Ubuntu faces Central’s ‘stigma’ in first recruitment

Interested students attend a rush event for Ubuntu, a new selective living group focused on civic engagement which will be running its first official recruitment this year.
Interested students attend a rush event for Ubuntu, a new selective living group focused on civic engagement which will be running its first official recruitment this year.

As selective living groups on campus gear up for the routine of recruitment, one group will be experiencing rush for the first time.

Ubuntu, a selective living group based on civic engagement, is holding its first official recruitment on Central Campus this semester. The SLG was organized by a group of juniors when they were freshmen and approved last academic year.

“We’re very excited to be official at Duke this year, and rush has been a continuation of that,” said Ubuntu President Ryan Echternacht, a junior. “It’s been a tumultuous process, but we’ve enjoyed it.”

Ubuntu began with 16 sophomores last year, and had a small recruitment process during which it added four freshmen to its roster. Echternacht said the freshmen were recruited through prior connections.

That challenge of being a new SLG has continued into this year, as Ubuntu faces the difficulty of not having the “feel and branding” of other long-existent living groups on campus, Echternacht said.

“Other groups have been established for so long they know what to do for rush... they have traditional events, and I’m just making it up as I go,” said junior Elizabeth KonKolics, an Ubuntu rush chair.

So far, the group has had an open house, a themed party on foreign cultures and a milk-and-cookies event.

Echternacht said the group is trying to add more of Ubuntu’s unique flavor into rush events—one will incorporate students from the Durham Nativity School, whom Ubuntu members mentor regularly as part of their commitment to civic engagement.

The focus on service has been an attractive factor for some freshmen rushing Ubuntu.

“Most other service groups remind me more of high school groups where there’s a required amount of service hours, [but] for Ubuntu it seems most of the members are involved because they want to be,” freshman David Watson said.

Freshman Don Tucker, who heard about Ubuntu through a friend, said he enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of Ubuntu’s recruitment events.

“It’s more easygoing and not quite as intense, which appealed to me,” he said.

Although the number of interested freshmen has not been as high as expected, Ubuntu members said they are satisfied with the turnout.

“Central has a stigma attached to it, and I think that’s universally accepted,” Echternacht said. “We still see [the stigma] in rush, but we’re doing everything we can to combat that.”

The existence of Ubuntu and future groups, along with the imminent opening of a restaurant and Mill Village on Central, will be essential to fostering a more fulfilling residential experience there, said Steve Nowicki, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.

“We’ve been pushing pretty hard within the envelope... to make Central Campus a more integrated part of the Duke campus,” Nowicki said. “It’s a holding position until we get to New Campus.”

Nowicki added that he hopes to meet the varying needs of different groups—such as Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi fraternity and Panhellenic Association groups—as they move to Central.

Most recently, Nowicki has arranged for an East-Central “ubu-bus” to run between East Campus and Central during the recruitment period. Despite the bus’s name, it is not limited to those attending Ubuntu events and can be used by all students, Nowicki said. He added that the bus can also be used by students attending rush events at SHARE, and it is a part of a larger plan to rethink the bus system in order to make Central more accessible.

KonKolics said the “ubu-bus” has been a huge help in the recruitment process, and has allowed freshmen to see that Central is good place to live.

“I think people are realizing [Central is] not what they think,” she said. “That it’s a really great spot, we love it. I don’t think we would move to West [Campus] if we were offered a spot.”


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