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If you’re tenting, shame on you. But more than that, shame on Duke for allowing it.

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We all saw the email last week. K-Ville will play host to tenting once again, and the reassuring bit is supposed to be the increased testing and social distancing. Another set of headlines you likely saw last week was the national shortage in rapid tests. Duke has long been a contributor to this problem, stockpiling massive amounts of COVID tests to regularly test their student body and keep classes in person, but is about to become an even more offensive party—increasing the amount of tests withheld, not only during a testing shortage but also during a notable surge in infection rates. 

All of this could be assuaged, possibly, if Duke wasn’t also condoning a super spreader event in the form of K-Ville. K-Ville rules have been modified, somewhat, but not nearly enough to render K-Ville a safe activity. I don’t think any of us believe students tenting will stay in their assigned bubbles; even if social distancing guidelines are strictly adhered to, those of us who have experienced pre-COVID tenting know that the flu and other respiratory illnesses are just a fact of life in K-Ville. It’s expected. Sleeping outside, in the (albeit North Carolina temperate) winter, waking up every few hours for a tent check and juggling a full course load is a recipe for rampant illness—and right now, that will inevitably mean massive COVID outbreaks. 

And it is naïve to believe this will be confined to those tenting. Inexorably, this will infect other students and impact the education of those of us not participating in the health hazard that is tenting. For us older folks, we all remember that the coronavirus response email was "keep learning"—not keep tenting or keep going to basketball games, keep learning. Enabling tenting this year is a loud and clear statement by the administration that learning is no longer the priority. In person graduation for the Class of 2022 is not a priority. Protecting Durham residents is not a priority. Electing to tent is choosing to actively endanger yourself and your fellow students, not to mention taking tests from those who need them during a scarcity. 

There are countless stories of hourly workers missing income they need to pay bills because they cannot acquire a (now rare) COVID test. If there remained any question about whether Duke cares about Durham, let me answer it for you. They do not. This has been shown time and time again; in the midst of a global pandemic, Duke intends to withhold COVID tests from a larger population so students can engage in an already dangerous and unnecessary tradition. Other schools have implemented lottery systems or similar alternatives for getting into rivalry games. If attending the UNC game must be a demonstration of one’s commitment to Duke Basketball, the exam that is already being administered to secure a spot in K-Ville could suffice. Such an egregious violation of COVID protocol isn’t necessary, and it most definitely isn’t worth it. And if you still think it is, I implore you to ask yourself: is the safety of those around you worth standing room at a game?

Melanie Holmes is a Trinity senior. 

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