The independent news organization of Duke University

Not the only game in town

Since the Campus Culture Initiative Report was released several weeks ago, many have questioned the wisdom of its recommendation to stop assigning residential space to selective living groups.

These objections have expressed three essential themes: that several SLGs do promote the diversity that the Steering Committee noted is presently lacking; that community is fostered by selective living groups, not hindered-and any imaginable residential scenario would fail to promote community any better than the current one; and that the range of social options without these groups would be inadequate.

Following the first line of thinking, many point out that groups like Share and Roundtable are the very picture of diversity. While I'm sure this is the case, unfortunately I don't know anyone from those groups to be able to verify it. I think that points to a problem.

While the internal diversity of this type of group is great, it does little to achieve what I think the CCI committee is getting at: broad-based, inclusive communities that don't "select" their members.

To accomplish this, in my last column I suggested having the sophomore experience on West Campus mirror the communities initiated on East (linking them to quads), and delaying rush until fall or spring of that year. SLGs such as Share and Roundtable, like frats, should get housing, but it should be for juniors and seniors on the new Central Campus. Before isolating themselves among their selected friends, they can take part in a wider, albeit far less tightly knit, community.

This raises a second concern: that SLGs are far better at promoting a sense of community than any other conceivable arrangement. The living groups that are given space on West Campus, after all, help to form close associations among people who "saw value in" each other during the rush process (to borrow the words of Intrafraternity Council President David Melton, a junior).

Granted, SLGs promote valuable groups of friends. But because of their selectiveness, these hardly count as broad and diverse "communities" of people joined by circumstance. A community doesn't need to be a group of "brothers." Believe it or not, it can include people whom one wouldn't choose to live with otherwise-and that's the point. Some would even say that these types of interactions are a key part of being in college.

But whether an alternative to the current model would accomplish such community is another problem. The architecture of West is certainly different than that of East, and transporting the "houses" of freshman year to respective quads sophomore year may be easier said than done.

Though the labyrinthine structures could be an obstacle, a few renovations might help create sections that approximate the space needed to house a dorm.

Finally there is the matter of social options. In discussions, many defenders of the current model have suggested SLGs are an "only-game-in-town" option for West-that they are the only groups who can and will host parties.

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy and isn't very compelling.

Frats' section parties, while certainly providing an impressive showcase for the construction skills of Pike members, are usually either overcrowded or quite lame. There is nothing to say that residential sections couldn't host equally lame parties, too, if provided with some modest resources.

But the purpose of this discussion isn't to lament the lack of options-or to shrug and unimaginatively say that the status quo is the only game in town.

Administrators have expressed a commitment to creating new social spaces, which if they follow through, could help solve West's dearth of fun party options. Creative venues like the Nasher and Bostock and new ones that could result from renovations and construction might provide an answer.

In a town hall meeting about the CCI, one handsome devil even suggested that the Main Quad could be used to have parties on nice afternoons-think Springternational, but weekly.

Anyway, I think it should be clear that SLGs aren't the only groups that, if given the right spaces and resources, have the ability to host parties and events.

Plus, think of how cool it would be if there were some type of frat row on Central Campus in addition to whatever West holds in the way of social options.

Best of both worlds, anyone?

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


Share and discuss “Not the only game in town” on social media.