The independent news organization of Duke University

What to watch for

Take a look below at Towerview's annual guide to the storylines, people and ideas to watch out for in the coming school year.

1. Construction junction

West Campus has long been known for its stunning Gothic architecture. Right now, however, yellow tape and scaffolding are taking center stage. Nearly every one of the major buildings at the center of West Campus—West Union, the Duke Chapel, Page Auditorium, the Bryan Center, Perkins Library—is in the midst of extensive renovations. Duke’s iconic athletic facilities are getting a makeover as well, with both Cameron Indoor and Wallace Wade under construction. As the various projects wrap up this school year and next, Duke will debut a set of new spaces that balance the integrity of the classic Gothic designs with more modern features. But while the payoff for future students will be significant, many current students feel that they’ve gotten the short end of the stick—with a number of convenient campus footpaths closed, limited access to key facilities, and hours of noisy work each day (and, of course, unavoidable scaffolding in any Instagram shot of the Chapel). “The construction is a sore spot,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for government relations and public affairs. “But the fact is that we are really renewing all the campus facilities and adding and accruing spaces that will be just remarkable.”

One of the most significant projects is that of West Union—a complete overhaul of the student center set to cost more than $90 million. Formerly home to the Great Hall and various student and administrative offices, the new West Union will offer significantly expanded dining options and communal spaces for study and relaxation alike. “West Union was a disaster,” said Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education. “Really beautiful on the outside, dysfunctional on the inside. And it’s right there in the center of campus…. When people walk on main West Campus, they’ve always walked around and said, ‘My god, what a beautiful place.’ And then they’d walk into West Union...and they’d say nothing.”

2. Football school?

Prior to head coach David Cutcliffie’s hiring, Duke football was among the worst in the nation. Of course, all that has changed in the past seven years, as the football program was raised from the ashes, competing in its first bowl in more than a decade in 2012 and winning the ACC Coastal Division in 2013.

But going into the fourth year of what can be deemed a successful streak, Cutcliffe and Duke will now have to get to a bowl without some of the players who had been the backbone of past teams. Jamison Crowder, Laken Tomlinson and Anthony Boone have all departed for the NFL, leaving a roster full of fresh, talented faces to take their spots. Although the offense’s personnel will look drastically different, offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery’s scheme will be mostly the same with Thomas Sirk under center. The defense will return key starters like Kelby Brown, Jeremy Cash and DeVon Edwards and should—like last year’s squad was—be one of the nation’s stingier units.

As much as the conversation before the season will focus on how the new players will perform, the squad will still be gunning for its first bowl victory since 1960, as the Blue Devils have ended three straight seasons with heartbreaking bowl losses. The sting of the losses has stuck with the programs and—assuming nothing goes too off-track—Duke should find itself in a position to finally nab that elusive bowl victory this season. With an updated Wallace Wade Stadium to boot, the Blue Devils will make some good entertainment on the gridiron come August.

3. A facelift for Wallace Wade

Wallace Wade Stadium is currently undergoing construction—like most of Duke’s campus—and there are a few notable changes you should be on the lookout for when you head out to watch this new-era Duke squad in the fall. The first, and most obvious, will be that the Finch-Yeager Building, which also served as the Duke Sports Medicine headquarters and press box, is gone. Beck, the construction company Duke hired for the job, tore it down after the season ended and will have a brand new, state-of-the-art building up in its place by the time the 2016 season kicks off.

Next up on the list of things that are no more—the track. Bulldozers were on the field directly after Duke’s 41-21 win against Wake Forest to get rid of it. The point of this was to lower the field and add in more seats—which has been done. As of this season, if you’re hoping for a closer experience, you can have it. And for those of you who used the Wallace Wade track for a early morning run, worry not—Duke opened up a new track next to Koskinen Stadium.

Finally, it would not be a stadium facelift without a brand new video board. The new screen will be 42 feet high by 75.6 feet wide—more than double the size of the old screen—and will broadcast all those instant highlights and hype videos in 1080p.

