Coming back to campus after summer vacation always feels like coming home. You see familiar faces and your favorite spots on campus, and you start to settle back into life at Duke.
This year, though, coming back to Duke brought a lot of uncertainty and a lot less familiarity. We were greeted by cranes, faux-brick construction walls, an oddly modern Great Hall and a Bryan Center nothing like the one we knew. In the shuffle, students lost five campus eateries and a lot of choice in dining.
While it’s tough to see past the long lines at Au Bon Pain, the construction on campus is, for the most part, something worth celebrating. Changes can be inconvenient and disruptive, but they are often necessary to move forward. However familiar, the old West Union building never truly lived up to its purpose as a center of campus activity.
In three years, the Class of 2020 will enter a Duke slightly different than the one we know today. Campus life will center around the new West Union, a “hub” on campus designed after places like Eataly in New York and the Passage des Panoramas in Paris. The Faculty Commons will sit atop a rooftop terrace, and students will be able to listen to slam poetry or hang out with friends in a basement pub. While your first reaction—like mine—might be jealousy, it is tough to ignore the amazing impact such a student center could have on campus life.
Future impact aside, no one deserves a mediocre dining experience for almost three years of his or her Duke experience. It is important to be flexible during construction, but the University should also take active steps to make sure that student life is not disrupted.
That means more food trucks on campus—especially during lunch, expanded hours at current venues and a serious commitment to Merchants-on-Points. While we cannot make new restaurants appear overnight, we are focusing on other important changes that can be made to help you enjoy your dining experience.
Duke Student Government will be using Fix My Campus this year to filter suggestions and ideas for dealing with construction and dining. We founded Fix My Campus last year as an online platform for students to submit and discuss problems they hope Duke Student Government will tackle. We will be launching an app for the initiative soon and are currently accepting suggestions on our Facebook page.
With pointers on what types of dining to bring to campus and when to bring it, we can better tailor things like food trucks and Merchants-on-Points to meet student needs. From dinner at the Refectory to longer hours at the Pavilion, DSG has been pushing for improvements that reflect what students want.
It pains me as a senior to know that I will never reap the benefits of the current construction, but I remind myself that I am not the only Duke student who will ever enjoy life on this campus.
I cannot wait to come back as a nostalgic alumnus and see the finished product that future generations of Duke students will get to enjoy. Just like those students who witnessed the construction of the plaza—completed in 2006—Bostock and von der Heyden Pavilion—completed in 2005—or even the recently completed Baldwin Auditorium, our inconvenience now will bring life to areas of campus for future Duke students.
Change brings with it a lot of conflicted emotions. It can be both exciting and inconvenient at times, but also necessary. Projects like the West Union construction are moving Duke forward, and it is important to put into context the importance of these changes.
Duke is not just our four-year university, but rather it is the alma mater we hold dear the rest of our life. It is the place where we tented for three weeks, pulled all-nighters and formed life-long friendships. It may not be ideal now, but when we flaunt our Duke to a friend later in life, we will be proud of its splendor.
Stefani Jones is a Trinity senior and the president of Duke Student Government. Her column is the first installment in a semester-long series of weekly columns written by members of Duke Student Government. Send Stefani a message on Twitter @DukeStudentGov.