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These empty halls

In the past, most Duke students have done their best to avoid Trent Drive Hall.

Now, despite efforts of the Residence Life and Housing Services staff to increase Trent's appeal--such as offering doubles as singles at the price of doubles and an increased chance of large blocks--the vast majority of the student body today, well, still does their best to stay away from Trent.

The small group of 67 students who chose to reside in Trent this year, however, has mixed reactions. Most of them entered the housing lottery for Trent last year after weighing the dormitory's advantages and disadvantages--and for all of them, the good outweighed the bad.

"I wanted a single so I was kind of forced to live here," said junior Justin Bernstein. "I'm able to have free time and do more things... but obviously it's more lonely and I don't have people stopping in all the time."

All in all, most residents this year seem to share the same sentiment about living in Trent: It's not as bad as you think it is.

This response is not limited to current residents but also extends to past residents as well--about half of current residents are returning "Trenters," according to history professor John Thompson, who has been the faculty in residence at Trent for several years.

"When you tell people you're living in Trent, you see them going like, 'ugh!' There's a whole stigma attached to living here," said junior Homare Kubagawa.

John Duncan, facilities manager of West Campus II residence halls, which includes Trent, said students sometimes criticize Trent unfairly.

"[Trent] is one of those places that has had bad publicity for no reason, almost without any knowledge of the dorm," Duncan said. "A lot of people didn't struggle with their time in Trent."

This year, with 80 percent less residents, Trent is even quieter and more isolated than in the past. Some prefer the more subdued environment.

"I really like the location. It's far enough so that during weekends it's not right in the middle of a big party scene that goes on West," said divinity student Shalimar Holderly. "From my observations, the students living here seem to be of a different kind--very studious, not very interested in [the] party scene."

Holderly added that she has not "heard any real major complaints [from her residents]... only the usual ones that you expect to hear about, especially at the beginning of the year when people are still moving in and settling down."

Trent offers the added advantage of commons room for every block of six or more residents.

"[I like] having a single and living with my friends," Kubagawa said. "We have a [commons] room all to ourselves, and Grace's is right there."

While Trent's location has frequently led the list of disadvantages, others find the location to be an amenity.

Having lived there since January 2000, Thompson is an "old-timer" to the North Campus dorm. He added that the dormitory accommodates his family's circumstances because it provides accessible handicapped facilities for his son.

"Trent has been very good to my family... it's close to the [Sarah P. Duke] Gardens, [but although it is] distant from work on East, it's not too bad," Thompson said. "I would say that I've been very happy in Trent."

The effects of Trent's new environment reach beyond the dwellers. One major recipient of this impact is Grace's Cafe. The Chinese restaurant is the only on-campus dining option located in the immediate vicinity of Trent Drive.

Although nighttime delivery is stronger than last year, overall business has slowed down noticeably, especially dine-in, said Grace's employee Lih-Mei Chao.

"The big difference is breakfast--there are around 65 students who live here and only about five stop in for breakfast everyday," she said.

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