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‘Beer Trucks’ scratched from graduation week

For more than 20 years, “Beer Trucks” has been a fixture of Duke’s commencement week activities, but the Class of 2011 will have to make alternate plans for the night before graduation exercises.

Beer Trucks is a traditional event during the weekend of commencement, for which seniors congregate in the Blue Zone to drink free beer and socialize one last time before graduation. Kim Hanauer, director of young alumni and student programs for the Duke Alumni Association, wrote in an email that the DAA was forced to cancel the event this year due to additional budget constraints faced by the association. Beer Trucks, which cost approximately $65,000, was terminated by the DAA in consultation with all University departments involved with Commencement.

“While we understand that for many... Beer Trucks was certainly a lot of fun, it was an expensive event and one that we thought was not as pivotal to the success of our overall programs as say Homecoming, Reunions or career/networking programs for students,” Hanauer said.

Currently, there is no event planned for Saturday evening in place of Beer Trucks. Hanauer added that the DAA hopes other commencement week events, such as the Kick-Off Cocktail Party Wednesday and the Back to East event Thursday, will serve as supplementary opportunities for members of the Class of 2011 to come together before they don their caps and gowns Sunday, May 15.

But Alex Osmond, Trinity ’09, does not agree that the events are comparable. Osmond, who attended all three events two years ago, said the unique value of Beer Trucks is that it is scheduled for the night before graduation when the parents of all the graduates are in Durham and can meet and mingle with friends in a “very fluid space.”

“You come to Duke with your parents and with Beer Trucks you could leave with them... but also with the friends that you’ve picked up along the way,” he said.

Senior Scott Winkleman said once he started hearing rumors that the event would be canceled this year, he called DAA for some answers. Winklemen said he thinks that it was “pretty ridiculous” that the DAA choose to cancel Beer Trucks as it was a highly anticipated event among his peers and classmates.

“I’ve talked to a lot of seniors who agree that it would have been better if they cut everything else from the week and just kept Beer Trucks,” he said.

Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek, who prefers to refer to Beer Trucks as the “Big Tent Event,” said that on a positive note, graduates will now be able to spend more time with their families instead of rushing back to West Campus for Beer Trucks.

But Matthew Ogren, Trinity ’09, said Beer Trucks was special because of its ability to serve as a larger space for all graduates to meet before graduation.

“I think it is really unfortunate they decided to cancel it,” he said. “Otherwise, you just have individual parties... it was a great way to come together in the end.”

Winkleman said the cancellation of Beer Trucks is part of a larger trend of discontinuing events that are central to Duke student life.

“Of all the big special events at Duke like Tailgate, LDOC, personal checks and Beer Trucks, the administration has already canceled two of them,” he said. “These are the events that define Duke and canceling them marks big changes in the social scene and the aspects that make Duke different from other universities.”

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