As QuadEx’s inaugural year comes to an end, The Chronicle returned to the students who shared their initial reactions to the new residential living system with us in 2021.
The articles, titled "‘We haven't gotten the chance to develop a so-called Duke norm’: Students talk new QuadEx system," and "'People should have a choice of the identity that they want to create here': How first-year students feel about QuadEx," was published days after The Chronicle reported that Duke would be rolling out QuadEx. At the time, many first-years felt overwhelmed about being thrown into a new system. Upperclassmen pointed out its restricting features and questioned the draw of quad events, but identified QuadEx's potential to build a more inclusive Duke community.
This year, though students’ thoughts on QuadEx as a system varied, they still tended to agree on the fact that it was restricting specific groups, such as non-Greek selective living groups, from finding community on campus. They also pointed out a lack of tangible change in students’ social habits despite the increased presence of quad-related events.
Sophomore Vibhav Nandagiri expressed uncertainty about QuadEx last year.
“It’s definitely a lot of pressure to be the first class to get these quad communities going. Whether we will embrace that challenge or not is yet to be seen,” Nandagiri said in 2021. “People should have a choice of the identity that they want to create here. It seems like those choices are disappearing.”
Now, as Nandagiri reflects on his first two years at Duke, he has valued joining the selective living group Roundtable in addition to forming close friendships within his Keohane Quad, for which he serves on Quad Council.
“I'm very close with the people in my block, and I generally like them, so I guess in a way, if it weren't for QuadEx, we wouldn't have been together,” Nandagiri said. “So I think it's fortunate, but I know that my case is definitely not in the majority.”
“People did rush into a few [housing] arrangements that maybe weren't the best just because they were limited to basically two freshman dorms as opposed to their friends being in other dorms. But I think at the end of the day, people are adjusting, and they're finding their way around,” Nandagiri continued.
The Class of 2024 and 2023 experienced the University’s transition to QuadEx more indirectly, as their first-year dorms were not tied to their sophomore-year living arrangements. However, sophomores last year still spoke about their opinions on QuadEx.
Last year, junior Jack Dugoni, who did not live on East Campus as a first-year due to COVID policies, said, “My first question would be, who did they talk to about this, and where did it come from? … I think that the idea of sticking you with people that you're pretty much randomly assigned to seems slightly problematic.”
He still feels that the first-year experience varies greatly from person to person, making it difficult to argue that QuadEx would be universally beneficial.
“I think it'll definitely vary across campus in terms of people that are really satisfied with what they end up with and who they live with. But I think there's also gonna be a good healthy chunk of people that are not,” Dugoni said recently. “I think it's a little bit tricky to assume that people are just going to buy into it, that it's going to work well for everyone.”
As a member of the selective living group Wayne Manor, Dugoni last year said, "I think SLGs should definitely be able to have blocks on campus. That’s kind of what makes them ‘SLGs’ instead of just ‘SGs.'"
He still stands by that, noting that he dislikes the way QuadEx has pushed back on the existence of SLGs, and hopes that two systems can co-exist.
“It's tricky to justify how SLGs could continue to exist at the same time as QuadEx is taking shape. So I wish that would change. I wish they could somehow do both. But if you can't provide a living space, at least support their existence because it's not like you could just wipe SLGs away,” Dugoni said.
Junior Amanda He, who rushed Maxwell House as a sophomore, said in the 2021 article that she was “curious if Duke is trying to slowly do away with SLGs, and Greek life as a byproduct.” However, she did not think they would ever be phased out due to the fact that “Greek life is a big enough community … that it'll still be here for years and years as long as Duke is allowing it to persist.”
Now, however, she has a slightly more “disheartening” view of the future of SLGs specifically, predicting that in a few years SLGs will be “completely wiped” and Greek Life will continue to persist.
“SLGs have been really fighting to try and survive amidst these changes. However, it is a lot harder because one of the biggest selling points is that all of the members can live together, so if that's no longer an option, there's fewer incentives to be a part of this organization,” she said.
