The 2023 tenting season has officially ended, and with it, a pilot program providing financial support for tenting materials.
The undergraduate line monitors originally announced the initiative in December 2022, aiming to ease the financial burdens that come with the process. Students tent in K-Ville starting in early January to get tickets to the Duke-Carolina men’s basketball game, this year on Feb. 4.
“Tenting should be something that everyone has access to, regardless of whatever ability status that they have,” said senior Didac Garcia-Grau, co-head line monitor. “We felt like financial ability status was one checkbox that we as an organization hadn't seen Duke check yet.”
This season, 51 tenters received a total of $6,700 in supplies, according to Bobby Kunstman, assistant vice president for campus life. Aid was only distributed to Black and Blue tents, and no aid was allocated for White or Flex tents, according to senior Emma Smith, co-head line monitor. There were 1560 total tenters this season.
All students were eligible to apply for aid, which were not stipends but came in the form of a sleeping bag, lantern and sleeping pad, Kunstman wrote in an email to The Chronicle. Administrators partnered with Duke’s financial aid office to prioritize students’ needs based on the applications, and then used financial aid eligibility to match students who qualified for tenting.
“From the conversations that we've had with people just picking up aid, everyone seems really excited and appreciative of things, and really glad that it was an option,” Smith said.
Distribution of aid
In K-Ville, senior Felipe Ferraz gestured to what he called “easily” $100 to $200 worth of financial aid in his tent. The air mattress he sat on, the lantern that doubled as a wireless charger and the tarp the rain bounced off of — even his seven-foot-long weather-resistant sleeping bag — were all provided by the initiative.
He pointed out that he “[hasn’t] actually had to buy a single thing” for this tenting season.
There was confusion about how financial aid would be distributed when the initiative was first announced. Until Dec. 21, all emails from line monitors referenced the initiative as a form of financial support or financial assistance, and referred to the distribution of aid as “allocation of funds.”
“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Ferraz said, but he would be “happy with whatever they were going to give [him].”
Juniors Jadyn Cleary and Randi Jennings, whose group did not pass the tenting test, said members of their group who were eligible for aid had different interpretations of how it would be distributed.
Cleary said that an email sent from Student Affairs led her to believe that eligible members of her tent “would be reimbursed or given money to some extent for the materials” that were promised to be covered. “Another member in my group interpreted that same email to mean that they pay the bill or the financial support would buy the materials for her,” she said.
Smith said the head line monitors hoped for the aid to be a stipend. She explained that some students already own sleeping pads or sleeping bags, and a stipend would be the easiest way for them to purchase the supplies they really need.
But after exploring “all options” with financial aid, administrators decided to give supplies and not a stipend to make sure all students were able to “participate in the process,” according to Kunstman. If students received funds directly, there could be “a potential tax implication.”
“To meet the needs for students and timing of tenting, it made more sense to purchase supplies directly to support the tenting experience. That way, students did not have to go offsite to find the necessary items to participate in the experience fully, such as cold weather sleeping bags,” he wrote.
Because of the speed at which tents are set up after the tenting entry test results are announced, Cleary pointed out that “you really need to have all your supplies before you know whether or not you’re going to tent.”
Equity and inclusion in tenting
For Ferraz, financial aid got him “pretty much everything [he] needed.” He wondered whether it was possible to provide money for extra warm clothes — especially since he hails from Florida — but he “can’t complain.”
“Being on financial aid, you’re always trying to see how you can cut on costs in terms of wanting to buy this textbook, can I get away with just using this PDF or whatever. So just having all the supplies given to me, it was a really big help,” he said.
Smith said she hopes to see future line monitors continue to have conversations about aid beyond solely supplies, as “sometimes students need the funds to pitch in for their group tent,” such as decorations and costumes for spirit events.
Jennings, however, wonders if the overall structure of K-Ville can “actually be an equitable and inclusive experience at all.” Noting how competitive it is to get one’s foot into K-Ville, she pointed out that access to resources extends beyond acquiring supplies.
Tenting is “still time and money” as students who need to work just “hope that [they] don’t get into a whole tent full of people with overloaded class schedules,” Cleary said.
“Regardless, a student who comes from a family where they may be more privileged or may have grown up in Duke basketball is going to have a slight advantage over someone who just started getting into basketball, or maybe doesn't have the same amount of free time as others because of jobs or financial necessities,” Jennings said.
Smith believes now that relationships between the line monitors and Student Affairs have been established, tenters are in a much better position to receive aid moving forward.
“For a pilot year, we've been able to do a lot of good,” Smith said. “I’ve been realizing that this is something that was needed and understand the importance of it now, which will help us going forward.”
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Audrey Wang is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Andrew Long is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.