The Class of 2018 arrived on East Campus missing a traditional component of the campus landscape: house benches.
All of the large, student-made benches on East were removed in July following a reduction in the maximum bench size by Housing, Dining and Residence Life administrators. The benches on East did not meet the requirements outlined in the Duke Community Standard handbook outlines, Associate Dean for East Campus LB Bergene wrote in an email Aug. 13.
All of the benches were in violation because they were built under the more liberal size requirements set in 2003.
The need for smaller bench requirements is a result of the larger changes made to the housing model in the past few years. With the new arrangement of houses on West and Central campuses, many more groups of residents have formed—opening opportunities for a greater number of benches to be built that the campuses would not have enough room for, said Dean for Residential Life Joe Gonzalez.
“When we transitioned to Duke Houses, the sentiment was we couldn’t have that many big benches,” Gonzalez said. “The potential number of benches... changed dramatically and with that increase, the only way to maintain the transition was to reduce the sizes of the bench.”
Whereas the potential number of benches used to be around 20, under the new model the number is closer to 50, he said.
Gonzalez explained that the decision to change the guidelines was made after consulting with Duke Student Government in Spring 2012, and the new dimensions were made final in December 2012. All housing sections on West and Central with a "big bench" had to remove their benches in Spring 2013. The East benches were allowed to stay an additional year, up until this past summer.
The bench requirements are consistent across all three campuses, but East Campus was otherwise unaffected by the new housing model.
The new maximum dimensions for benches are 8 feet in length, 5 feet in height from the ground and 6 feet in depth, according to the 2014-15 Duke Community Standard in Practice manual. This is a 4-foot reduction in the maximum length allowed, as the outdated dimensions were 12 feet in length, 5 feet in height and 6 feet in depth, according to the 2012-13 handbook.
“We had to look at how we can maintain this transition,” Gonzalez said. “We didn’t want to lose them because we know it’s important to the Duke students.”
All benches on West and Central campuses are now considered the new dimensions, Gonzalez said.
Dorms on East Campus will be able to rebuild their benches this year, as long as the structures meet the new requirements.
DSG is also working to make the bench-building process easier for houses. Sophomore Zachary Gorwitz, vice president for residential life, said that the committee has been working on a plan to make pre-made benches or bench-building kits for houses to use, especially independent houses needing to form a sense of community.
Gorwitz did not know that the benches were being removed from East until he arrived on campus this year, but still hopes to pursue the bench-making kit under the new requirements.“They’re so emblematic of Duke and the community that we’re trying to build here,” he said.