps are designed to assist us in curtailing COVID transmission among undergraduates. We are confident that you all can adhere to this new guidance so that we can flatten the curve on campus without employing additional steps to restrict campus life. Should they be necessary, however, next steps may include instituting a nightly curfew, further restrictions on campus navigation and access, ending in-person courses or cancelling planned activities.

To be clear, we recognize that the vast majority of undergraduates are committed to ensuring the health and safety of our entire community— students, faculty, and staff alike. Following our Monday message, we each heard from students who asked that we be more transparent about the individuals and groups whose actions are disproportionately impacting their classmates. We are doing so by reiterating specific restrictions on, and consequences for, conducting or participating in rush events and will not hesitate to take further action if needed.

In turn, we ask the entire student community to renew its commitment to our collective goal of looking out for each other and completing our semester on campus. In a year of loss, let’s come together to ensure that our seniors can complete their time at Duke without additional interruption and that the campus community can get through a hard-fought year without wholly preventable and dangerous setbacks. We know you can ALL meet this challenge together.

Thank you and go Duke,

John Blackshear
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Gary Bennett
Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education 

Mary Pat McMahon
Vice Provost of Student Affairs