Column: The ghost of Duke past

As I walked to the gym two weeks ago I was shocked by the condition of Krzyzewskiville. I know what you're thinking: Jen at the gym? That's as frequent an occurrence as a solar eclipse. But I digress. As I made my way up to the gym I gaped at the cemetery-like atmosphere of the famous fan site. Tents were left in tatters, broken down on the lawns. Pieces of chairs and other furniture were left scattered in pieces. Tarps were strewn about. It looked like nuclear fallout in the tent city, and as I stood taking in the grim view, it became blatantly clear: Duke's spirit is dying.

It's not basketball, it's Duke as an institution. I remember a time when there was an electricity around campus. This excitement was always in the air - not just on weekends or a game night - but everyday. The school spirit is what drew me to Duke. I came to visit here already set on going to Northwestern. But once I stepped on campus I was enveloped in the Blue Devil spirit. Every other student I passed was wearing Duke clothing. The quads were packed with students day and night. Everyone I spoke to loved being at Duke and wanted nothing more than to convince me to come here as well.

Now, when I leave my dorm on a Saturday night I can count the number of students on the quad on one hand. Freshmen no longer flock to the Sigma Nu bench because it's the first frat you hit on the main quad. Frats are better hidden than Hoffa's body. What's most eerie is the silence. You don't hear the music, the people, the fun. Duke has become a ghost town haunted by the ghost of Duke past.

It is pathetic that in three years Duke has gone from the all-around school to a place we wouldn't want our younger siblings to attend. Duke was this unique university that possessed quality academic and social life. Students were not solely here to learn, they came here to live.

I return to the basketball example. You know that school spirit is dead when Coach Krzyzewski criticizes the Crazies for having lost their edge. It's not that Duke has won too much, it's that we have become disenchanted with it all. The fans are lackluster because the substance of life has declined so much. I remember going to games as a freshman and needing to nap afterwards because I was so exhausted. Today, bonfires look more like a suburban block party than the raucous celebrations they are meant to be. We cannot even think of cheers for our own players other than coordinating their names with claps or resorting to ones from their high school days.

The death of school spirit has a variety of sources. One main cause is the "suck the life out of the greek system" plan that administration has been ferociously following since 2000. Regardless of what the talking heads like to say, greek life is the core of the social scene on campus. Aside from selective houses, frats were the party throwers. Once you eliminate the major players and cut their housing to one or two floors of a dorm, it is only logical that students would leave campus and take with them the dynamic atmosphere.

A lack of influence on campus is the other main cause. Students do not have a strong voice on campus, or at least not on the issues that matter. Yes, we get ARAMARK to improve the quality of chicken at the Great Hall, but our impact on academic and student life is much less effective. The housing selections for 2002-2003 are a prime example. Determined to push the independent corridor idea through, seniors and especially juniors, were slighted in their housing options. Seniority was back-seated for a plan that should have slowly been brought into housing, not thrust upon us without recourse. I was under the impression that college was about adult life and learning to make your own impact on the world around you. Duke instead is like living at home - only larger and gothic - where administrators' decisions go through like our parents' rulings: because they said so. And as we are stifled time and again, our desire to keep fighting diminishes. We can only run into a wall so many times.

This is the point in the column where I offer some resolution or nice little fable-like comment about the situation of campus life. Unfortunately, I cannot think of a recourse. We're fighting against an institution that ranks high on paper among its competitors, but is falling fast in the hearts of those who belong to it. I'm not saying to give up or just accept the death of Duke's lauded spirit. But if campus life remains in its current state, there will be no resurrection. Shooters, The Edge and George's will become the sites where student zeal is shown. And K-ville can serve as a landmark of better times and a contented student body.

Jennifer Wlach is a Trinity junior. Her column appears every other Friday.


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