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The Blue Zone is all for undergrads, and other dining, housing updates as students return from abroad

As students returned from a semester abroad, Duke’s housing, transportation and dining services geared up to welcome them back. 

After an eventful Fall semester with dorm flea infestations, scooter hysteria and a dearth of dining utensils, the individuals in parking, dining, and housing and residence life are aiming to avoid any pitfalls following the turn of the calendar into the new year. 

Transportation

Carl DePinto, director of parking and transportation services, said the entire Blue Zone has been fully converted into parking for undergraduates. Graduate students and faculty must now park in the parking garage on Science Drive. Even as students return from abroad, DePinto expressed confidence that the Blue Zone can fit all of the students who park their cars on campus.

“This expanded capacity for undergraduates allows space for residents of the Hollows and those returning from study abroad in the spring,” DePinto said. 

In addition, the Fall brought buses overflowing with students in transit between East Campus and West Campus. To ease this burden, Parking and Transportation scheduled another C1X, an express shuttle, to run between campuses as well as the implementation of a new stop at Swift Avenue on the C1. These changes “have helped address capacity issues on the buses” and have solved most major complaints, DePinto said.

Dining

For Robert Coffey, executive director of dining services, students’ return from study abroad provides more data points in his daily tracking of dining preferences and allows him to respond in turn. 

“The Brodhead Center and other Duke Dining locations are prepared for and look forward to serving the returning Duke community along with the rest of our visitors,” Coffey said.

To further streamline the ordering process and to increase efficiency, Dining formally completed the second phase renovation of Pitchfork’s, which incorporates new social spaces. 

Sophomore Stratton Thomas, who spent last summer studying abroad in Italy, said these social areas are vital to the flourishing of relationships made abroad.

“Once back on campus, I continued to take Italian and had a whole new group of friends with whom to eat my meals and hang out with in these spaces,” Thomas said. 

For those in a hurry and to reduce overall foot traffic, Dining has been piloting a mobile ordering system for The Loop. If the app is effective while not detracting from the general camaraderie, then Coffey imagines that this program will roll out across campus.

Housing

Last spring, Housing and Residence Life announced that they would convert 180 single-occupancy rooms in the Hollows into double-occupancy spaces to fit more students. HRL has another solution other than building more dorm space—moving juniors and seniors off campus through a lottery. According to the Duke Student Affairs website, students are required to live on campus for their first three years at Duke, and are guaranteed housing on campus for their senior year if they choose, though the site notes the three-year residency requirement may be modified to accommodate construction and renovation interferences. 

While Duke guarantees housing for the first three years, students can opt into this random selection to move off campus. According to Joe Gonzalez, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean for residential life, “around 190 students were allowed to move off campus, most of whom were students who were abroad in the fall.” 

Sophomore Catherine McMillan was disappointed by the revelation that she is not fully guaranteed to live on campus past her sophomore year.

“Guaranteed housing was a huge selling point for me when deciding my college selection,” McMillan said. “I turned down other schools that did not guarantee housing.” 

Gonzalez noted that HRL makes every effort to keep students on campus while not changing single-occupancy rooms into doubles, although he did not take that possibility off the table. Regardless, Gonzalez said that resident assistants have been trained to incorporate new members, whoever they are, as quickly as they can. 

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