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The $20.04 Question

Screwed? No, not really.

Overlooked? Not entirely.

Neglected? Maybe... eh, maybe not.

Slighted? Forgotten? Just plain ignored? No, no and no.

Pinpointing the most accurate word to describe how the University has treated the Class of 2004 is about as easy as finding a W-designated course to fit one of its members' Curriculum 2000 matrices.

One thing is clear, however: Over the past three years, the stars have aligned decidedly against the Class of 2004.

Consider the following:

The Class of 2004 is the first to fall under Curriculum 2000, the first never to have parked in the Ocean lot, the last to endure a year in the boondocks of Trent Drive Hall, the last not to automatically receive West Campus housing as sophomores and the last to have experienced the Hideaway on a Thursday night or six fraternity parties raging on Main West quad on a Friday night (and in turn, the first, as upperclassmen to not have such outlets). They will never as undergraduates see the Student Village, the Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering Medicine and Applied Sciences, the Nasher Museum of Art or the renovations to Perkins Library. The new Central Campus? Maybe on an undergraduate admissions tour with their first-born in 25 years.

Someone or some group must always feel the brunt of major changes at a university, of course, but somehow, the group at the short end of the stick of Duke's most aggressive policy changes and building construction in years has been the current rising seniors. And though they consider it all coincidence, the top brass at the University aren't denying it.

"I am very concerned about that class and any sense of disgruntlement they may have. It's a legitimate issue," says Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta, who is quick to add, however, that he believes not all '04ers were negatively impacted by every decision.

The Class of 2004 has been caught in the middle of the most significant period of transition in the past 40 years at Duke. Are they stuck between "Old Duke" and "New Duke?" Not really. Students, alumni, faculty and administrators have simultaneously tossed around and dismissed those buzzwords for the past decade, although never actually pinpointing when one ended and the other began. Did Old Duke die when East Campus became freshman-only? Or did New Duke suddenly emerge when kegs on the quad became a punchline? Who knows?

More appropriately, perhaps, the rising seniors are the rather tenuous link between 20th Century Duke and 21st Century Duke. Since its birth as one of the nation's top private research universities nearly 80 years ago, Duke has attempted mightily to make up ground on its Ivy League competitors who have always outpaced it in age and financial resources. These days, Duke flaunts its youth as one of its greatest advantages--we're not old and stodgy like the rest of the top 10--and although its endowment still pales in comparison to the likes of Harvard or Princeton, the wizards in the development office have managed to raise $2.095 billion in the past seven years as part of the most significant capital campaign in its history. That upstart attitude and impressive financial success have allowed the University to make its greatest push ever toward the top ranks.

Such a push is rather unprecedented among its peers. What other top university has implemented a new undergraduate curriculum, built a new dorm and completely overhauled its residential life system in the past three years? What other school in the next decade will open a revolutionized central library, a new museum, a state-of-the-art engineering facility, a new Student Village converted from a disjointed student center and in due time a new University Village on Central, complete with a performing arts center, bowling alley and monorail on 275 acres in the middle of its campus? For that matter, what other school actually has 275 acres in the middle of its campus to have that much fun with?

Perhaps because it makes a good pitch to graduating seniors asking them to donate a cent for every year of their graduation date--donate $20.03 today and ensure Duke's success in the new millennium!--or perhaps because it fell in the middle of the Campaign for Duke and during the creation of Duke's master and strategic plans, this unprecedented push toward the top has been centered around the year 2000 and the several years thereafter. Enter the Class of 2004. Fresh from their high school graduations--in which the local celebrity or news anchor probably told them that, as the first class to graduate in the new millennium, they were the future of America--the '04ers came to Duke, took a look at their Curriculum 2000 matrices and everything else around them and discovered just the opposite: they were not the future; they were the bridge the University was about to walk over into the future.

Essentially, the Class of 2004 was about to be screwed. Well, maybe not screwed....

The concept of Curriculum 2000 surfaced in 1997, and went through three years of debate, tinkering and implementation. What emerged was a more complicated and comprehensive curriculum than its predecessor. Along with additional research and writing requirements, as well as broader "focused inquiries" such as ethical and cross-cultural, its most significant change was the elimination of flexibility among the core areas of knowledge. Whereas every class before 2004 could drop one of its core areas, the Class of 2004 and those after it cannot.

"We initiated the curriculum review precisely because nearly half our undergraduates were leaving Duke without experiencing one of the following three: a course in a foreign language, a course in math, or a course in science," explains William Chafe, dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences and vice provost for undergraduate education.

This point is the source of the most frustration among students under C2K (a Y2K computer bug-cK1 cologne hybrid). Many struggled in high school in those areas and deplore the fact that they are forced to take classes in which they are not interested and expect to do poorly.

