Students living in the 300 Swift apartments this year have kitchens, washing machines and a pool. One thing they’re missing? A desk for studying.
The apartment complex—located at 300 Swift Avenue—is housing approximately 300 Duke students while Crowell residence hall is undergoing renovations this year, set to be finished in August 2018. Duke bought the 202-unit apartment complex in December 2016 for $50 million and has used it to house students displaced by Crowell quadrangle construction work next year.
Most residents The Chronicle spoke with said they are enjoying their first taste of apartment life. But Housing and Residence Life’s decision to place only one desk in each two-person apartment has left students literally sitting in limbo.
“I was kind of confused that they gave us only one desk per apartment because we’re at a school,” said senior Michelle Lou, a Swift resident. “People on West can go to Perkins [to study], but if you’re at 300 Swift, you can’t go as easily.”
Dean for Residential Life Joe Gonzalez said HRL decided to include only one desk because of the apartments’ additional features.
“We felt students had the resources to be successful,” he said. “They can take advantage of the living room and kitchen spaces.”
Gonzalez explained that the decision was made based on HRL’s observation of student behavior and conversations with students about how they approach their academics and where they like to study. He added that students can bring their own furniture to the apartments, but they cannot remove HRL furniture and HRL will not remove it for them.
However, according to several emails, residents have been told that they are not allowed to bring in personal furniture.
"Residents should not bring additional apartment furniture to move-in," reads the Common Policies and Expectations for 300 Swift document from HRL. "Additional furniture will be turned away. Any additional furniture found at closing will be discarded and the occupants of the apartment will be charged for the item and the labor cost for removal."
In an email Monday morning, Gonzalez wrote that the email "incorrectly stated" that students could not bring their own furniture—a situation now "being corrected."
Senior Carly Bandt said she and her roommate sent in multiple queries through their residence assistants and HRL, asking if Duke could provide another desk. But, their requests were rejected. She noted that since Duke is an academic institution, she finds it odd to only be allotted one desk.
However, she said she loves the extra space in her apartment compared to a West Campus dorm, especially the porch and kitchen space.
Junior Chris Lee also expressed enthusiasm for the larger rooms and his closet space which is “probably the size of our bedroom,” he said.
“I don't understand why we’re paying the same amount as people on West Campus because it seems a lot nicer,” he said.
Before Duke purchased the complex, the cost of one-bedroom apartments at 300 Swift ranged from $1,025 to $1,640 per month, according to . Housing in an in Crowell for the 2016-17 school year cost $8,286 per person.
Additionally, cell reception is poor at 300 Swift, especially with Verizon, Lee noted, as evidenced from the three times his phone disconnected during his interview for this article. The wifi has also caused problems for him and his friends, noting that they had to set up the routers by themselves.
Despite his worries about transportation to campus, Lee said buses come to 300 Swift frequently and he has been able to get to West Campus easily.
Gonzalez explained that HRL partnered with Duke Parking and Transportation to provide a new Swift-West route. Students can also walk from 300 Swift to Campus Drive and catch an East-West bus from there.
“Between all those routes, students have had a number of options,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve only been open a few days, but so far we haven’t heard complaints.”
Junior Evan Cater—a member of the all-male selective living group Wayne Manor, whose section was previously located in Crowell—said 300 Swift is a huge upgrade from his tiny dorm without air conditioning in Crowell last year.
He added that he misses the campus vibe and being close to West Union but that his new kitchen and having his own washer and dryer make up for it. Although Wayne Manor no longer has a common room for its members to gather, he said the group started hanging out in the apartments of members who have four-person suites.
“Certainly the common room was an important part of the campus vibe but we seem to have adapted,” Cater said.
Bandt voiced concerns about the lack of a dorm community within 300 Swift. She said that she only briefly met her RA and there has been very little information about social events. As a senior, she is adjusting to being more independent, but she said she feels bad for the underclassmen who could benefit from having more community at Duke.
“It’s sad thinking that they have essentially no dorm community here,” she said. “I barely even know my neighbors.”
300 Swift also has other features, some common to on campus living and some not. Gonzalez noted that RA teams are living in 300 Swift, just as they do on other parts of Duke’s campus. HRL added a market similar to Bella Union on West Campus. In addition, students will have access to one food truck outside the complex each weekday and a pool until 8 p.m.
“I think students have really done a good job of trying to take care of the community for us,” he said. “They are really critical partners in this, and their stewardship of this community is critical to its success.”
Editor's note: This article was updated 9:30 a.m. Monday to add information from Gonzalez's email about additional furniture.