Senior Year: 2021-2022

Senior year saw a near return to normalcy, sweeping changes to the housing system and an unforgettable basketball season.

The first day of classes was filled with excitement and anticipation as a fully-populated student body flooded quads and lecture halls for the first time in two years. This was short-lived—in response to over 300 undergraduates testing positive for COVID-19 in late August, Duke allowed professors to move classes back online for two weeks.

Student groups did their best to adjust to new safety protocols but found it difficult to plan recruitment. Non-Greek selective living groups were not given any new fall rush guidelines, while Duke Interfraternity Council recruitment was a hybrid of in-person and virtual events.

In mid-September, Duke announced QuadEx, a new residential system that links East and West Campus quads, to begin fall 2022. The goal of QuadEx is to emphasize a longer period of time for incoming students to build connections within their residential communities, but students had mixed opinions about this housing change. 

The Class of 2020 reunited on campus for a weekend to celebrate a belated commencement, with Sabrina Maciariello, Trinity ‘20, as the student commencement speaker and Ken Jeong, Trinity ‘90, as the guest commencement speaker. The alumni received closure from the abrupt end to their college career two years ago.

And in early October, North Carolina held its primary elections, in which only 10.18% of registered voters in Durham County cast ballots in the primaries. Elaine O’Neal was elected as the first Black female Durham mayor in November, and in April, she delivered her first State of the City Address.

Duke Athletics saw major transitions in leadership in the summer and fall. In a surprise June announcement that rocked the sports world, now-former head coach Mike Krzyzewski revealed his plans to retire after the 2021-2022 season, with Jon Scheyer named head coach-in-waiting. Nina King took over for Kevin White as athletic director at the start of September, while longtime football head coach David Cutcliffe departed at the season’s end, making way for new head coach Mike Elko to come to Durham.

Duke Athletics wasn't the only area of the University to see changes in employment. In December, students and faculty protested against the changes to the Thompson Writing Program, in which renewable contracts will replace non-renewable lecturing fellowships as they expire. In February, the Duke University Press Workers Union won its election to unionize.

New faculty, programs and centers were also announced, with the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences concluding a cluster hire in Native American and Indigenous Studies in August. The Arts and Sciences Council approved the Asian American and Diaspora Studies minor in February. Duke announced in April that it would establish the Center for Gender Violence Prevention and Intervention in fall 2022.

The University saw some positive trends with Duke’s finances. Duke’s endowment returned nearly 56% in fiscal year 2021. Duke received an $11 million donation from an anonymous alumni family, the majority of the gift going towards the Sanford School of Public Policy. Duke also announced that it will be raising the minimum wage to $17 per hour for all eligible employees, with work-study positions rising to a minimum wage of $15 per hour.

Still, the year was not without unfavorable incidents, especially in dorms. Students reported theft and vandalism in Kilgo Quad laundry rooms, and Few Quad residents dealt with broken exit signs and multiple fires.

Duke also had its fair share of controversies. In January, former Duke doctoral student Matthew Harris sent a video referencing a mass shooting and an 800-page manifesto threatening members of the philosophy department at the University of California, Los Angeles. Duke was also one of 16 universities sued for alleged antitrust violations regarding unfairly limiting financial aid.

The Duke community mourned the losses of some of its members this year. Michael Ward, professor emeritus of political science, died in July. Sally McIntosh Ziegler, Trinity ‘56 and the first female editor-in-chief of The Chronicle, died in September. Professor of History Elizabeth Clark also died in September. Sophomore Bryan Lopez died in December. Paul Farmer, Trinity ‘82, died in February. 

In November, a person unaffiliated with Duke was found dead in a wooded area near Penn Pavilion.

In March, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian and Russian students reflected on how the war was affecting their lives in Durham and their families in their home countries.

Two Duke administrators announced their leave this year. Vice President for Administration Kyle Cavanaugh will retire this September and will be the National Basketball Association’s new President of Administration. Trinity College Dean Valerie Ashby will leave Duke in June and will begin her role as president of University of Maryland, Baltimore County in August.

And back to Duke Athletics—women’s basketball fell to Miami in the ACC tournament and ultimately missed out on the NCAA tournament in Head Coach Kara Lawson’s first full year,  but Shayeann Day-Wilson won ACC Freshman of the Year. While women’s golf could not defend their ACC title, Phoebe Brinker and Erica Shepherd took first and second place in the championship individually. For the first time in a decade, Duke women’s tennis won the ACC Championship.

But of course, Duke men’s basketball was at the center of the college basketball universe this year. The Cameron Crazies were back in the stands and tenting in Krzyzewskiville. 

The team won its first ACC regular-season championship since 2010 but could not fend off Carolina in Coach K's last home game. The Blue Devils had a magical run in San Francisco, winning the West regional tournament, but lost again to Carolina in the Final Four in New Orleans, officially ending Krzyzewski’s career.

After an electric basketball season came the end of the semester, which was filled with festivities.

 In the year’s student elections, undergraduate students chose then-junior Lana Gesinsky to be the next DSG president, replacing senior Christina Wang. Kacia Anderson, then a senior, was elected to serve as undergraduate Young Trustee. And on the first in-person last day of classes in two years, students celebrated with a live concert featuring A$AP Ferg, Daya and Peach Tree Rascals.


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