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Stop making jokes about homelessness in K-Ville

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It’s another cold, unforgiving morning in Durham, North Carolina. The rising sun’s golden beams are blocked by the canopy of the winter clouds, and the frigid weather has us all retreating to the comfort of our centrally heated homes.

But hundreds of Durham residents—veterans, single mothers, old folks—cannot afford that luxury. Thus, they wrap themselves in layers of worn out jackets and sweaters, and enter the makeshift shelters they’ve set up in the dark alleyways of downtown.

Thankfully, they aren’t the only ones. A couple of miles away are a bunch of depraved college kids who are ‘roughing it.’ Some of them have even intentionally copied the ‘homeless’ look and are holding signs saying, “We sleep in a tent. Help us.” 

Their friends huddle around, busy curating the photos they took of these “misfortuned” souls. With a filter here and a hilarious caption there, these photos are ready to join the wealth of Tiktoks, Snapchat stories and instagram posts that document the struggles of living in K-Ville. 

I can’t be the only one disgusted by this. 

Yet, for the longest time, I have told myself that I’m overreacting. Since, after all, how can an institution like Duke, known for its political correctness, harbor such insensitive practices? 

I guess that’s where the Duke ‘bubble’ plays its part: we’re so blinded by our privilege that we collectively fail to consider the moral reprehensibility of living in a tent for fun, in a state where over 9,000 people experience homelessness on any given day, and in a country where approximately 70,000 college students do not have a secure place to sleep (I find the need to clarify that these statistics do not include K-ville tenters). 

It seems like Duke students only care about an issue when it augments their social media outlook. Since K-ville tenting has become a tradition that glorifies the ‘Duke Difference,’ refusing to tent would have the catastrophic consequence of being left out of the Duke experience. And in moments like these, the bourgeois-esque need for exclusivity trumps social consciousness. 

What a killjoy! Bet he wouldn’t survive a week in a tent!

I wouldn’t. And I don’t really care if you spend a month, or even a year, in a tent; I’m not here to lecture anyone about how they’re spending their time, because I do believe that institutional traditions are important. But if you think that voluntarily spending a month in a tent, drinking every night and talking about the difficulty of your eighty grand a year classes makes you qualified to boast about your mental fortitude, and that pretending to live in tents in a country where half a million people are actually living in tents comes with no moral misgivings, then I’d request you to look around. 

The liberty to spend your time in a tent reeks of privilege. K-ville is a page straight out of some dystopian novel: the most privileged people in the world coming together to emulate an impoverished existence. Why? Because a safe, stable lifestyle is much harder than it sounds! They need tenting to escape the great misfortune of boredom and mundaneness. The conversation around K-ville and its ‘challenges’ is the perfect portrait of the blatant inequality that runs rampant in our world today—one person’s tribulations are another’s ‘college experience.’ 

But let’s take a step back—sports are awesome. And awesome fans make awesome sports, well, ‘awesomer’. Therefore, fans of any sport who are willing to go the extra mile for their team deserve the utmost respect. 

And the Cameron Crazies are no different; they’re Duke’s sixth man. 

But Krzyzewskiville, today, is not about team spirit, community building or even basketball; it is an immaculate exhibition of the common asset that binds the students at Duke and every other elite school in America: privilege—a toxicity that blinds and numbs even the most highly educated people in the world.

Students need not fold up their tents, but they must approach this practice with the sensitivity, awareness and humility that the university claims to instill in its attendees. Posting jokes insinuating that tenting is equivalent to homelessness isn’t funny, and ‘K-ville residents’ who indulge in acts like this, even subtly, should face penalties. 

Tents are bumped if a student isn’t present for a check, I’m sure we can do the same for an absence of empathy.  

Sannan Saleh is a Trinity junior.

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