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DUU ‘looking forward to thinking of how to do things in a new way’ with changing pandemic restrictions, only one advisor

Duke University Union has faced a variety of challenges this year as they held events for students, including pandemic restrictions and losing advisors. 

Most DUU events were online last year due to COVID-19 policies. Even though a few events remained “in-person,” they offered limited face-to-face interaction—mug painting, for example, saw students picking up their mugs in-person, but decorating them in their dorm rooms. 

With the return of in-person events, DUU hopes to provide spaces for students to re-connect in-person. According to DUU President Ysanne Spence, a senior, there has been increased attendance at DUU events this year.

“I’ve seen that people are wanting to meet other people and wanting that community. We’re just trying to provide as many events as possible so people can have that community,” Spence said. 

Weekly attendance to Jazz @ the Mary Lou, for example, has increased this semester. Traditionally, the event has a smaller number of regular attendees. Spence described a different scene this year. 

“When there was the cap of how many people could be indoors at one time, they were turning people away because so many people were coming,” Spence said. “There was a line out the door.”

DUU has also suffered the loss of advisors this semester. While the organization typically has four advisors, they started the year with two. Now they only have one advisor.  

Spence attributes advisors leaving to the intense workload of working with a large organization, where “you’re a therapist, you’re a mentor and you're an advisor.” 

DUU leaders are communicating with administration, who said that they are in the process of hiring new advisors. While DUU awaits more administrative help, Spence and the rest of the team have made themselves available to their peers in hopes of easing the transition. 

“That’s been one of the silver linings. It really made us think: what are we doing and would this be the time to maybe think about how we could improve things and start new traditions,” said junior Evan Dragich, DUU's vice president of administration. “It feels like that’s definitely the prevailing attitude. People are looking forward to thinking of how to do things in a new way.”  

Spence says DUU has learned to adapt. “Nothing is set in stone, nothing is forever, because something is changing every day, whether it be rules that you have to put in for COVID, or staff. You’re constantly on your toes trying to figure things out,” she said.

And after the past year, DUU has learned to be prepared. 

“You can never really be too sure and you have to always have a backup plan. But I think this year, we’ve been pretty successful in that regard,” Dragich said.

This semester has brought numerous challenges, and Spence hopes these experiences can inform future programming. Virtual programming has opened new possibilities for events over breaks, online trivia and gaming rooms. As DUU adds new programming, they are also reassessing some of their traditional events. 

“I think on our end we’ve tried to be a lot more intentional in what we’re programming and who we’re programming to,” Spence said.

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