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Letter to the editor

Every day as I pass the new Student Health Center, I stare at the beautiful Steinway and Sons grand piano in the atrium that costs at least $60,000. I see posters for making your own personal Aromatherapy. I walk through the stunning, yet over-the-top, West Union dining hall.

And I just can’t help but feel like this is utterly absurd. 

There is so much about Duke that is extra. And it’s both an economical and ethical problem.

Duke’s tuition continues to rise (4.3 percent in 2017). By the end of your four years here you, your family, financial aid or student loans will have paid over $274,000. It begs the question, are all of these amenities worth the cost? 

Duke is only part of the problem. They are governed by a college industrial complex that forces universities to prioritize extravagant resources over excellent academics.

But for a minute, imagine Duke stripped of all the excess. Imagine if, god forbid, you couldn’t get a crêpe, or play the Steinway piano in the Health Center.

Imagine if stripping away some of the excess meant a lower tuition cost and more students could come to Duke? Would you still choose the crêpe or the absurdly expensive piano?

I know it’s not that simple and that it’s a slippery slope. I know a grand piano is a drop in the bucket for Duke. But we need to reconsider what we value. By making extravagant amenities a priority, Duke is cultivating an environment where what Duke has is more important than what Duke does. The mounting demands on theFix My Campus facebook page are a testament to how Duke’s priorities shape its students.

If Duke made civic engagement, honoring its professors and workers, or pursuing knowledge its priority, I would be curious to see what students would post on the Fix My Campus page, or more importantly what they wouldn’t.

Laura Baker is a Trinity junior.


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