Neon leggings, over-sized hoop earrings, side ponytail—the makings of a 1980s-themed fraternity party.

When I spoke to Duke seniors, this is the September 2011 party they reference most often. Students gathered in Craven quadrangle, holding red cups and trying to talk over the loud 80s music while moving in and out of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity section.

Duke students have become less exposed to open parties on West campus since Fall 2011. Part of this change comes from having fewer fraternities on West Campus—but the driving force behind the cultural shift is restrictive University Center Activities and Events policies that have made fraternities and selective living groups reluctant to host events.

“Remember O-week of our freshman year?" senior E.J. Baldridge, president of Duke's Interfraternity Council, posed. "Freshmen would get off the bus on West Campus and just follow the music..."

When Duke instituted the new housing model in 2012, five IFC fraternities and all nine Panhellenic sororities were moved off West and onto Central Campus. This presented a monumental shift in the University's housing demographics—West Campus used to be seemingly dominated by Greek life, but today 53.8 percent of Central Campus houses are Greek houses, compared to just 18.9 percent of West Campus houses. The physical shift clamped down on the sheer number of parties that could exist on Duke's main campus.

But various party restrictions and space regulations have also changed the tone of Duke's social scene over time as well, Baldridge said. And the result is that section parties on West Campus have become virtually nonexistent, with the majority of weekend excursions requiring a bus to East and then walking or riding a cab to an off-campus house.

He specifically referred to the UCAE rule that fraternities give a week's notice before hosting an event, which has eliminated the ability to throw together a casual party in just a couple of days. Needing to declare what dormitory rooms will be part of the event and having a set guest list to ensure there are enough party monitors also detracts from the ability to host casual parties on West.

Additionally, registering a party through DukeGroups obligates a residence coordinator to drop by the event, making fraternities reluctant to host parties that could get them into trouble, Baldridge said.

"As far as open parties go, I’d have to say that there are about the same amount as before, but only if you know people," he wrote in an email following the interview. "People won’t wander around Trinity Heights like they would West Campus, looking for a party—they need to know which house to go to. So it can be really restricted."

Senior Zeena Bhakta, president of Maxwell House, echoed a similar sentiment, stating that there is still a thriving social scene on West Campus, but it is necessary to know someone to gain entry.

"We don't have as many open or larger events because of housing restrictions," she said. "We feel limited by some of the guidelines and are then more hesitant to throw larger events. The various UCAE restrictions have changed the type of events we can host and how we go about planning them."

"I remember everyone in a West Campus dorm crowded together. It was sweaty and disgusting. You couldn’t get out if you needed to, and you couldn’t get in if you wanted to."—Esha Solanki

So what sparked this shift in campus culture and moved the night scene from campus to the surrounding streets of Durham? Many students may attribute this change to an administrative decision, but there are several factors responsible for the shift.

“There has not been a concerted effort to shift parties off campus,” said Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek. “It is important for students to have a full range of social experiences, on campus as well as off campus.”

According to Wasiolek, this transition has been a long time coming and can be traced to the 1980s when the drinking age was raised. In the state of North Carolina, the drinking age for beer and wine was raised to age 19 and remained 21 for liquor in 1983. It changed again in 1986, when the age increased to 21 for consumption of all forms of alcohol.

“This change in the drinking age may have prompted students to rethink their drinking choices,” said Wasiolek, who also serves as assistant vice president for student affairs.

A second contributing factor to this gradual transition is the strict enforcement of fire codes.

“The fire marshal inspected campus buildings, including the Chapel, Cameron Indoor Stadium and residence halls. Consequently, common spaces were more regulated to respect the fire code, which had an impact on social life,” said Wasiolek.

But quad parties existed in 2011 when the members of the current senior class were freshmen, so it seems that only recently have these policies for campus living spaces been enforced more stringently.

“I think part of it was everyone decided it was easier to go off campus, given the various UCAE requirements,” Baldridge said. “On campus, there are restrictions enforced by resident assistants and graduate residents, so I think students feel that it’s more private to go off campus. Also, fraternity parties are often spur of the minute.”

Bhakta also noted that cutting down on West Campus parties has increased off-campus social life because students do not have to worry about UCAE restrictions.

"Freshmen would get off the bus on West Campus and just follow the music..."—E.J. Baldrige

Senior John Hosey, a member of Round Table and a resident assistant in Craven dormitory, said he often sees on campus fraternity sections empty on weekends.

"They likely choose to spend weekends at off campus houses to avoid HDRL staff and to avoid violating campus policy in regard to drinking. Round Table and other selective living groups often have no off campus houses, so I would say that those sections are still thriving on campus," Hosey said.

