The dark underbelly of Duke

Dear Freshmen,

The best advice I can give you is to convince your parents to leave, as soon as possible. I wish I could say this is for some kind of philosophical reason, something along the lines of "your parents are anathema to personal growth" or "your parents' presence is antithetical to the college experience."

True, no doubt, but there are real reasons to ditch the parents: Having sex, boozing and making new friends--three awkward processes you don't want your parents around to witness.

It's impossible to write a "welcome freshmen" column without using a million clichés, and even harder to write one with your parents standing over there while you read this. So why fight it? (That's your first lesson in Duke academics--when faced with a lot of choices for an assignment, and no penalty for picking the easiest, take it. The complicated question will corner you eventually, especially if your professor is worth his salt--and most of Duke's are.)

Not everything at Duke is worth its salt. In the same spirit of clichés that will plague every joke, welcoming speech and convocation, here is the dark side of Duke, the reverse of that name- and class labeled gold-sticker on your acceptance folder last spring. Your face book (great for figuring out her name the next morning) will have an A to Z of Duke. The Chronicle already published an A to Z of Duke. Here's the A to Z that they don't want you to read:

A is for Advising. Mostly do-it-yourself. Study up on that Curriculum 2000 matrix. Your adviser will not understand it either.

B is for Bryan Center. The cavernous student center is a shortcut with ATMs. Other universities have real student centers. Yours does not.

C is for the Crossword, The Chronicle's cure for morning lectures.

D is for Duke Student Government. Don't worry, you won't hear about DSG other than in this column because it brings new meaning to inactivity.

E is for Engineers. Go ahead and mock their calculators, late hours and random knick-knacks. In the end they will be making more than most of you.

F is for Fraternity Parties. Good parties have been extinct since spring 2000. Repetitive, predictable parties are a dime a dozen. You'll go anyway. We all do until we turn 21.

G is for Grad Students, desperately seeking a way to befriend undergraduates as a part of clutching onto their youth.

H is for Hard Hat. Bring one for the road formerly known as Science Drive.

I is for Indoor Stadium. We only have one, and you'll be there early if you want to get in.

J is for the James Joyce Pub, the best bar in Durham. Pub Quiz is every Tuesday night, a great way to get into hump-day if you have an ID that says you are 21.

K is for Keohane. She rules this campus with an iron fist and secret police force. Actually, she's a softy for a well-intentioned task force or committee to study studying something.

L is for Losing Streak. Twenty-three and counting....

M is for pre-Med, the vocation of choice for 40 percent of incoming freshmen, yet fewer than 20 percent of graduating seniors.

N is for NCAA, the organization that has waited three years to penalize Duke for the Corey Maggette scandal. And you thought it was just our talent that made other schools jealous.

O is for Old Duke. The free-wheeling, open-keg image of yesterday is quite dead. Deans dropping by parties and behind-closed-door imbibing is the new Duke.

P should be for Parking, but as there is no parking, there is no P.

Q is for Quiet. That would be West Campus on a Saturday night.

R is for Religious Groups on Campus. That guy who is offering unconditional friendship and wants you to meet more friends of his is trying to convert you. It happens a lot during the first few weeks of the fall semester, especially on East Campus.

S is for Socialism, a philosophy so out-of-touch that it is extremely popular on college campuses.

T is for Theater Studies courses, not the easy A everyone imagines them to be.

U is for Unofficial Graduation Requirements. There are five unofficial requirements. Eighty percent of seniors will claim to have done them all. None actually will.

V is for Vegetarians. See Socialism.

W is for Women's Studies, a legitimate major that paradoxically and inherently endorses both gender equity and separation of gender studies.

X is for Xeroxing Books on Reserve. Professors do not realize that putting a single copy of a book on reserve in the library is tacit endorsement of not reading that particular book.

Y is for Young Trustee, a spot on the Board of Trustees earmarked for recent graduates. By the time you become a senior, hopefully you won't be so disillusioned with Duke that the position goes to a four-year bureaucrat or the head of Panhel.

And Z is for Zoology, a sub-sect of the Department of Biology, and a great way to enjoy knocking off that upper-level science credit.

Martin Barna, Trinity '02, is a former editorial page editor for The Chronicle. His column appears regularly.


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