As the campus quiets under a swell of Southern summer heat, the packed library tables and stacks of flashcards signal that another year has come to an end. During this hectic time, it seems that the ability to truly reflect upon the happenings of the past academic year become muted amongst the feverish pressure to both study for finals and pack up for the summer. Yet, as Duke concludes its 92nd academic cycle, it is important to look back at some of the noteworthy occurrences that made the 2016-2017 year memorable for the Duke community.
On both a national and campus-wide scale, the past two semesters have been nothing but eventful. The academic year started off on a high note for many Duke students, with the completion of the new West Union dining hall after nearly three years of renovation, as well as the newly built Student and Wellness Center near the Bryan Center. Widely praised for its diversity in dining options as well as its innovative architecture (though somewhat criticized as of late for its high prices), West Union has quickly evolved into an integrated part of campus life. Such obvious physical improvements aside, more pressing political matters—both on campus and outside—occupied much of campus discussion.
Politics, especially during the first half of the year, dominated headlines for both large, nationally syndicated publications as well as The Chronicle. Thanks to to the presidential election and the fallout succeeding it, policies and executive orders were on everyone’s minds. Weeks after the election, a presidential transition more localized to the university was announced with news that Vincent Price, provost at the University of Pennsylvania, would succeed Brodhead as the 10th president of Duke. Moving into the second semester, free speech continued to be front and center of most campus discourses following a contentious campaign by President Trump and clashes between activists and the “alt-right.” These conversations were further inflamed here at Duke by the controversial appearance of Charles Murray. The various marches, protests and demonstrations that followed President Trump’s inauguration spurred exchanges over race, citizenship and gender with increasing intensity. Graduate students continued their efforts for unionization throughout the year, garnering both wins and losses in very public clashes with the administration.
Such serious matters aside, as always, the student body turned its attention to the men’s basketball team with high hopes of a sixth national title. Although the season was notable for its ups and downs, the Blue Devils ended on a high note, winning our 20th conference title before ultimately falling to the University of South Carolina in the championships. Highs and lows could be found in other parts of life at Duke as students saw another drop in our acceptance rate and an increase in tuition beginning next fall. In April, future Blue Devils swarmed the campus to eagerly pose for pictures with the Chapel and to ultimately prepare for the beginning of their collegiate journey in Durham.
With only days left until graduation, thousands of Blue Devils will be leaving campus undoubtedly wiser and more worldly at the end of a memorable academic year. For some, it has been an interesting conclusion to their undergraduate career, and for others it has been only the beginning. Next year, with its surprises and hackneyed expectancies as well as the new crop of entering freshmen will no doubt make for another stimulating year in the Gothic Wonderland.
This editorial, written by the co-chairs, is dedicated to Leonard Giarrano IV (Class of 2017), former chair of the editorial board and the guiding voice for much of our meetings.