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Sophomore year: 2018-2019

RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson duked it out for the first time since the pair joined the league, with Barrett's Knicks snagging the win.
RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson duked it out for the first time since the pair joined the league, with Barrett's Knicks snagging the win.

For the Class of 2021, sophomore year saw the renaming of an infamous building, a collection 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, the 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 the building to the Classroom Building, its original name. The history department had requested the University rename it after Raymond Gavins, Duke’s first African American history professor. The Board declined this request, ruling that the building’s original name would stay until the filing of another official request.

Throughout the year, student activists were instrumental in bringing attention to 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 pushback from student advocates for health care, President Vincent Price reversed the decision in a letter to the editor.

Students also defended workers’ rights in the face of multiple University policies. 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 workers were at risk of losing their existing shifts and buildings. Administration later scrapped the rebidding plans.

There were several hate incidents on campus during the beginning of the year. In August, a wall at the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture was defaced with a racist slur. In November, a swastika was painted over a mural on the East Campus bridge that honored victims from a shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. 

In January, Megan Neely, then 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 next day after screenshots of the email were posted online. 

Duke agreed to pay $112.5 million in March to settle a lawsuit alleging that a Duke scientist falsified data that was used to obtain $200 million in research grants. 

Throughout the year, Duke was involved in intense negotiations with regional transit authority GoTriangle about the proposed light rail from Durham to Orange County. 

The University 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, first-year phenom Zion Williamson had everyone smiling.

Duke basketball captivated the Duke community 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.

After a trivia test that determined tenting eligibility, students camped out for weeks in Krzyzewskiville to watch 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 exacted its revenge on the Tar Heels in the ACC tournament semifinals before going 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 picked in the first round. 

Like Jones, this year was the last for Larry Moneta, then 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. 

Ongoing construction projects could be found all over Duke’s campus this year. The largest project was a brand new dorm along Towerview Road, the Hollows. The suite-style building helped absorb around 700 of the students moving to West Campus after Central Campus was torn down.

In the year’s student elections, undergraduate students chose then junior Liv McKinney to be the next DSG president, replacing senior Kristina Smith. Trey Walk, then a senior, was elected to serve as the undergraduate Young Trustee.

Duke “banned the box,” meaning applicants cannot be required to disclose their criminal records on initial job applications. 

Durham celebrated its 150th birthday in April with a birthday party at the American Tobacco Amphitheater. 

Finally, this February marked the 50th anniversary of the Allen Building Takeover, when black student activists took over the administrative building and demanded change. 


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