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Quenching student opinion

Quenchers, the locally owned and managed post-workout eatery in Wilson, has always occupied a special position within the hearts of many health-savvy Duke students. It should come as no surprise that many Duke students became outraged when it was announced, through a post on Fix My Campus, that Quenchers would be replaced by Red Mango at the end of this semester. Armed with petition signatures and angry Facebook posts, the Duke community set out to challenge the decision of Duke Dining and Duke Recreation to replace the establishment. Although the internal politics of Quenchers’ replacement, as many on Fix My Campus have noted, is much more nuanced than the typical narrative of Duke pushing out local business, the decision still underscores the many problems associated with administrative decisions related to dining on this campus. 

For most students, the decision by Duke Dining and Duke Recreation to close Quenchers only became known through the campus grapevine, particularly through social media. The student who started the petition to save Quenchers, as The Chronicle reported, found out about the decision directly from its staff rather than from any official venues of information. At a university where important decisions that impact everyday experiences on campus—from tuition increases to construction overhauls—are seemingly made behind closed doors, the decision to close Quenchers likewise has struck a similar vein within the collective anger of the Duke community. Although a decision to close down a dining establishment on campus may seem insignificant compared to more important decisions, such as a more general overhaul of student dining, administrators involved in the process still have a duty to hear out student opinions and make decisions in a transparent manner. 

In many ways, the collective anger surrounding the replacement of Quenchers also echoes a similar instance two years ago, when it was announced by Duke dining that Grace’s Cafe would be closed at the end of the 2015-2016 year. Grace’s, like Quenchers, was a locally-owned (each sharing the same owner) student favorite, and specialized in authentic Asian cuisine that especially catered to Duke’s large East Asian population. In both instances, Duke Dining legitimized its controversial decision by claiming a desire to enhance the overall student dining experience: in the case with Grace’s, replacing it with a white-washed Asian eatery in West Union, and in the case of Quenchers, with a corporatized frozen yogurt dispensary. Even when students collectively protested against Duke Dining’s decision on both occasions, the emphasis on “revamping” and “modernizing” dining on campus continued to be favored at the expense of student opinion. 

It is unfortunate to see yet once again, another student favorite be replaced in the name of supposed improvement and progress for campus life. Despite active dissenting opinions against Quenchers’ closure, it appears that as of next year, Duke students will have to content themselves with Red Mango and its homogeneous, franchised dairy offerings. In the future, administrators and higher-ups in charge of making such important dining decisions—no matter how seemingly insignificant they may seem on paper—would do well in listening to the opinion of the greater student body. In doing so, they will perhaps be better able to quench student opinion beyond our desire for post-workout protein shakes. 


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