No matter how good something may be, I'm a person who always thinks it can be better. I'll preface the list by saying that I have thoroughly enjoyed most of my experience here and could have just as easily written a list of things I like about Duke. But here you go-President Brodhead, undergraduates and professors alike-here is my list of things I'd change about Duke.
Bring Kegs Back to West (and Keep Tailgates Too). These large-group social gatherings are when Duke is at its best. They are some of the rare times when the social walls of race, class, frat and appearance are broken down. The alternative is boozing in a cramped dorm room or dropping $50 at a bar. Duke, stop systematically undermining everything that gives this place character.
Stop Buying Bricks and Start Buying Professors. Duke has gone on nothing short of a building spree over the past decade, and yes, some of it has been much-needed. Meanwhile, the school can't find money in the Arts and Sciences budget to allow the faculty to grow at anywhere near the same pace. Yes, flashy buildings may be on the minds of potential applicants and a necessary lure for researchers, but realistically the faculty you interact with, not quads, shape an academic experience. Classes are too big, and you can't get into the top professors' classes, if they even teach undergrads-all signs Duke's next spree needs to be faculty hiring.
Work for The Chronicle. I've learned much more working for this newspaper than I could ever learn in the classroom-and I have no intention of being a journalist. This place has taught me how to work under pressure, deal with other personalities and simply get shit done. So find a group on campus and devote some serious time to it. You may realize that it will be the most worthwhile thing you do here.
Stop Worrying About Your GPA. Duke students are much more obsessed with a number than what they actually learn here. From picking classes to studying it all seems to revolve around grades. Yes, grades certainly matter when it comes to grad schools and a first job, but Duke kids don't realize that they'll ultimately be more successful if they focus on intellectual expansion instead of grade grubbing.
Find Me an Adviser. I did not get a single useful piece of information from the three people who have called themselves my "adviser." The black hole of advising is indicative of the lack of individual attention paid to undergraduates. Duke is relatively unstructured when it comes to academics-something that should remain-but this web requires an experienced hand to help you climb through. I know I would have benefited from some sound advice.
Can the Language Requirement. If we say each course costs $4,000, then I spent 12 grand not learning Italian from a few people Duke calls "instructors." But the real tragedy here is missing out on what I could have gotten out of three real courses. Being able to utter the names of a few Italian foods (prosciutto e melone) is in no way a prerequisite for being a well rounded, liberally educated Duke graduate.
Find Some Kids Who Aren't Like You. If there is one area in which I have failed miserably at Duke, it's in spending time with people who aren't like me. What I have learned from those who didn't grow up with a similar socioeconomic background or don't have very similar interests has made me wish I had done it more. So, grab lunch with someone random after class or chill at Charlie's with someone who you don't know or someone who doesn't look like someone you should know.
Promote, don't kill, Work-Hard-Play-Hard. I came to Duke almost exclusively because of this motto. It was exactly what I wanted in a college experience, and despite being somewhat disappointed about the caliber of both the work and the play, I think I've managed to live the motto. But it seems like there's something the administration doesn't like about the play hard side of this simple equation. Duke's not going to beat Harvard at its own game and probably never will. So killing the piece of this place that make kids like me gloss over some of Duke's academic shortcomings, at least compared to most other top schools, is going to cost Duke dearly.
Jake Poses is a Trinity senior and former sports editor of The Chronicle.
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