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Raindrops on roses

Let’s stop complaining.

I’ve been thinking about the way Duke functions. Students find things we don’t like, complain endlessly about them and then—once the administration or whatever other governing body makes a concerted effort to solve them—find something new to whine about. Explosive controversies have been refreshingly absent this semester, which certainly marks a kind of progress, but the complaining continues.

Maybe we complain because it works. While it may be effective as a kind of negative feedback system, motivating organizations by nagging them makes the entire campus environment unpleasant. With less than 48 hours standing between me and a plane to a sunnier hemisphere, I think it would be appropriate to inject a little warmth into the student-administrator relationship. This column will be devoted to a few of my favorite things that have happened in the past year at our beloved alma mater.

  1. It may seem shocking, but most first-years at Duke can only remember “The Matrix” as a pretty sweet action movie with ground-breaking special effects. For most of us, though, enrollment at Duke replaced those fond memories of Keanu Reeves with an endlessly confusing grid representing the diversity of courses we were supposed to take during our undergraduate education. The idea behind Curriculum 2000—that students ought to take a number of courses in different fields to foster interdisciplinary learning—was sound, but the execution was another matter. We found ourselves cutting back on the classes we really wanted to take in favor of cop-out courses in other fields that were designed specifically to fulfill the C2K requirements.

Last March administrators approved a number of changes to Curriculum 2000, the most significant being a reduction in the number of classes students had to take outside of their chosen fields of interest. Not only does this allow students to experiment more without Big Brother guiding all their choices, but the abolition of the matrix in favor of a list system unburdens us from the psychological weight of a poorly designed grid that even our advisers had to shrug their shoulders at. While it might still be too easy to satisfy the core requirements without really applying yourself in other academic fields, the revisions made in the past year constitute a dramatic improvement in the all-around quality of our educations here at Duke.

  1. It’s the idea we love to hate, even as a large portion of us reap its benefits. No, I’m not talking about capitalism—I’m referring to The iPod program, whose future continues to hang in the balance as officials assess its performance during the past year. Regardless of what happens, the initiative represents the kind of creative thinking we should be encouraging at Duke. The paucity of courses that effectively integrate iPods into their curricula stems largely from the fledgling nature of the program. Their tremendous utility in foreign language, music and linguistic courses aside, iPods could stimulate the creation of currently non-existent courses like spoken word poetry, rhetoric in public speaking and radio in society, to name a few off the top of my head.

But even if the University ultimately dismantles the program, Duke has gained from the “media frenzy” that portrays us as a forward-thinking school. With initiatives like the iPod program, Duke has attracted the attention of innovative students and faculty members interested in hooking up with a university that isn’t afraid to spend some money on trailblazing towards the future.

  1. As a temporary solution to a larger problem, the patrolmen with Securitas make me feel safer. I spend a significant amount of time walking around campus in the early hours of the morning, and seeing an official outside the WEL or strolling down Towerview means would-be assailants are that much more likely to think twice before entering those areas. Meanwhile, DUPD and the administration are working together to forge better, more permanent solutions.

None of these changes are perfect, but they are all progress, which is something we don’t focus on enough as a student body. Let’s try to make spring break a break from complaining, and remember when we return to be appreciative of those people who work to see our desires through to fruition.

John Miller is a Trinity Junior. His column appears every other Wednesday.

 

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