Little, if anything, will likely be done to assuage these concerns. In spring 2004, when a new task force created to review Curriculum 2000 releases its recommendations for change, they will almost assuredly not weaken these provisions. Chafe and other academic officials believe that this method is correct, and their assertion is supported by a crucial fact--"virtually all" rising seniors are on track to meet their requirements. However, the review committee's recommendations will likely include some major modifications of which the Class of 2004--as well as the classes of 2005, 2006 and 2007--will never see the benefits.

"The committee is expected to propose some modifications to make it easier for science students to double major, reduce the number of absolute courses required and facilitate an easier acquisition of introductory credits for foreign languages," Chafe says, adding that any changes that occur will go into effect for the Class of 2008.

So then aren't the entering freshmen and rising sophomores and juniors as equally disadvantaged as the rising seniors? Not exactly. The committee's recommendations will come in addition to changes that have already been made during the past three years--changes that for many members of the Class of 2004 were too little, too late. When the Class of 2004 entered, C2K was a new curriculum not just for them, but for everyone at the University. Thus, their first several years under C2K were highlighted by a poor advising system and an inconsistency in course coding--e.g. what qualifies for a "W" course; what qualifies for an "EI" course. Issues such as these are in the process of being addressed.

Slovik calls his C2K experience "terrible"--especially in the two years before he declared a major--and says many of his peers had similar experiences.

"[I was] assigned a pre-major advisor whom I'd never met and who did nothing more than sign off on my sheet of paper and barely ask questions," says Slovik. "They knew exactly as much as we did, and it's hard to go to someone for advice who can't give it to you."

Two-time Class of 2004 president Mike Sacks says that because he was more interested in a breadth of classes rather than a depth of classes, he had fewer problems with C2K.

"But, for those who are uncompromisingly devoted to a single subject, or who want to double major, C2K is a real bitch," Sacks says with his typical colorful language. "People fall behind when they go abroad. People have to dish out more cash to spend summers catching up. There are a lot of politics lurking behind C2K: Certain disciplines and departments were withering away because they were consistently opted out of by those of the previous core curriculum; others had too many students blindly flooding into them; the University could get more money by making it more difficult for students to fulfill their requirements by taking a regular courseload per fall and spring semesters. The list goes on."

Slovik also believes that one of the fundamental flaws of C2K is that the curriculum is too broad and not deep enough.

"The point of Curriculum 2000 seems to be to force kids to take classes that they wouldn't necessarily take, and one of my pet peeves with it is I feel like I've taken a lot of classes because I've had to, that I haven't really enjoyed, that I haven't really gotten much out of, except for certain designation in the matrix," Slovik says. "Because of that, I feel like I haven't been able to take other classes that I wouldn't have necessarily wanted to take when I came, but have since I've been here."

When Moneta arrived at Duke in 2001 as the fated class prepared to enter its sophomore year, his first major decision was a compacting of sorts. In previous years, the Board of Trustees had approved sweeping changes to the residential life system, including the construction of a new dormitory, the West-Edens Link; a guarantee to all sophomores a space on West Campus; and the creation of an independent corridor on Main West, free from selective living groups. Moneta's predecessors had devised a system in which the changes would be gradually rolled onto campus over a four or five year period. Moneta immediately nixed all such plans, opting instead to implement the changes in just one year.

"That kind of pain you want to take all at once. It's like pulling out teeth; you don't want to have it sit there and drag on for hours. It would have left the campus in an imbalanced state for a long period of time," he explains. "I looked at [the plan] and said, this is going to create a system in which everyone is going to be unhappy for five years, rather than a small number of people really unhappy for one year."

And so the transition did all occur at once: Trent became voluntary (and those choosing to live there even received a few perks); all sophomores lived somewhere on West Campus and could live in specific quads "linked" to their freshman dorms; an independent corridor was created, necessitating a shifting of all residential selective living groups; a new quad system of organizing and facilitating residential life was implemented; and the West-Edens Link was opened.

This all happened, of course, after the class of 2004 could have benefited from any of the changes. As sophomores, some were forced to live in Trent. And as juniors, like a child with a newborn sibling, they had to make room for the rising sophomores.

The combination of placing all sophomores on West and implementing linked housing was the most consequential complication for 2004 because it threw a wrench into the traditional system of housing by seniority. Previously, the lottery system was based upon year--independent students had much better shots at a nice double or single on Main West as rising seniors than they did as rising sophomores.

Not so under the new system. Because of the linked quads, sophomores were guaranteed some of these prime rooms on Main West, thus cutting off a significant portion for rising seniors and juniors. One class was going to receive the short end of the stick, and surprisingly, initially it was the seniors.