4. Curriculum 2000 gets ready for 2015

When the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences developed its current undergraduate curriculum in the late 1990s, named Curriculum 2000, it tried to look at what education would be in the 21st Century. But 15 years later, higher education has seen significant change, and the school is entering the second year of what it calls “the big tweak”—updating the curriculum to accommodate more modern forms of learning. Duke has dedicated significant resources in recent years to service learning, initiatives such as DukeEngage and interdisciplinary programs including Bass Connections and the annual Winter Forum—so what might it look like if those were to have a formal place in Duke’s curriculum? Trinity is looking to answer that question. Also on the table is online education—faculty rejected a proposal to accept online courses for credit two years ago, but Trinity has been trying out online classes during Summer sessions in the time since. Last year was an exploratory phase of the curriculum redesign, with a committee gathering student and faculty opinions along with researching other universities. The upcoming year will focus on drafting proposals for the new curriculum, and the faculty will vote on a final version at some point in the 2016-17 academic year.

5. Sexual assault policy

Sexual assault on college campuses was in the spotlight seemingly more than ever this year, with dozens of schools under federal investigation for Title IX violations and high-profile episodes such as the “Carry that Weight” campaign at Columbia and the erroneous Rolling Stone article on rape at the University of Virginia. The topic continued to draw discussion on Duke’s campus as well. Several notable cases put the University’s sexual assault policy garnered attention this year—notably a Durham Police Department investigation of an alleged sexual assault at an Alpha Delta Phi fraternity party. Duke suspended the fraternity this Spring as the case continues. Also catching eyes was the case of Lewis McLeod, a student who entered Duke with the Class of 2014 but was determined guilty of sexual misconduct and expelled a few weeks before his graduation date. McLeod is now suing the University for his diploma, claiming that the student conduct process for sexual assault is unfair. His case is set to go to court early in 2016.

The University’s policies have evolved over the past several years—notably with the elimination of the statute of limitations in 2012, allowing students to report a sexual assault at any time in their Duke career rather than limiting them to a year after the event, and with the establishment of expulsion as the recommended sanction for sexual misconduct in 2013. In 2014, the University debuted a website explaining its policies and offering sample stories to illustrate consent. Students continue to advocate for changes to ensure the fairness of the process both for those reporting a sexual assault and those accused.

6. Race at Duke

When Duke awoke on the morning of April 1 to the news that a noose had been hung on the Bryan Center Plaza the night before, the reaction was instant—students from all corners of campus expressing sadness, anger, fear, frustration. By noon, the Black Student Alliance was leading a demonstration where the noose had been found on the Plaza, by 5 p.m., President Richard Brodhead and Provost Sally Kornbluth were addressing more than 1,000 people gathered at the steps of the Chapel. The noose came on the heels of a campus incident in which several male students allegedly chanted the racist rhyme popularized by the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter at a black female student. The result was significant campus discussion on race relations and diversity at Duke. The conversation particularly gained traction on social media, with a coalition of students posting statements on Tumblr as the People of Color Caucus. The anonymous app YikYak showed an uglier side of the discussion, with explicitly racially charged statements at times. Though the dialogue slowed as the semester came to a close, it will not disappear in the Fall—with administrators looking at several proposals from students of color on ways to make the University more inclusive.

“There’s another round of campus discussion and campus action to be had following the racial incidents of the Spring,” said Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost of undergraduate education. “We’re not done with that…. Students all got caught up with finishing the semester and the national championship came along, and the last thing you want is to have people sort of forget. Because everyone should not forget.”

7. Ninth Street grows up

The Ninth Street district has traditionally been Durham’s closest analogue to a college town, a stretch of independent stores and restaurants a stone’s throw from Duke’s East Campus. But the street has experienced many changes over the past several years, and more are to come.

There have been several additions to the area over the year, with the recent relocation to the northern end of the street of Monuts Donuts from downtown, the opening of new restaurants like Juju Asian Tapas + Bar and Heavenly Buffaloes, as well as the completion of the Berkshire Ninth Street apartments adjacent to Harris Teeter. Two especially recent additions to the area’s offerings are Burger Bach – a “New Zealand inspired gastro pub” serving burgers made from grass-fed beef and lamb – and Ninth Street Coffeehouse and Juice Bar. The Erwin Square shopping center will soon play host to a Venezuelan restaurant called Guasaca, marking a second location for the Raleigh-based restaurant.

