Almost everyone likes to call Duke a “Gothic Wonderland.” All I know is they’re not talking about Edens—they’ve either never ventured that far or have blocked out all memories of having done so. The only likeness this quad has to its namesake garden is its seemingly 6,000-year long abandonment—if someone knows where the forbidden fruit is, please let me know.
I am convinced that whoever designed this place believed they were playing Roller Coaster Tycoon and neglected to include any proper entrance or signage for their own cynical pleasure. Decades later, they can still laugh at the disoriented residents. The only word to describe this place is non-navigable. The outdoor stairwells are hidden and entry is limited to only one of the four doors within the stairwell—you have better odds of winning a brand new car on "The Price is Right" and you don’t have to pay nearly $8000 to play.
Fortunately, once I do pick the right door, I arrive in the penthouse—yes, I’ve nicknamed my dorm the penthouse. That’s because the cost to live here is nearly equivalent to renting a penthouse in New York City—it costs more than $10/sq. ft per month to live here. And when you realize Edens is likely to be the most expensive place per square foot to live at Duke, you begin to fully comprehend how it feels to be systematically screwed.
This entire crisis started last year when my block group put Edens near the bottom of our housing list, only to open up the housing email and find that our preferences were given as much consideration as C1 drivers do to students running to catch the bus.
Distraught and unsure of how to respond to this grievance, I sat in the corner of a random study room and loudly wondered how this could happen to me, much to the displeasure of someone who was trying to do work. I was surprised by his open insensitivity towards my great misfortune.
On the day of room assignments, my block group finally came to terms with our unfortunate situation and set out for Edens, the faraway place we’d never seen and only been warned to avoid. That day, we took the steps down from Pitchfork Provisions and crossed the symbolic train tracks that separate Edens residents from the rest of the Duke community. It was a fifteen minute walk from the Chapel to one of the most depressing and confusing places I’ve ever experienced.
Once we made it inside, we looked for signs of life. We eventually found two residents who had been assigned to Edens following their semesters abroad. When we informed them of our housing situation and asked if it was that bad, all they could do was laugh. The only redeeming thing about their experience, they said, was that they would be moving out of Edens in a few more weeks—it didn’t make me feel better.
When I expressed my concerns with the housing representative during the room assignments meeting, she assured me that they hired an architect to spruce up the Quad this summer. Upon arrival a few days ago, I can already see the changes. Last year only a couple of inches of still water sat in the creek, festering with bugs and trash. This year, I can happily report that Duke has realized the importance of water conservation and reduced water levels to a mere trickle.
In light of my and basically everyone else’s negative feelings towards Edens, I am proposing a rebranding that emphasizes the health benefits of living there. The focus could be the numerous steps residents have to descend to reach the Quad and the even greater number they must climb to reach their rooms. By highlighting the outdoor stair climbing that the Internet tells me is a good workout for a "better butt," Duke could remake Edens as a healthy living community. And there is a built-in barrier to stop residents from cheating on their daily workouts—many buildings are without elevators.
The reality is that my room isn’t that bad—it’s small, but there‘s air conditioning. There just seems to be a collective depression that sets in immediately upon entrance. And when I say collective, I mean personal, because almost no one else lives here—more than a third of my floor is vacant.
This would normally be a good thing because I don’t have to worry about occupied showers or loud noise except that my windows are by Pitchforks and I can hear everyone’s conversations. Whenever anyone out there laughs, they’re effectively taunting me with the fact that I have to go down four flights of stairs to experience other humans.
Equal parts depressing and comical is that I am responsible for playing a role in making Edens better. I’m house council president for Mt. Olympus, one of the unaffiliated houses in the Quad. I don’t know why anyone elected me president, but I also don’t know why anyone gave me a column in The Chronicle. I actually ran unopposed. If anyone has any recommendations for fixing Edens, feel free to yell at my window by the Pitchforks patio.
I’ll be listening—it’s not like I have anywhere else to go.
Justin Koritzinsky is a Trinity sophomore. This is his first column in a semester-long series.