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And you will know us by our broken noses

I know it’s Friday afternoon, but this is Duke, dammit! The learning should never stop! To that end, For Good Or For Awesome presents a fun experiment that you can do in your free time, like the ones on the side of the Rice Krispies box when you were a kid who inevitably coated your kitchen floor in foam and splashed vinegar in your little brother’s eyes. This is not a chemistry experiment, but rather one in sociology. I know what you’re thinking: “But Matt, I’m under 6-foot-2 and my jump shot is mediocre!” Fret not. Sociology is for everyone, despite what the Future Burger Flippers at College Park might tell you.

Listening, students? Step one: Walk into the Bryan Center. Find somebody who looks like they’re heading out of the BC and follow them. (For you Facebook addicts, this may be a little too easy an experiment; I ask only that you resist the urge to “poke” your stalking target.) Be a step or two behind them as they walk out the door. Now, this is critical: keep your hands at your sides. I’m not talking about any sort of heiny-touching urges; rather, I’m concerned with the door that should now be swinging back at your face. If the person in front of you didn’t hold the door open for you, take one for the team. (You should probably wear your Rec-Specs for this one.) It’s not vital to the integrity of the experiment that you let the door hit you in the face, but I would like to be able to easily identify who’s been playing my game.

The results are frightening: most Duke students will not only let you catch a door to the ol’ sniffer, but, and I think my experimental evidence will back me up, they will just walk right on, oblivious, while you experience a vicious nose-mashing. Hypothesis? I used to think it was just a lack of social skills around here, that Daddy gave most of us the keys to the Corvette but neglected to send us to finishing school, but I’m starting to wonder if the problem isn’t something a little more insidious.

A lot has been made of the “Duke Community” recently. Mostly, the conversation around this “community” is about its failure to exist: we can’t get along with the cops, or we can’t be expected to be honest, or whatever. The lack of a Duke Community, though, is not an issue-oriented problem: It’s the inability of this generation to act in anything but our own self-interest.

Duke is often described as being our own little world apart from the outside planet, but I think it’s worse than that. I think we’ve got 6,400 little undergraduate worlds running around without a damn thing to do with one another. And why not? That person you’re holding (or not holding) the door for now doesn’t mean a damn thing to you in the long run, unless they’re giving you one of four things: a grade, a job, a bid or sex. Is that good karma? I know we, the much-publicized Youth of America, have to deal with some pressing problems. I just don’t know how we expect to identify them if we’re all eyes-down-and-moving-ahead.

A final test: after My Big Fat American Election two months ago, in which the whole campus was alight in a “robble-robble-robble” furor… remember? the most important thing ever to happen to us, ever?... have you, I dunno, been to a rally? Written a Senator? Maybe you’re just not a political person, okay, that’s fine, but the message applies no matter which issue we’re being told is important these days. For something that critical to become so unimportant so quickly means that everybody put the newspapers down fast and got back to walking around with an ear jammed in a cellphone and an agenda that’s crowded in all the wrong places.

We’re all well aware of how to spell “team” by now, but we should be counting the vowels in “community” too. Kids, we learned something valuable today: the fabled Duke Community is a myth, and I’ve got the icepack on my nose to prove it. Class dismissed.

Matt DeTura is a Trinity senior. His column appears every other Friday.


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