The independent news organization of Duke University

We're all freshmen

Welcome to Duke, Class of 2016! Freshmen are arriving at this university during a very special time, and we do not mean that in a trite way. Duke is undergoing a massive amount of change this year, more change than it has experienced in recent memory. The Editorial Board will often use this space to discuss and critique the upcoming changes. However, before we get started, we want to quickly comment on some of the major issues at stake that will undoubtedly impact your Duke experience in the years to come.

Right now, Duke is gearing up for West Union renovations, meaning the complex will be closed next year for major renovations. This is great news. Duke has always lacked a first-rate dining culture, but these renovations should change that, hopefully creating an inclusive social hub in the heart of West Campus. Upperclassmen are just jealous that we won’t be able to see it. In the meantime, pay attention to where the various centers are moving; these organizations provide invaluable services and deserve to be put in fair and adequate temporary locations.

Duke is also in the midst of establishing Duke Kunshan University in southern China. DKU is a bold new venture that falls in line with Duke’s penchant for international expansion and cultural exchange. However, there are drawbacks: lack of faculty buy-in, persistent delays, concerns about costs, and dubious academic freedom. DKU, which has been merely in the planning stages for years, will start operating during your Duke career. It remains to be seen whether Duke’s gamble will pay off. Questions will only multiply, so demand answers over these next few critical years.

Your class is also arriving during the inaugural year of Duke’s new house model. Before you arrived, Duke’s residential system had long been the source of angry debates about equity and fairness. The administration finally implemented their solution to the problem that entailed, among other things, creating new unaffiliated houses and moving most greek life—including new sorority housing—to Central Campus. Will these new houses be true social communities? How will selective living groups and greek organizations fit into this new landscape? Your class will have a big part in determining what shape the house model actually takes. Own this new system—you will be the ones living in it.

Finally, first-years, you are entering the long embittered world of Duke culture wars. Duke has had its fair share of scandals, causing campus culture to continuously be a hotly contested issue at Duke. However, in recent years, socially conscious activism advocating race, class and gender equity has made dramatic gains on campus, ranging from the nationally prominent “Who Needs Feminism?” campaign to the student uproar over North Carolina’s Amendment One. These causes did not emerge effortlessly. They are the product of sustained student passion and activism, which we know you will continue.

The Duke that you will attend over the next four years will be, in many ways, different from the school current seniors encountered their freshman year. How exactly it is different will depend on your class vision and initiative. It’s a crazy time to be a Blue Devil. You are going to love it.


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