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Basketball court policies still stand

Two years ago, a warm March afternoon might have meant pick-up basketball on Duke's courts for Durham residents.

But since the University imposed a restricted-use policy in 1993, local residents have been barred from the courts, a move that continues to draw criticism from students and community leaders. Other facilities on campus, including libraries, gymnasiums and music practice rooms, have specific use policies as well.

"Duke has a responsibility to the community," said Trinity senior Christin Bassett, director of the Community Service Center. "It's a shame not to share with people who could really use more of [Duke's resources.]"

But University officials maintain that use of campus facilities by community members is only restricted when necessary.

"Duke maintains a fairly open campus," said Director of University Relations David Roberson. Roberson cited the campus grounds and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, both of which are open to outside use, as examples of this open access policy.

The University restricts access to facilities only when outside use would inconvenience students, faculty or employees, Roberson said. "Our main priority has to be that we take care of the people who come [to the University] to study," he said.

Complaints of overcrowding on the open-air basketball courts near the Fuqua School of Business prompted the University to restrict access to both Fuqua courts and Central Campus courts to those with valid Duke IDs, said Richard Siemer, chief of staff for administrative services.

"[The courts] were monopolized by the community. It pushed off students," Siemer said. "There are no complaints now."

Some characterize the basketball court policy as being unnecessary, especially on Central Campus.

"I can see some advantages of restricting access, but it would seem like a good idea to have some [courts] that were open," said Roger Samples, who works at the Edgemont Community Center. Samples, who works with children aged 7 to 17, said that "lots of other people live [near Duke] who are not students."

Trinity sophomore Parag Pande, who uses the courts near Fuqua, said he disagreed with the restricted-access policy. "I go at night, and there's always room to play," he said.

The outdoor-court policy is consistent with the policy for use of the East Campus Gymnasium and Card Gymnasium. Both gyms are restricted to those with DukeCards, which administrators say is also designed to prevent overcrowding.

"If [the East Campus gym] was open to outsiders, you'd never get in. It would always be used by outside groups," said Caroline Raynor, director of the gym.

Enforcement of the restricted-access policy has not been consistent, however. Access to the Central Campus courts, which did not previously suffer from overcrowding, has remained largely open.

"You can just walk in. I've never seen anyone monitoring [access]," said Trinity senior Kevin Jacobson.

Jacobson, who runs Volunteers for Youth, a big brother/big sister program involving University students and Durham youths, said that he has taken his little brother to use the courts several times without needing valid identification.

In general, academic resources have a more liberal policy for outside use. The Perkins library system allows Durham residents access to nearly all of its facilities; with a $5 borrower's permit, residents can use any facility not restricted by DukeCard access.

Overcrowding has not been a problem in libraries, said John Lubans, deputy University librarian. "We haven't reached the point where it's impossible."

The Medical Center library's policy is dependent upon the profession of the user. Health-care professionals living in Durham County can obtain a free borrower's card which allows them to check out library materials. Other visitors can use the library's resources but cannot check them out. This policy reflects a "broader mission to serve health care professionals working with Duke," said Pat Thibodeau, an associate director at the Med Center library.

Other University facilities open to outside use include music practice rooms, dining facilities and most services at the Bryan Center.

For $1.50 an hour, Durham residents can use the practice rooms in the Mary Duke Biddle music building. Outside use of these rooms is infrequent during the school year, but the rooms receive regular use by Durham residents during the summer, said Anne Parks, an administrative assistant in the music department.

Parks said she is not aware of any problems resulting from outside use, including overcrowding.

Although officials agreed that allowing outside use of facilities decreased campus safety, they said that access policies were not largely motivated by safety concerns.

"Any time you're the least bit open you're always at risk," said Lewis Wardell, assistant director of Public Safety, who maintained that allowing Durham residents on campus did not create problems.

Lubans echoed these sentiments, saying that Durham residents posed no more of a risk than students, faculty or employees.

Some also question the effect the restricted policies have on the University's image in the community.

"I don't think the image is that positive," said Paul Nunnally, executive director of ELIMU, an organization that works with families in public housing. "Overall, from talking to people, it seems like people see Duke as taking a lot but not giving a lot back."

Bassett charged that the policies play an active role in separating the two communities. "These policies make students and [Durham] residents think that the walls that stand around East Campus are more than symbolic," Bassett said.

Roberson, however, disagreed with this assessment. "I'm not sure why anyone would have a negative opinion," he said. "I think people understand that some facilities are basically for the convenience of the students."

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