The Office of Student Development's first lottery system was one based on juniority. Foreseeing the implications of a seniority-based system, the class of 2004 would have first crack at independent singles, doubles and triples on West Campus. The rising seniors would need to settle on Central Campus or off campus. However, after considerable debate at housing forums and on the editorial pages of The Chronicle, both Duke Student Government and Campus Council proposed resolutions strongly calling for seniority in the process.

"The current policy tells seniors they are not welcome to participate in the new system," said Mike Lynch, the author of the DSG resolution and a member of the Class of 2004, at the time.

The administration listened and changed the system to one based on seniority--seniors would get priority, and rising juniors, who more than likely would find very limited space on West Campus, would be forced to live on Central Campus, off campus or "voluntarily" in Trent, if they preferred a dormitory experience to an apartment one.

When the housing selection process finally arrived several months later, independent juniors realized they'd been snubbed even worse than they had imagined, mostly because OSD had reserved singles in those linked quads for rising sophomores. Thus, if an independent rising junior wanted a single, their choices were few and far between--in fact, practically non-existent.

"The whole idea in the past was that everyone has always had seniority, and you've always been able, as you got older, to live in the heart of Duke and to live on West Campus," Slovik says. "Now, suddenly, you're pushed to the periphery as you get older. You go abroad, you come back and all of a sudden you're living off campus and living in Central or Edens, out of where everything is supposed to happen."

Slovik, who was DSG's vice president for facilities and athletics his sophomore year, said he is not sure whether his organization's resolution calling for juniority was the most appropriate. Sacks, a member of Campus Council that year, is a little more confident in his group's decision.

"I pushed very hard for revisions to the 2002-2003 housing lottery system, which preempted hundreds of rising juniors, many of whom 'paid their dues' in Trent and Edens, from attaining singles, spacious doubles, or conveniently located rooms," he says. "For the 2003-2004 lottery, Campus Council managed to eradicate the 'saved-for-sophomore rooms' that caused many a broken heart and cursing fit for my classmates. But this seems almost a moot point for my class now. As rising seniors, many of the independents want to live on Central or off campus, not only because of the traditional senior migration off campus, but also in part because Main West has become predominantly sophomore and junior territory."

Moneta has admitted that reserving singles for rising sophomores was a mistake, but says that the move affected only about 100 Class of 2004 members--mostly independent males--who had lived in Trent or on Central their sophomore years did not receive housing on West Campus for their junior years. Many more did not move much farther from their sophomore-year abodes in Edens. In an attempt to make amends, those rising seniors who had never lived on West Campus received first shot at the most coveted positions in the most recent lottery system.

Sacks says many of these complications could have been avoided, had the changes been made over a gradual period of time, perhaps phasing in the independent corridor or the all-sophomores-on-west requirement. The administration disagrees.

"The alternative was to leave in place a housing system that was inequitable to a significant number of students," Chafe says.

It's late August 2000, and a sign hangs on the wall of the Hideaway, Duke's infamous on-campus bar: ID REQUIRED TO BUY ALCOHOL. Inside, the patrons--a motley mix of students from all classes, all races and all affiliations--are drinking by the bylaws of that sign: With their DukeCards out and ready. Members of the Class of 2004 are strongly represented--they've been waiting quite a few years for this opportunity, after all.

But a year later, things are dramatically different. The sign has been removed, the grungy walls painted asylum-white. And in part because the University forced the bar to start checking actual government-issued IDs, in part because the Hideaway's lease was coming to an end and in part because a former owner had embezzled $20,000 from the already faltering bar, the Hideaway has been closed forever.

The dramatic change in campus social life that had begun several years earlier when national fraternities banned kegs in local chapters' sections suddenly accelerated. The on-campus party scene that for years was the hallmark of Duke's social life had become much more limited. Suddenly, words like "George's" and "Parizade's" entered the Duke lexicon. Wednesday and Thursday nights were no longer meant for hanging out in section or at the Hideaway; the place to be seen was somewhere around Ninth Street.

This past year, the trend continued and diversified. The new independent corridor and the dissolution or probation of more fraternities (Phi Kappa Psi was booted in 2001, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Kappa Sigma dissolved themselves in 2002, and Sigma Nu and Theta Chi are currently on probation), as well as a much stronger greek presence in off-campus houses and independent presence in off-campus apartments like the Belmont, effectively continued the decline of what Moneta calls "the big fraternity section party." The Duke University Union and other student organizations tried to fill the gap with campus programming and Armadillo Grill even became a weekend-night substitute for the Hideaway, until, of course, the state's Alcohol Law Enforcement busted nine students for underage drinking, and carding became much tighter.

