Sometimes, looking backward is the best way forward.
A new living model for independent housing students with roots in past arrangements has recently been introduced by Steve Nowicki, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.
Now part of Kilgo Quadrangle, House P was a student living unit for independent housing students, or those not electing to live in a fraternity section or in a selective living group. House P therefore comprised sorority members and non-affiliated students.
Nowicki said he hopes to revive the House P model for his reconceptualization of Duke's current living system.
"House P is an example of what I heard really worked for students sometime in the past, illustrating there really is a value to students who are not in social selective groups to be nonetheless part of a unit that has the slightest of identity," he said.
Nowicki added that his motivation comes from a serious concern for the well-being of housing independents.
"I'm doing this not because I want to change the social selective scene, but because I really am sensitive to the situation of the independents on campus, who sometimes end up in a good situation but sometimes don't," he said. "I'd like to give housing independents a space where they have access to housing with like-minded people, and they have predictability. If they like that spot, they can stay there."
House P, as a living unit, ended in 2005 with the introduction of the quad system-the current living model-a few years earlier. The quad model replaced a more localized living arrangement called the house model and also required all sophomores to live on West.
Before then, the first choice location for independents was House P, Ginny Stone, Trinity '03 and a former House P resident, wrote in an e-mail.
Several alumni said the group was not particularly cohesive, but it allowed independent students the option to live in the same location for consecutive years.
"It was just a normal dorm, though highly valued because of its prime location on campus," Stone said. "We had some dorm activities, like building our bench, or an ice cream party. But we weren't a social group."
Allowing independent housing students to find a home to live in for more than just one year is an appealing aspect of the House P model, Nowicki said. This housing model offers students "predictability" so they do not have to worry about where they can live in following years, he added.
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Junior Jessica Shuen, a resident assistant living in House P of Kilgo Quad, said independents should be able to have localized living spaces just like the designated areas selective living groups and fraternities receive.
Nowicki said the new model would keep the University from treating housing independents like "hermits."
"Just because someone doesn't want to live in a social selective group doesn't mean they are a hermit who just wants to crawl into their little dorm, close the door and keep the lights dim all the time," he said. "It often means that they want to live in a diverse community of a bunch of other college students."
Shuen said many of her friends either get stuck living on Central Campus when they would prefer West Campus, or living on West in an isolated location.
"I think a lot of juniors feel like they have to get random singles if they want to live on West," Shuen said. "They don't have a community like the sophomores."
The new living model for independents based on House P is just one part of Nowicki's revamping of Duke's landscape-a model he is tentatively calling the "Duke house system". He said the new system would divide both West Campus and New Campus into units that 40 to 80 students could call home.
The new housing model would be based on a three-class system in which sophomores, juniors and seniors would all live together in the same house.
Although Nowicki said he is not sure when changes to the living model would go into effect, he said the University can start grouping housing independents now, without a formal housing policy change.