When the QuadEx concept was publicly announced on September 15th, I knew that I would be both out of five dollars and in a state of confusion for the rest of my fall semester. Beyond having lost a bet on whether the whisperings of a residential dismantlement were real, I also faced buyer’s uncertainty on what I was being sold on: “The future of residential living and learning at Duke.”
For those who’ve ignored the first-year uproar within the past two weeks in favor of more productive tasks like finishing your midterms or watching Squid Game, QuadEx is a residential model that seeks to keep first-year residential neighborhoods together as they move over to West Campus in their sophomore year. Starting with the Class of 2025, dormitories will be paired up and sorted into seven West Campus dorms (Craven, Crowell, Edens, Few, Keohane, Kilgo and Wannamaker) so that students can no longer dorm with roommates outside of their residence, making SLGs, fraternities and sororities no longer residentially viable. Juniors and seniors can still live in Hollows, 300 Swift or off-campus, but upperclassmen will still retain connections with their dorms.
QuadEx boasts that it will “welcome all, enhance social and intellectual connection, and foster lifelong connections,” ultimately being another step in the journey (which started with Duke’s switch to co-educational housing in 1896) to find a dorming system that “aligns more with Duke’s values and spirit.” However, QuadEx doesn’t brag about how it caused many of us first years to feel duped. When we applied in the fall of 2020, we were told that we would inhabit the same spaces in the same ways as the Blue Devils before us. We were told that we would live on East Campus our first year, only to move on to West Campus where we could select whatever roommate, block, SLG or Greek-life organization we wanted to. We weren’t told that we would be the guinea pig class for QuadEx.
Naturally, I’m seeking some QuadExplanations. After all, QuadEx claims that it’s simply “building upon Duke’s past” to create a “different Duke” that will serve as the university’s future. Why does this “different Duke” need to mirror the Northeastern elite college residential standards? Why not embrace the current dorming system that partly made Duke so distinctive from other T20 and T10 schools in the first place? There is no denying the plethora of similarities between Duke’s proposed “revolutionary” model and the models currently in place by universities like Harvard, Dartmouth and Yale. Harvard randomly assigns first-years to one of twelve houses, Dartmouth randomly assigns incoming students to one of six House Committees, and Yale randomly assigns first-years to one of fourteen colleges. QuadEx’s proposal to sort incoming students into one of seven dorming communities isn’t brand new, nor does it appear to be symbolic of a new change. It’s a direct reflection of Duke’s desires to conform with other elite colleges, rather than stand out.
As a result of these desires, “Duke will no longer provide university housing to Greek and non-Greek selective living groups (SLGs) after the 2022-2023 academic year.” While Duke continues to assure us that students can still rush and appreciate the benefits of SLGs, I’m left more than a little uncertain. How can one take out the “living” of an SLG, a defining characteristic of such an organization? How can you reap the benefits of an SLG if said selective living group isn’t even in the same communal area? Furthermore, what about Duke-sponsored living groups like Baldwin Scholars? Where will they go? How will they be altered by QuadEx?
Basically, where QuadEx promises “individuality,” “exploration” and “togetherness,” I’m seeing restrictions that need clarifying. How will QuadEx encourage community when it’s restricting students to only interact with their residential neighborhoods? The current housing model enables Duke students to meet new peers that they didn’t previously know with their first-year housing assignment. How will QuadEx compensate for these missing interactions that allowed for many current students to meet lifelong friends? Will the community events offered under QuadEx allow for outreach with other residential halls? Will the mentorships, guest speakers and cross-year opportunities allow for interaction between the seven residences?
Speaking with my first-year peers, I know I’m not alone in these concerns. “I really value freedom of choice,” Akram Abdulaziz says. “I’m wondering if it would be possible to change to another quad?” He went on to claim that he asked this question on behalf of those who don’t like their first-year housing.
Raste Aldawood echoed this. “Not being able to meet new people...is my biggest concern. If you don’t like your dorm now, are you stuck with it for the rest of your undergrad?”
The greatest gray area, however, comes in with the students who don’t want to live with their first-year dorm communities anymore. QuadEx claims that students can’t choose their quads, but what about those who need to escape others within their first-year housing for whatever reason or whose dorming assignment isn’t accessible to them? There are students who may suddenly need to change into gender-inclusive housing because of an epiphany in their identity. There are students with disabilities who may need to be moved into a dorm closer to their classes. There are students who experienced conflicts, harassment and sexual abuse from people in their neighborhood—something they might not want to necessarily report and were relying on a housing change in their second year to get away from. These students exist outside of hypotheticals. How will they be accommodated?
First-year Carson Carranza sympathizes with these issues and thus is interested in the future involvement of his peers in QuadEx’s future. “When I was reading the article about QuadEx on The Chronicle, they said that they got student feedback. I’m presuming that feedback was not from the Class of 2025,” he said. “Will they ever be consulting the Class of 2025 on QuadEx? I think that’s important for decision-making, [especially since] the sentiment currently seems to be really strongly against it or passive.”
The Duke faculty behind QuadEx need to be more transparent about their process and openly seek out the Class of 2025’s opinions and questions. We’re currently in the dark about our futures here at Duke, and present explanations are providing more questions than answers. Until Duke actively seeks us out, we’re going to be sitting here in QuadExasperation.
Viktoria Wulff-Andersen is a Trinity first-year. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.
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