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Megadorm or Alspaugh? 300 Swift or Craven? How different dorms stack up in their residents' eyes

An arcade and a movie theater in Trinity House. Free laundry and a pool at 300 Swift. Massage chairs in Wannamaker. All over Duke, new amenities are popping up. 

Joe Gonzalez, interim assistant vice president of student affairs and dean for residential life, said that Duke has started to add unique elements into dorm renovations and new dorms, starting with the renovations of Edens Quad three summers ago. Duke then used the same principle in the renovation of Wannamaker and the construction of Trinity House.

“We asked, ‘What can we put in this building that’s a little bit unique?’” Gonzalez said.

He noted that students generally get a similar experience in residential life, as most students live in double rooms and use community bathrooms. However, the 300 Swift apartment complex is an anomaly because Duke leased the building and did not build it themselves.

“I love Swift. I definitely think it’s the best place I could’ve come back to on campus,” junior Shannon Malloy said.

Malloy said she enjoys the cleanliness of Swift and the ease of cooking in her apartment. She also likes the free washer and dryer in her apartment.

On the other hand, there is a lack of common space in Swift because residents live in their separate apartments, she noted.

“It’s really bad for community building,” Malloy said.

Although Malloy had no problems with the buses from Swift herself, she said she felt there was a safety issue walking back from the C1 bus stop at night, when the CCX or Swift Express are not running.

“It’s somewhat well lit, but there aren’t any police officers around,” she said.

Sophomore Liddy Grantland, a resident of Craven dorm, had a different experience. Grantland said that the showers in Craven had a tendency to flood and that there was a lack of laundry rooms close to her room. 

Although Grantland received her last choice in dorms on West Campus, she did appreciate Craven’s central location and proximity to the Brodhead Center. Grantland admitted her dorm has its flaws, but she said she still appreciated her residential situation.

“I’m content with it,” she said. “It feels weird to complain about it when I have all of these amazing opportunities going to Duke.”

Trinity House—known by some students as the megadorm—opened on East Campus this semester and is currently housing upperclass students who returned from study-away programs. It boasts a wide selection of high-end amenities—an arcade, a movie theater, a gourmet kitchen and ping pong and pool tables. 

Currently only Trinity House residents have card access to the building, but next year the dorm should be open to all residents of East Campus.

“We hope that students, both from within the Trinity community and the general Duke community, are enjoying the amenities,” Gonzalez said.

Junior Meghan Pearson, a resident of Trinity, said that she felt that the arcade was being used frequently, but mostly by residents of the dorm. She noted that the movie theater was not getting as much use as it should be getting. 

Pearson enjoyed the arcade in Trinity, and said she has played the arcade games with her friends from West Campus.  

“I feel like it’s worth it,” Pearson said. “The arcade is fun. Duke already spends a lot of money on stuff that’s extra, and it makes up for living on East as an upperclassman.” 

First-year Shahrik Punja, a resident of Alspaugh, said he appreciated that the arcade games were free and that anyone could play them. He said he was unsure if four separate arcade games were necessary with the number of other amenities offered at Trinity. 

Punja also said he did not know if the movie theater was necessary and questioned the educational value of the theater. 

Other students felt differently about the usefulness of the arcade. 

“I think it’s a waste of money, honestly,” Malloy said. “That could have gone toward financial aid.”

Duke renovated the Edens Quad in the summer of 2015 and added two workout rooms, a yoga and dance studio and The Bolt, a gaming space featuring a virtual reality room.

Junior Anya Bali, a resident of Edens, said she enjoyed using the workout rooms and the renovated kitchens. She said she liked living in Edens because of its distance from the center of West Campus. 

“I like having a separate space for sleeping and watching Netflix and hanging out with friends than I do for studying,” Bali said.

While she does not frequently use The Bolt, Bali said she always sees people playing video games there.

“I think it’s a really awesome space and unique to Duke. I like that it’s right there in the residential space,” Bali said.

Several students felt that the amenities in a dorm tended to be used by the residents of that dorm more. While all students can use the amenities in any dorm, some dorms, like Edens or Swift, are not centrally located on campus.

“I feel like a lot of these spaces are open, but it’s just a matter of convenience,” Punja said.

Gonzalez said that the new amenities in some dorms on campus are nice to have but not a crucial part of students’ residential experiences. 

“While I think that the amenities we’ve been introducing are well-received, I don’t believe they drive students to try to live there,” he said.

Many students felt that the amenities in a dorm were not central to their decisions to live where they do. They cited the people and communities found in their dorms as more important than the physical features of the dorms. 

“Amenities are not necessary but nice to have,” Punja said. “People are necessary.”


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