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What a social scene looks like

Last year, the so-called "Group of 88" famously asked what a social disaster looks like. They probably meant this rhetorically. But in my estimation, it would look exactly like the arbitrary, fun-killing decision by Executive Vice President Tallman Trask and Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta to veto the proposed 10-foot bar in Tommy's. Rubs, Grubs and Suds.

Moneta, in terse and eventually dismissive e-mails, recently told DSG President Elliott Wolf (a hookah-smoking man of the people if ever there was one) that he had qualms with the idea of placing a bar "amidst undergraduate housing."

To my knowledge, Moneta didn't express any discontent about the occurrence of Natty Light-distributing frat parties, which unmistakably occur amongst undergraduate housing. Although maybe those are next on the chopping block (I know I'd be heartbroken)...

But in large part, Moneta's argument about Tommy's proximity to underage students eats its own tail. If the campus social scene weren't so mind-numingly, excruciatingly boring-if there were good bars and late-night food options-seniors would be more likely to spend time on campus, perhaps even choosing to live there.

Instead, there is an almost complete dearth of these types of outlets, one that undermines what I, and I'd venture many others, consider crucial elements of the undergraduate experience.

The Tommy's concept wasn't just about adding another mediocre dining establishment, or replacing a "diner" that was actually pretty terrible in the first place. It represented the potential reinvigoration of a social atmosphere that is disastrously bad.

There are so few opportunities to enjoy alcohol in a responsible, fun context on campus that when one occurs it's like a glimpse of another world. Nasher parties-whether they share last spring's middle school dance atmosphere, or are of the more refined "Noir" persuasion-remind us that there can be ways to socialize on campus that don't involve sweating on each other in frat sections.

Unfortunately, the Nasher is not a long-term solution. The Chronicle recently reported that "Noir" cost $14,000 (which sure sounded like a typo, but I'll take their word for it). No, we won't be partying there every weekend.

Duke is missing a cohesive on-campus social scene that I never imagined any college could lack so totally. There is no frat row (and section parties are almost always dreadful), no bars within walking distance other than the 'Dillo, and with Rick's gone, no late-night rendezvous point from which to peel off and hook up.

The Tommy's oasis, which has disappeared like so much sand between our fingertips, promised to quench those thirsty for a centrally located place to gather, eat and drink. "Not Quite Tommy's" doesn't fit the bill.

Ideally, it could have provided some kind of social alternative before the pipedream of the "New Central" is realized. And in light of recent zoning questions about the revitalized campus, I am skeptical that Central will actually incorporate a robust set of dining and drinking options.

Meanwhile, aside from providing students with easily accessible bars (eliminating drunk driving and creating fun), Duke Dining Services should provide high quality food at a financial loss to the University.

There is nothing that influences campus life as significantly as food. The new Marketplace is great-I eat lunch there a lot and have had very few complaints about the quality. But in general, students are at the mercy of establishments that have little to worry about in terms of competition. Food should be one way in which Duke does not bleed us dry (even if it's the only way).

There should be a healthy 24-hour option. Food should always be fresh, made to order and served in generous portions. Servers should be courteous and well paid. If these minimum requirements cannot be met profitably, suck up the difference and hold off on the next building project.

We need more than we're getting from this university-both in social outlets and food options. Tommy's would have improved the situation, but its most attractive element was shot down for (to borrow Elliott's phrasing) "irrational" reasons. Trask and Moneta need to do some soul searching and come up with ways to improve the on-campus social scene immediately-or reconsider their arbitrary decision.

We're listening.

David Kleban is a Trinity senior. His column appears every other Tuesday.


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