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'It will take a while and it'll cost a lot of money': DSG hears from admin about future of housing

Students who are sick of construction on campus are unlikely to get a break anytime soon, according to Joe Gonzalez, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean for residential life. 

Gonzalez spoke to the Duke Student Government Senate Wednesday night about housing at Duke, touching on topics that ranged from the closing of Central Campus to the future of housing on East and West Campuses.

He said that the University is rearranging the residents on Central and has so far met all its primary goals, which included that every house on Central which was eligible for a house next year has a house, that a certain number of independent houses are in the Hollows, that independent houses were disrupted as little as possible and that groups moving from Central to West would move into houses of roughly the same size as their previous living spaces.

“From my perspective, it went very smoothly,” Gonzalez said. “I think [the process was] very fair and equitable and transparent. Some may have been happier with the results than others, but that’s to be expected.”

Gonzalez said that the University has created a task force to look into potential future uses of Central Campus and the team should begin reporting next semester. 

Several senators asked Gonzalez about the influx of students returning from abroad in the spring, as well as those coming from Duke Kunshan University next fall. Gonzalez said that Housing and Residence Life will be able to make space for students from Kunshan by holding 125 beds open. However, there may not be enough beds for everyone who is currently studying abroad.

“What we would love is if students go abroad in the fall [of their junior year], that we could put them back in the house that they were in as a sophomore,” Gonzalez said. “Unfortunately, logistically, it’s impossible to do.” 

He added that although those returning students who choose to live off campus help to mitigate the issue, HRL has had to use a lottery system in recent years to determine who gets to live on campus. 

Regarding Duke’s vision for the future of housing on East and West campus, Gonzalez said that plans for the next few years include more renovations on East as older dorms are outfitted with central air conditioning and sprinkler systems. 

The construction of Trinity dorm has allowed Duke to undertake more ambitious renovations on East, Gonzalez said. Trinity was originally intended to replace Epworth, East and Jarvis residence halls but the latter two currently remain open. This extra space serves as “swing space” in which Duke can house students while certain dorms are closed for renovation. 

“For the first time since I’ve been here, we have the ability to do this level of work,” Gonzalez said. “But it will still take a while, and it’ll cost a lot of money.”

Gonzalez said that in coming years Duke will continue working towards allowing all undergraduates to live on West Campus after their first year. He said that this will involve the construction of one or two new residential buildings on West, following the construction of the Hollows and the renovation of several buildings on Abele Quad over the past year.

In other business:

The Senate witnessed the first readings of two by-law amendments. The first, an amendment to the Executive by-law, would create an official DSG Communications Team. The team will be led by the DSG Communications Director, a new position in the cabinet. The second, an amendment to the Student Organization Funding Committee by-law, updates the document’s text to reflect the various accounts with which SOFC interacts. 

The Senate approved the petitions of the first two Duke Student Government caucuses: the First-Generation/Low-Income Caucus and the Senators for Mental Health Caucus. The Senate passed a by-law amendment that created the caucus system earlier this month. 

The Senate approved $9,539 in SOFC funding, including $7,689 for Blue Devils United’s Winter Semi Formal and $1,850 for the Coalition for Preserving Memory Documentary Film Series. The Senate approved the charters of Duke Students Against Gender Violence, Duke Club Fishing, Duke Plants and Botany Connections and the Duke South East Asian Students Association. 

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin is a Trinity senior and was editor-in-chief for The Chronicle's 116th volume.


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