Making Duke perfect: Part II

In my last column I laid out the first 10 of 20 changes that Duke could undertake to become the perfect university. These 10 changes, however, were far from mere recommendations. They addressed deplorable failures and transgressions that constitute an enormous blight on our school-but through their correction Duke would ascend beyond every major university in our nation.

This column is of a different tenor. It addresses not University policy but University life. I would without a moment's hesitation sacrifice the implementation of this entire second part of my proposal for the adoption of even half of an item from Part I.

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Miller: Making Duke perfect: Part I

But Part II is still quite important. Indeed, some items, which I'm sure you'll recognize, are painfully essential.

So here it is, Part II of my plan for making Duke perfect:

  1. Begin a massive dorm upgrade and rebuilding project. With each passing year our dorms become more obsolete and, frankly, embarrassing. Linoleum floors, cramped hallways, industrial lighting, no AC, no ventilation, aging, maze-like and meager in every respect. If Benjamin Duke came back to life and made a quick comparison to some of America's other top universities, our patriarch would surely die again, of shame.

Princeton has dorms described as palatial. My friends at UCLA live in the lap of taxpayer-funded luxury with in-room bathrooms, elevators, wall-to-wall carpeting and Spanish terraces. We boast 30,000 fire doors and blinking exit signs. Where is our institutional pride?

I suppose the term "gothic wonderland" is very fitting. West Campus is gothic in the same way Disneyland's Main Street is New Orleans colonial. Except even more superficial. It's like the architect who designed our dorms was told to combine 13th century gothic with 20th century mental ward.

The sad truth is, the Duke Chapel is our only building on West Campus where the inside does justice to the outside. There's a reason there aren't any Craven tours on Blue Devil Days.

  1. Use the East Campus model on the new West. That is, our new dormitories should not be built like we're trying to hide a Minotaur (seriously, did the blueprints for the dorms on main West come from a six year old's maze book?), but as individualized buildings with their own commons areas and recreational facilities. This would also mean that fraternities and selective living groups can have their own houses.

  2. Give every dorm an extensive programming budget for residents. For fraternities this funding would be in addition to their existing budgets.

  3. Build a huge parking structure on main West. We shouldn't have to park in 40-acre stretches cut out of the forest. We shouldn't have to move our cars on weekends. We shouldn't have to roam the Blue Zone pleading with our maker not to be in the last lot. Thanks to the modern marvel of parking structures parking can actually be pleasant and convenient. Shocking, yet true.

  4. End Duke Parking and Transportation brutality. One time when I left my car in the Blue Zone during a football game, they towed it from IM lot three to lot seven for a $100 fee-on top of a $75 ticket. Another time I got ticketed on Central Campus having moved my car for a football game but not moving it back on Sunday because my tire-and my spare-were flat. My appeal was denied. Most recently I got a $200 ticket when I was unloading supplies at the Bryan Center circle. Next time, why doesn't Duke Parking just break my windshield and leave a note that says, "Screw you, your friends at Duke Parking."

  5. Rebuild the Bryan Center into a first-rate student union. It's honestly one of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen. Was there a huge sale on concrete the year they built it? It looks like a warehouse. It belongs at New York Harbor, not the center of one of America's most elite universities.

  6. Turn Keohane Quad into a resort-style outdoor swimming pool. Enough said.

  7. Put another 24-hour diner where Rick's used to be. Except this time, employ a little-known strategy for restaurant success-get good recipes and good cooks. I know, Duke administrators, it sounds crazy, but trust me.

  8. Add a restaurant with waiters to main West.

  9. Create a smoking lounge where all members of the Duke community can come to indulge in their favorite tobacco product. The room should have plenty of mahogany and leather, plasmas, darts, a grand piano and a professional full-service bar. This would be a great place to watch sports, recreate and relax, and would allow me and my fellow smokers to enjoy our tobacco in rain, wet, cold and snow, and thus spare us from unnecessary risks to our health.

Stephen Miller is a Trinity senior. His column runs every other Monday.


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