She agrees with her statement in the 2021 article that Greek life will continue to thrive due to both its current existence as a large community and the fact that students who would have rushed for SLGs will now look to sororities and fraternities for community. However, she foresees a few dangers that might come with restricting SLGs on campus.
“It's even more harmful to people with specific identities, like those who are LGBTQ+. Those communities will definitely be affected because some of the SLGs on campus have particularly made efforts to welcome those identities,” He said.
Additionally, in the 2021 article, He said that she could see some benefits to QuadEx because “it could foster inclusion between people that you live with, and it could make the first-year and second-year living experience more engaging or filled with activities.”
This year, she said Duke has been trying to create traditions and “fun group bonding activities within QuadEx” for the Classes of 2025 and 2026. However, she has yet to see a noticeable change in where students invest their time socially.
“I think making new traditions from scratch is a really difficult thing to do, especially for students who don't have a lot of investment in their current quad,” she said.
Junior Joy Bao-Dai said in the 2021 article that when it comes to QuadEx, “the one word I immediately think of that describes it is restriction.” At the time, she said that she felt Duke was building more walls between students because “one of the exciting things about entering into sophomore year is that the divide between [first-year] quads is really brought down.”
However, now at the end of her junior year, she noted that her description of "restrictive" may have been a reflection of the pandemic.
“Where you live doesn't determine who your friends are,” she continued. “A lot of it has to do with your interests, like maybe sports clubs or pre-professional interests. Those are what really determine who you're friends with. And so, a lot of times it doesn't have to do with where you even live. I feel like what really essentially was putting up the walls was COVID itself.”
Bao-Dai also joined an SLG her sophomore year, Maxwell House. In the 2021 article, she said that QuadEx “will likely loosen the tight bond between people [in SLGs] because part of establishing a tight bond between people is being able to live together.”
This year, she shares similar sentiments to Dugoni and He on how “Duke has forced these previously established communities to really break apart” in what she says was a harsh and sudden change with a lot of disregard towards communities people have worked so hard to establish.
“If Duke were to redo QuadEX over again, I wouldn't be like ‘No, don't do QuadEx.' I would be like, ‘Ok, can you implement it in a way that's more considerate towards the upperclassmen who've allowed their entire Duke experience to be shaped by these SLGs?’” Bao-Dai said.
Finally, in the 2021 article Bao-Dai expressed that “even though there might be events in dorms, people will still most likely prefer to go to social events that are hosted by their respective clubs and organizations.”
A year later, Bao-Dai has not seen an increase in student engagement with QuadEx despite the events they have been hosting, citing Crowell Quad’s Halloween celebration last October.
“Crowell Quad Council had a really cool idea: they brought in a DJ, they had a 21+ keg, they put up all these really cool decorations around the quad, they played music," she said. "But nobody showed up.”
Bao-Dai said she was disappointed because the Quad Council had put in a lot of effort, but students stuck to the norm and still showed up to their SLG and Greek Life events.
She also has noticed that while Crowell Quad Council has done a great job of using their large budget to plan events and provide free food and merch to the students, she knows of people in other quads who have complained about their Quad Council’s lack of action.
For these specific quads, Bao-Dai said that “QuadEx has essentially not only restricted their communities but also not given them any benefits that QuadEx promised to give.”
“And I feel like largely that falls on the people who are in charge of the funds and in charge of coming up with fun things to do,” she said.
While He believes there is hope for the next Class of 2027 to continue the momentum of forming traditions and fostering inclusion, she thinks “it's really hard to say right now that there was a change.”
“I just don't think there is enough momentum to really foster that sense of belonging to a dorm just yet,” she said.
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Alison Korn is a Pratt junior and enterprise editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Madeleine Berger is a Trinity junior and an editor at large of The Chronicle's 118th volume.