All told, the social life is dramatically different today than it was when the Class of 2004 discovered the Hideaway three years ago.

"Duke has always been the college experience that takes place on campus, that it's always a very residential thing, and people were fighting to get on West Campus," Slovik says. "Now it seems like people are just as happy to live off campus."

Sacks thinks the future is in quad-based programming, in which independents, greeks and selective living groups join forces and funds to throw quad-sized parties on the weekends. The Class of 2004, he says, should spearhead such efforts. According to housing stastitics, however, only 592 of 1,725 rising seniors, or 34.3 percent, will be living on-campus next year, and with law school and the job markets lurking just months away, it is questionable whether the senior class will buy back into the campus social scene.

he continued evolution of social life might not be complete until the Student Village--and eventually the University Village on Central--are in place. By then, of course, the Class of 2004, along with the classes of 2005, 2006, 2007 and possibly beyond, will be long graduated.

Moneta, however, thinks it is essential to get the rising seniors involved in the planning of the Student Village--they're the ones, after all, that have been so disgruntled with the current accommodations. Slovik, Sacks and the other class of 2004 members of DSG, Campus Council and the Union have worked the longest with the administration on the Student Village planning, and much of the end result will likely be most influenced by their input. Moneta says he is glad that they are putting aside their own interests for the sake of the generations of students to come. He offers the classic story about a president who inquires about the planting of a tree, and is told that it will not offer shade for 100 years. The president's response? "Then we better plant it soon."

"Part of our responsibility is to develop a sense of stewardship among all of our students," Moneta continues. "This is an important life lesson that much of what we do we do not for our own lifetime. That is the case in a lot of these renovation projects. But they are the beneficiaries of the ones before them. The sophomore class is the beneficiaries of everybody who suffered the construction of the WEL."

Moneta points to the 1990s construction of Wilson Recreation Center as one such "incredible imposition" on the members of the Duke community who were here at the time.

"But wouldn't you argue that every generation since WilRec has opened has had incredible facilities to use?" he posits. "As long as we're thoughtful about every class [and ensure that they] have a benefit that they receive, even though they are going to make a contribution to the next, then I think we've done the right thing."

Still, the construction of WilRec, the WEL and the creation of an all-freshman East Campus were largely isolated circumstances: they had negative impacts, but not all on one specific class. The question, then, is whether all the transition from 20th Century Duke to 21st Century Duke that the Class of 2004 has had to endure will have lingering damage on the psyche of the rising seniors.

"When I came to visit, and was interested in this school, I talked to as many people as I could, and every person I talked to talked about just how much they loved this place for various reason," Slovik says. "And now I feel like there is a lot more cynicism among people, a lot more people aren't happy, whether it be with Curriculum 2000, with the housing system, fraternity members who are unhappy with how fraternities have gone...."

The University is trying to make amends. Moneta has created four new class-specific "think tanks," charged with examining each year of the Duke undergraduate experience to determine how services and policies may be improved on a long-term basis. When the senior class component begins its work this August, its top priority, however, will be the immediate future.

"[They will be] thinking more aggressively about what can we do with this year to really reach out and make contact with the seniors and explore the things that are most important to them and try to dispel any residual feelings they may have about being the group that had to suffer transition pain," Moneta explains. Some new "senior class privileges" may emerge out of these discussions.

The Class of 2004 officers are also planning numerous senior-only activities, though many seem to be the same as those offered by previous classes.

Whether or not the assuaging works will be partially documented by the traditional senior surveys, used to measure graduating seniors' satisfaction with their time at Duke. Also indicative will be the number of Class of 2004 members who donate the suggested $20.04 senior gift to the Annual Fund--a way of "ensur[ing] the Duke Experience remains a reality for those who follow behind you," according to the Annual Fund.

Moneta says there is concern, though not overwhelming concern, that the number will decline sharply this year (it has already been lagging behind its peers considerably in recent years).

"There are cycles all the time," he says. "You look at the class that was most affected by the East Campus first-year-students change, and you'll find the same kind of a little dip; it's not unusual."

Slovik, somewhat reluctantly at first, eventually says he definitely will donate the $20.04. Sacks will too.

"If you asked me why last year, I probably would have been able to rattle off a list of why I am indebted to Duke and how that's the least I could do," Sacks says. "Now, it's just what feels right. Reasons, like all things, change; but my sense of gratitude for my admission here has not. If I didn't want to be here, I could have left. I stayed and I have used what Duke could offer so to further my happiness rather than wallow in bitterness for some bum cards me and my class have been dealt. I stayed here, and I've stayed happy. I think that's worth $20.04 of my first, undoubtedly meager, paycheck."

Alex Garinger, a senior, will be enjoying his single on Main West this year.

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