The announcement of Duke’s new QuadEx system has given students a lot to process in terms of what their next few years of residential life will look like.
Under the new system, first-year students are assigned an East Campus quad that is linked to a West Campus quad, and their assigned West quad is where they live both the following year and their junior and senior years if they do not choose upperclassman housing. Starting sophomore year, students are allowed to select their roommates and request to block with friends, but all members of a block must be in the same quad.
As stated in the previous Chronicle article explaining QuadEx, the new model centers around residential quads with their “own identity, traditions and social events.” The system will be fully operational in fall 2022.
Students have mixed reactions to this new residential system, identifying both pros and cons in the change.
One of the downfalls that students mentioned was that the model felt restrictive, and that living with the same people every year would hinder the building of community.
Sophomore Amanda He said that the new system seems restrictive to her because one aspect of the residential system she enjoyed this year was being able to block with people that didn't live close to her last year. She said that even though she lived on West Campus last year, she was now able to form tight-knit friend groups with her friends who had lived on East Campus.
“I feel like it might hinder some of those first-year friendships if you become really close with people who don't live in your dorm,” He said.
Sophomore Joy Bao-Dai lived in Edens quad last year with the FOCUS group Modeling in Economics and Social Sciences, and this year is living in Few quad. She said that living with different people sophomore year has broadened her horizons, as most of her friends last year were in the economics, public policy, and finance route, and this year she is living next to engineers and has met more people than she ever would have if she stayed within a quad.
“With this new housing plan, the one word I immediately think of that describes it is restriction,” Bao-Dai said. “I feel like Duke has really built up more walls, because one of the exciting things about entering into sophomore year is that the divide between [first-year] quads is really brought down.”
However, although Bao-Dai thinks the new system is restrictive, she said she feels numb to the decision because her class has not had the chance to experience Duke to its fullest.
“I feel like with everything so rapidly changing, every year is different from the last, so I feel like we haven't gotten the chance to develop a so-called Duke norm yet.”
Sophomore Jack Dugoni feels similar to Bao-Dai in terms of not knowing what the typical Duke experience looks like, since he did not live on East Campus as a first-year. However, he is still not a huge fan of the new system.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
“My first question would be, who did they talk to about this, and where did it come from?” he said. “I think that the idea of sticking you with people that you're pretty much randomly assigned to seems slightly problematic.”
Sophomore Chase Johnson said that he thinks the QuadEx system is an interesting idea, but he doesn’t know if he loves it.
“Most of my friends that I have are people that I met in my freshman year quad, so I'm speaking coming from the angle of someone who in theory would seem to like it, because the majority of my friends did live in my quad and therefore I'd be living with them the rest of my time at Duke,” he said.
“But still a lot of people that I'm currently in a block with lived elsewhere [last year],” he continued. “That'd be really upsetting if we had to not live with them just because they happened to live in a quad that was just a little bit down campus from us.”
Bao-Dai is rushing both non-Greek selective living groups and Panhellenic sororities. She said that although she does not know what SLGs were like before, she has talked to upperclassmen who are pretty upset about the change.
“It will likely loosen the tight bond between people because part of establishing a tight bond between people is being able to live together,” Bao-Dai said.
Students will still be able to rush selective living groups and Greek organizations, but selective housing will be phased out after the 2022-23 academic year. This means that current juniors will never experience the new system, whereas current first-years will never experience living with a social club because rush takes place their sophomore year.
Dugoni is a member of the selective living group Wayne Manor, and even though he doesn’t think the new residential system will affect him much by the time he is a senior, he is interested to see how it affects the future of SLGs at Duke.
“I think SLGs should definitely be able to have blocks on campus. That’s kind of what makes them ‘SLGs’ instead of just ‘SGs’,” Dugoni said.
Amanda He is rushing SLGs, and she said she thinks it’s a little odd and counterintuitive that selective living groups wouldn’t actually live together.
“I'm curious if Duke is trying to slowly do away with SLGs, and Greek life as a byproduct, but I don't necessarily think they will ever really be phased out here at Duke,” He said. “I think Greek life is a big enough community and there are enough people who are attracted to the organization that it'll still be here for years and years as long as Duke is allowing it to persist.”
He said that she was planning to live off campus her senior year despite joining an SLG or not, so she doesn’t know how much the QuadEx system affects her because she doesn’t think it will affect her class that much when they are seniors.
“If we wanted to live with members of our SLG, we could just do that off-campus,” He said.
Students think that the new system does come with some pros as well. Bao-Dai believes that one good thing that could come out of QuadEx is that it forces you to become close with the people that you started with as a first-year. She said that there is a special kind of bond that comes with living together and growing together for four years.
“College is a time of growth and discovery of personal identity, and I feel like being able to grow together with people, that is something that can really knit people together,” Bao-Dai said.
He also said that she saw some upsides, as she said the new system could be more welcoming.
“It could foster inclusion between people that you live with, and it could make the first-year and second-year living experience more engaging or filled with activities,” she said.
The QuadEx system aims to help foster community and hold more social events in residential areas. Its website states that “QuadEx will make it easier for your Quad to host celebrations, parties, performances, and other social and intellectual events on campus. Quad councils will have access to programming budgets and staff support that will help Quads host big events or smaller parties, without having to reinvent the wheel every time.”
However, some students don’t feel too confident about the draw of these promised social events. Bao-Dai thinks that in general people would prefer socializing within groups that share common interests, and when you're in a randomly assigned dorm, there are a lot of different types of people, so it can be harder to find a solid group of friends.
“I just feel like, even though there might be events in dorms, people will still most likely prefer to go to social events that are hosted by their respective clubs and organizations,” Bao-Dai said.
Johnson agreed. “I wouldn't have anything against going to them, but it just seems like a lot of times, those kinds of events aren't the things that most people want to go to. People would rather just do things with our own friends than go to things that Duke is providing like that,” he said.
When asked if he thought the quad events would build community, Dugoni shared similar sentiments. “I'm sure in some cases [they will], but I would imagine overall probably not, as much as at least the SLG system has,” he said.
In the end, students are simply curious to see how this change will affect their future at Duke.
“I'm very interested to see where Duke takes QuadEx, not necessarily in the changes and how they are implemented for our grade, but I'm curious to see if it changes any living dynamics and friendships,” He said.
Alison Korn is a Pratt sophomore and a features managing editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.