To many, walking around campus during family weekend felt like being transported back to pre-pandemic life. There were parents crowding the Bryan Center Plaza, visitors strolling through the Duke Gardens and K-Ville overflowing with Crazies waiting to be the first fans in Cameron Indoor Stadium in over 18 months.
After a virtual family weekend in 2020, families had the opportunity this year to visit campus and catch a glimpse of student life. Rather than a virtual tour of the Duke Chapel, visitors could witness the stained-glass windows and stone carvings with their own eyes. Instead of a remote lecture, parents could sit in on a discussion of neuroscience education at Reynolds Theater led by Thomas Newpher, assistant professor of the practice of psychology and neuroscience.
The return to in-person events meant compliance with the University’s COVID-19 restrictions. “Ensuring the health and safety of the Duke and Durham communities, as well as our Duke families, is paramount,” a family weekend brochure reads.
Vaccination was encouraged, though not mandatory, for on-campus visitors. However, Countdown to Craziness required fans to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test, which guests could submit online ahead of time.
Duke parent Lin Wu felt that adhering to health protocol at events like Countdown was smooth and easy. “I love the system that allows us to upload our vaccination card before the event,” Wu said. “This made on-site check-in so easy.”
Compliance with protocol meant that the stadium could once again be packed to the brim with fans. Parent Jennifer Redmore felt reassured that everyone at the event was either vaccinated or had a recent negative test.
“This was the first time in Cameron and our first time attending a crowded event since March of 2020,” Redmore said. “Everyone in our section was masked and excited to be there.”
Following family weekend, there was a negligible difference in the number of COVID-19 cases among students due to majority compliance. Duke reported 14 cases from Oct. 17 to Oct. 24; they reported the same number the week prior.
“We’re grateful to students and families for observing the university’s COVID protocols last weekend and protecting the health and safety of the Duke community,” wrote Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs & government relations and chief communications officer. “As of Thursday, we have seen no indication of an increase in cases as a result of family weekend.”
Wu felt this year’s family weekend was a drastic improvement from virtual programming last year.
“We love seeing people so happy and relaxed outdoors on campus,” she said. “The school has just about the right level of COVID protocol to keep everyone safe and allow people to have fun.”
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Pilar Kelly is a Trinity junior and an opinion columnist for The Chronicle's 118th volume.