Junior year saw the renaming of an infamous building, an array of controversies and a star-studded basketball season.
In August 2018, the history department filed an official request to rename the Carr Building on East Campus, which houses the department. Named after Julian Carr, a wealthy white supremacist who donated the land that would become East Campus, the building came under fire from history alumni, People’s State of the University and Duke Student Government.
At the December Board of Trustees meeting, the Board decided to officially rename Carr to the Classroom Building, which was the building’s original title. The history department had requested the University rename it after Raymond Gavins, Duke’s first African American history professor. But Duke decided the Classroom name was here to stay until another formal request is filed.
Throughout the year, student activists were key in bringing attention to, and even changing, certain Duke policies.
Students received a letter in the fall that said financial aid would not pay for Duke health insurance unless their expected family contribution was $0. After student advocates for health care pushed back, President Vincent Price reversed the decision in a letter to the editor.
Students advocated for workers’ rights as well. When housekeepers were forced to work weekends, a student organized a petition to return them to their normal Monday through Friday schedules.
Additionally, facilities staff were told they had to rebid for their shifts based solely on seniority, which meant they could have lost their existing shifts and buildings. Administration later scrapped the rebidding plans.
The year also featured a variety of scandals.
The first half of the year saw several incidents of hate on campus. A wall at the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture was defaced with a racist slur in August, and a swastika was painted over a mural honoring victims from a shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue in November.
In January, Megan Neely, director of graduate studies for the Master of Biostatistics program, sent an email to the department urging Chinese students to speak English outside of class. She stepped down the day after, when screenshots of the email were posted online.
While all these incidents were taking place, Duke was intensely negotiating with regional transit authority GoTriangle about the proposed light rail from Durham to Orange County.
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The University ultimately announced Feb. 27 it would not sign a cooperation agreement in a letter to GoTriangle, all but killing the project. Duke did not want to give up land alongside Erwin Road in the heart of its medical corridor, and it was concerned about the effects of electromagnetic interference and construction on the medical facilities’ operations. Students and Durham officials were not happy with the University’s decision.
But in Cameron Indoor Stadium, freshman phenom Zion Williamson had everyone smiling.
For sports, Duke basketball captivated the University and the nation. The team featured R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson, the top three recruits in their class, as well as fellow top-10 recruit Tre Jones. The year got off to a strong start with a 34-point throttling of Kentucky in the Champions Classic. Arguably the year’s best win, however, came against Louisville, when Duke came back from 23 points down with just more than nine minutes remaining.
The team’s fireworks extended beyond the court too—Coach Mike Krzyzewski lit the menorah on the Bryan Center plaza one night during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
After a trivia test determined who could tent, students camped out for weeks in Krzyzewskiville to see Williamson and the Blue Devils face off against North Carolina. Even former President Barack Obama attended the game. Unfortunately, Williamson broke through his shoe 30 seconds into the game and would not return in a game Duke ultimately lost to the Tar Heels.
Duke got its revenge in the ACC tournament semifinals, and the team went on to win the tournament. Duke’s season ended in the Elite Eight against Michigan State when Kenny Goins hit a go-ahead three in the game’s waning seconds.
Led by quarterback Daniel Jones, the football team finished the regular season with a 7-5 record. The season featured wins over North Carolina and Miami and blowout losses to Clemson and Wake Forest. The team capped off the year with a comeback win against Temple in the Walk-On’s Independence Bowl.
The New York Giants then drafted Jones sixth overall in the NFL Draft, making him the second Duke quarterback ever taken in the first round.
Like Jones, this year was the last for Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs. Duke named Tufts University administrator Mary Pat McMahon to succeed him as the new vice provost/vice president for campus life.
Walking around Duke’s campus, one couldn’t help but notice all the construction. The largest project was a brand new dorm along Towerview Road, the Hollows. It helped absorb around 700 of the students moving from Central to West Campus when the University tore down Central the next year.
In the year’s student elections, undergraduate students chose junior Liv McKinney to be the next DSG president, replacing senior Kristina Smith. Trey Walk, a senior, was elected to serve as the undergraduate Young Trustee.
Finally, this February marked the 50th anniversary of the Allen Building Takeover, when black student activists took over the administrative building and demanded change. The anniversary served as a reminder of how far Duke has come, and how much work is still left to do.