Another new opening slated for completion in a few months is the Solis Ninth Street property next to Elmo’s diner. It will feature 229 apartments, a parking garage and retail space for new vendors.

All this development has not been without controversy. Rent increases associated with new buildings have caused similar rises in older buildings, posing challenges for the community and forced the closure of Charlie’s Pub in March.

Particularly irksome to business owners has been the addition of parking fees at the lot in front of the Erwin Mill apartments. The $1 per hour fee was instituted by the city to pay the rent on the property.

Though many aspects of Ninth Street are changing, core tenants such as Elmo’s Diner, Vaguely Reminiscent and The Regulator Bookshop continue to remain the same, helping to maintain the eclectically beautiful place that Ninth Street is for years to come.

8. A campus abroad

As Duke welcomed students to the first day of class in Durham last August, a milestone was occurring half a world away—students were attending the first-ever classes at Duke Kunshan University, the first and only overseas Duke branch campus. After years of planning, construction delays and faculty debates, DKU opened at last in Fall 2014 in China’s Jiangsu province. Offering three master’s degrees and an undergraduate semester-long program, the university received some criticism from students for its campus—with construction ongoing for much of the first semester, forcing students and faculty to live and attend classes in a nearby hotel. On the whole, however, DKU’s first year passed without major incident. As the school enters its second year, it will continue to try to attract both Chinese and international students, with a campus and curriculum that appropriately meets the needs of both. But with just one year of operations under the school’s belt, it finds itself under new leadership—after the departure of Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Brown Bullock and Nora Bynum, vice provost for DKU and China initiatives.

And administrators have begun to look to the next step for the school: developing a four-year undergraduate degree program.

9. A new leader for Duke Med

For many students, Duke Hospital seems a distant component of Duke. But Duke University Health System is far more than Duke Hospital, and it’s a crucial part of the University—responsible for more than half of Duke’s revenue, tens and thousands of employees, three hospitals and what is widely considered the best healthcare in the state of North Carolina. For a decade, DUHS was led by Dr. Victor Dzau, who served as CEO and president of DUHS and chancellor for health affairs from until departing last year. But now, DUHS has a new face—Dr. Gene Washington, who came to Duke from the University of California at Los Angeles to assume the position this April. Washington steps into the leadership at a crucial time for DUHS, as the impact of the Affordable Healthcare Act continues to be felt and federal research funding becomes harder to procure. "He's going to be a key determinant in how Duke navigates that changing healthcare landscape," Provost Sally Kornbluth told The Chronicle when Washington was hired. "These are problems not just at Duke but on a national landscape in academic medicine."

Washington—the first black individual to hold the position—was selected after a nine-month search that examined hundreds of candidates, looking for someone able to meet DUHS’ needs in terms of not only medicine, but academics and research, as well. All eyes will be on him as he guides the system through a changing environment for medicine.

10. Cuisine on the go

A few years ago, dinner on campus typically meant grabbing a meal from the Great Hall or the Bryan Center. Now, however, students are just as likely to choose a more modern option—a food truck. Duke Dining has increased the number of trucks on campus in recent years, with options ranging from Mexican food to specialty dumplings. With a truck or two parked alongside the main west quad near the bus stop every weekday night, it’s easy to tell which ones are Duke favorites—the Wednesday night crowd for Parlez-Vous Crepe is infamous, with scores of students lining up for the Nutella confections. Sampling different trucks for possible invitations to the campus schedule was a staple of the Duke University Dining Advisory Committee’s workload last year, and it’s possible that more trucks will be added to the lineup this year.

And Duke is not alone in its love of the food truck—the mobile food scene in Durham is ever-growing. Though the trucks can be found all over town (though it can take a bit of searching or Twitter sleuthing), the best chance to catch them comes in the form of the Central Park Food Truck Rodeo, held five times each year with dozens of local trucks, everything from the delicious grilled cheese sandwiches of American Meltdown to the specialty pizzas at Pie Pushers.


Share and discuss “What to watch for” on social media.