As the faculty adviser for the Duke University Cricket Club, Arya Roy has often reserved the Central Campus turf field for the club’s practices. 

Before this semester, when the team arrived at the time of their reservation, they would sometimes find a few people using the field already—many of whom were not Duke students, faculty or staff, for whom the field is reserved. Usually, the occupants of the field would politely vacate the field to let the club play, and the club rarely faced problems.

But beginning with this semester, the situation changed.

“When we came back in fall and started practicing again, we found that the problem had become extremely acute,” Roy, lecturing fellow of physics, said.

By September, he said, the team frequently arrived to find nearly “40 to 50” soccer players occupying the field before their practice time. When the group of players resisted turning over the field to the club and began to hurl what Roy called “racist abuse” in the direction of the cricket players, Roy said he began to fear that the safety of his players may be threatened.

The first few times these incidents occurred, Roy notified the security guards stationed at the Mill Village area of Central Campus, where the turf field and basketball courts are housed. But as the problem repeated itself and became more aggressive, he felt he had no choice but to notify Duke University Police Department. Roy emailed DUPD after one incident in late September. Around two weeks later, he said, after the situation had not improved, he called the campus police directly.

Some time after Roy submitted the complaint to DUPD, the guards stationed near the Central Campus courts and field began strictly enforcing a Duke ID policy for anyone using the facilities. Roy emphasized, however, that this action was not taken by his request. 

The requirement that patrons of the basketball courts and turf fields possess a Duke ID is not new. A 1995 article in The Chronicle notes that the University enacted a “restricted-use policy” on outdoor basketball courts on campus in 1993. Signs on the fences that currently surround the grounds note that the athletic facilities are private property and warn against trespassing, specifying that they are “for the exclusive use of Duke University students, faculty and staff.”

In an email, Chief of Police John Dailey cited these entrance signs and acknowledged the incident reported by Roy.

“When people [are] using [the fields], or there is a question about who has it reserved, the security team will check,” Dailey wrote. 

The card policy is similar to the requirement for entry to facilities like Brodie Recreation Center on East Campus and Wilson Recreation Center on West Campus. Unlike those facilities, though, the Central Campus athletic fields are managed by Housing and Residence Life, not Duke Recreation and Physical Education.

However, this policy has not been consistently enforced in the past. Loukianos Varsamis, Pratt ‘16, who currently lives in Raleigh and has played pickup soccer games at the Central Campus fields since he was an undergraduate, said that Durham residents were a part of his pickup games nearly every week and that there had “never been a problem” in his experience. He recalled that, before recently, the enforcement of Duke ID cards would “ebb and flow” and was rarely strictly adhered to.

“It was sort of a lax system [where] if the proportion of Duke to non-Duke people is high enough—where ‘high enough’ isn’t well-defined—then it’s okay and everybody can stay,” Varsamis said.

In recent weeks, Varsamis said he noticed a marked decrease in attendance at the Saturday morning pickup game in which he usually played. He suggested that it was due to the lack of local residents, who began to be turned away from the fields for not being able to present a Duke ID card.

“One of the two Saturday morning games is completely dead now. Nobody comes,” Varsamis said. “Because the issue is that there are not enough Duke people to have a pickup game by themselves, so when there are no non-Duke people, the Duke people also don’t show up, because it’s not worth it.”

While strict enforcement of the Duke ID policy may be inconvenient for students, Roy said he believed it is the most fair option for managing the use of the courts and turf field. By checking the ID of every person who uses the facilities without exception, he said, the guards prevent profiling on the basis of who “looks like a Duke student” and who does not.

Roy added that it was unfortunate that the issue came to this point and that he had often welcomed residents on the field as long as there was not a problem in sharing space. But he noted that the question of opening a space like the Central Campus courts and field to people outside of Duke would provide more challenges than other semi-public spaces on campus, like Perkins Library.

“If Duke really wanted to share its space, the best thing to do would be to have a very clear policy of how that sharing will work: between what hours, who will ensure the safety and all that policy,” Roy said. “The problem is that there was no policy that was being imposed.”