The new school year is here, but for Central Campus residents, this is a year of endings. It’s the last year that undergraduate students will live on Central Campus. Plans for the space have yet to be announced. While Central has been notorious for student complaints, many current and former residents of the apartments do think the campus still has its perks.
One of the clearest differences between Central and other on-campus living is the apartment style versus the dorm style of most residence halls. Students will still have a similar living option, as The Hollows — due to open in summer 2019 — will be set up suite-style but with only about half the capacity that Central currently offers. Senior Samantha Votzke said that suite-style living is probably the best option in lieu of apartments, but Central also allows a sense of independence due to its separation from West Campus that the Hollows likely will not provide.
That separation allows students to step away from the high-stress academic environment of classes and library buildings.
“Being on Central, it already felt like I was off campus because when you’re on West, you see the same architecture, you’re still in the same general area, and it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of ‘I’m at school,’” said Scotty Shaw, Trinity ‘09.
Shaw lived on Central in the summer of 2008, and thought it was “awesome.” He enjoyed the open structure of Central that allowed students to mingle more with Durhamites, and often played basketball on the outdoor courts with anyone who were in the area.
Brianna Whitfield, Trinity ‘16, also liked the more relaxed and residential nature of the campus when she lived there. Students spent time on Central because they lived there, not because they were going to class or to West Union for food.
“It was very similar to East Campus where you kind of just, people are just out and hanging out,” Whitfield said. “It’s not like you’re running to class or seeing people on the quad you’re wanting to avoid.”
Central’s separation from the rest of campus also creates privacy during certain big events throughout the year. For instance, during LDOC and other concerts on the main quad, Central Campus residents don’t have to deal with the noise of the loudspeakers near their rooms. Whitfield also said it was easier to host their own events without people invading their privacy or wandering in uninvited..
Whitfield lived on Central as an independent her sophomore year and as part of Ubuntu her junior and senior years. She said Ubuntu had its own little quad, with three buildings that enclosed a green space. This allowed the group to build its own community and host events in what was essentially a personal campus.
Living on Central as an independent, though, can be somewhat isolating because people tend to stay in their own apartments rather than spending time in common spaces. Shaw lived on West during the school year and said it was much easier to randomly make friends in the common rooms there. On Central, he didn’t see other people quite as much.
On the other hand, living with a group, like Whitfield did with Ubuntu, can be quite different. Whitfield said it was a lot of fun since that group created a strong community to come back to each day.
Junior Allie Rauch similarly enjoys that most of her friends live in the four buildings around her. Rauch lived with her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, last year and now lives in Delta Gamma section.
However, with the planned phasing out of Central, Rauch said some of the issues she has had with the space seem to receive less attention. She feels that Central Campus HRL is less accessible than East or West: They don’t always answer the phone and often don’t call back. Rauch moved in early this year due to her role on the FAC board, and has had major issues with ants in her apartment that she claims HRL has failed to resolve.
“They’re not using it for residential stuff next year — I think because of that, they are less willing to actually solve a problem,” Rauch said. “They just put band-aids on the problem, and I swear to God, you could tap on the building and it would fall over.”
Ideas for what to do with the space include potential graduate and professional student housing or leasing the land to private developers. Whitfield, though, feels that they should keep the space for student housing, maybe not in the next year or two, but sometime in the future after doing renovations or rebuilding of some sort. She said that Central provides students with another type of housing option and that the planned megadorm will be less conducive to the kind of tight-knit community provided by more private housing like that on Central.
“I will say that it needs to be torn down because the buildings are very old, and who knows what’s in the walls,” Whitfield said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to rebuild nicer apartments and a couple more restaurants or food options on that campus.”
Some, though, like Central just the way it is. For Votzke, the slight inconveniences such as the difficulty getting home after class or the age of the appliances mean little when compared to the perks of the campus.
“I really like Central. I think it’s misunderstood, a lot of times. I think when people get assigned to Central and they’re not sure about it and they weren’t prepared to be living there, it can be a little bit scary … But I think it’s a really nice space to be in, and I think it’s a cool part of Duke,” Votzke said. “I’m sad to see it go.”
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