Those who have attended on-campus quad parties of days past probably remember having to maneuver through a maze of cramped dorm rooms and packed hallways.

“I remember everyone in a West Campus dorm crowded together. It was sweaty and disgusting. You couldn’t get out if you needed to, and you couldn’t get in if you wanted to,” said senior Esha Solanki, recalling a party she attended on West Campus her freshman year.

But on-campus parties came with their own perks as well. One of which was that students "always knew when they were going on," said senior Asa Jordan.

Because the party scene has become increasingly removed from campus, it seems likely that soon the idea of a large party right outside one’s dorm window will become a foreign concept.

“It’s a whole culture thing,” said Baldridge. “Just as the student body got used to not having Tailgate, we’re getting used to not having parties on West. And once people get used to something, it’s hard to change it.”

Though as Baldridge reflected, there are pros and cons to this change in the location of student parties.

“With off campus parties, you can have all the things you can’t have on campus, and many houses are close to East Campus, making parties accessible to freshmen,” said Baldridge. “There just aren’t enough places on campus that are big enough for parties.”

Of course, the primary concern when it comes to moving parties off campus is safety.

“I feel it was safer on West. Though I don’t think people drink any more or less. It’s just safer when there are people around who know you,” Baldridge said. “Especially during Orientation Week, students don’t know their limits, so they go too far. On West, there are [resident assistants] and other people who have been trained to help those students. When parties are off campus, people will still try to help them, but they don’t necessarily have that same training.”

Senior Andrea Mendoza agrees that campus parties were safer than those hosted off campus.

“If parties aren’t on campus, it’s much harder for Duke to be aware of issues, especially those related to alcohol and student health,” Mendoza said.

Groups of freshmen venturing off East or students of any age wandering through Durham from party to party can put Duke students’ safety at a much higher risk than while on campus.

“Off campus, there’s a crime rate to think of,” Baldridge added.

There was an 18.23 percent spike in Durham violent crime in the first 10 months of 2014, according to a Durham Police Department report. The spike was partially attributed to a cycle of gang violence.

Although the University has taken steps to increase campus security—especially along the outskirts of campus—in the past few years, some students worry that these heightened measures aren’t enough.

Senior Ro Yadama recalled encountering several freshman females--who were unaware of the surrounding danger--during Orientation Week this year.

"They were about to leave West to walk to Partners apartments. They had no idea how dangerous that decision was. Anything could have happened," he said.

Students also face the threat of legal danger when they decide to venture off campus to participate in parties.

“Neighbors off campus are getting tired of it. They used to call the fraternity to complain, but now, the first thing they do is call the police,” said Baldridge.

"We feel limited by some of the guidelines and are then more hesitant to throw larger events. The various UCAE restrictions have changed the type of events we can host and how we go about planning them."—Zeena Bakhta

In regard to a fraternity party that was shut down by Durham police during orientation week of 2012, Baldridge thinks that that is when students “realized there are real consequences.”

“Off campus is the real world. Duke will take care of its students, but Durham police will not do that,” he added.

Nevertheless, administrators can only do so much to ensure the safety of students.

“Safety is always in the forefront of our minds when it comes to policy issues,” Wasiolek said. “Students have become better partners when pursuing social life off campus. My hope is that students venture off campus together and stay in a group.”

And as Wasiolek pointed out, alcohol consumption is risky regardless of where it is consumed.

“Things can happen on campus as well as off when students let down their guard. I hope they remain alert and aware of their surroundings at all times,” she added.

Even if Duke students are attentive to their own personal safety as well as that of their friends, off campus parties still hold to threaten something perhaps just as vital to students—their social lives.

“When everyone was on West, it was easy to meet people. I would hear the music and know where the party was, but you wouldn’t just walk up to a fraternity house off campus without being invited or hearing about it first,” Baldridge said. “So in that way it was possibly more inclusive then.”

Space restrictions on West Campus, however, and a maze of cookie-cutter dorm rooms can create unintentional exclusivity.

“On the other hand, with off campus parties, spaces are bigger, so parties can be larger and more inclusive,” Baldridge continued.

So though it still may not be uncommon to see Duke students dressed in ornate costumes en route to a party, it is uncommon to see that party’s destination on West. Students now seek social outlets at off-campus houses, but for the majority of Duke’s current students, that is all they know.

Crowds of students piled into dormitory common rooms and hallways, spilling out onto quads and mingling with fellow party-goers on large wooden benches painted with fraternity insignia may now be an element of Duke’s past. It would seem that treks off campus to socialize within the locked doors and beer-stained walls of fraternity houses are the way of the future.