Opinion

Change in the new year

As snow melts away, taking winter break with it, Duke’s campus and students ready themselves for a fresh spring semester. Seniors, all too aware of the dwindling number of days they have left at Duke, will think back to their early years on campus, reflecting and reminiscing over past experiences and looking to make as many new memories as possible. Non-seniors will become wrapped up in the cyclical frenzy of rush, tenting, concerts and the joyous (if temporary) relief of new classes. Even on their separate tracks though, both groups will eventually become enveloped by the fever of spring as they look anxiously and excitedly towards summer. As they sprint through spring semester, changing, growing and evolving, their school will do the same.

Duke’s physical changes have been and will continue to be rapid. Two days ago, the new Student Wellness Center opened after months of construction. Its glass-filled exterior design, a departure from Duke’s prominent Gothic style, matches that of the new West Union, which also opened this year. It is a drop of new in a sea of old: a sign that Duke never stops changing. As its construction winds down, extensive construction will amp up on the Central, East and West campuses as the university pushes to renovate aging residences and increase its on-campus population carrying capacity. All of the construction will bring more change than just increased noise and dust: with a reduction of housing availability on Central and West campuses next year, some upperclassmen will likely be housed—willing or not—in a new dormitory on East campus and some seniors will likely find that the off-campus housing lottery becomes much more friendly. The resulting friction and campus culture shifts will by HDRL and their recently chosen soon-to-be (indirect) boss, Duke’s new president Vincent Price.

Price, currently the provost of the University of Pennsylvania, will join Duke as its 10th president on July 1 of this year. In addition to overseeing the physical evolution of campus, he will seek to shape Duke University’s character through various initiatives. Although it is difficult to predict how he will make his mark on Duke, it seems likely that he will continue to champion the protection of “free expression” as he did at Penn. While that might cause clashes with students and faculty who have advocated for safe spaces as well as those who wish to prevent so-deemed racist or sexist speakers from holding events on campus, it will raise worthy debates and give Price an opportunity to demonstrate to students and faculty his communication skills.

In his role, Price has the potential to play a valuable role in reshaping culture for the better. He will not, however, directly contribute to academic policy as he might have done Penn. For example, he will hold little influence over the tenets and implementation of the massive curriculum revision coming to the Trinity school. Outlined in 2016, the revision—dubbed “Imagine Duke”—seeks to revitalize the liberal arts at Duke, casting aside specific educational requirements in favor of focusing on broad skill development. Curriculum formation will instead be handled by the Trinity Arts & Sciences Council, which is scheduled to vote on a draft proposition later this semester.

Although policy and bulldozers will greatly reshape our campus, the most substantive changes of all will not come from the A&S Council or construction workers. Rather, it will come from students—from how we treat fellow students, politics, our city and our school: in short, from how we choose to define a Duke student in the new year.


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