Editor's note: This story is part of a series about the Class of 2026 based on a survey conducted by The Chronicle. You can read more about our methodology and limitations here, or see all of our survey coverage here.
The Class of 2026 is the first at Duke to experience the full implementation of QuadEx, a new residential life system that looks to transform social life on campus from a “culture of selectivity” to a “culture of belonging,” according to University administrators.
At its core, QuadEx is built on a linking system between first-year dorms on East Campus to quads on West Campus for sophomores, juniors and seniors. This is designed to help build a non-selective community that all undergraduates can take part in, while addressing the “abrupt challenges that were associated with rush,” for selective groups, administrators said.
Among the most prominent changes brought forth by QuadEx include no longer offering section housing for Greek organizations and non-Greek selective living groups. Over the past two years, a majority of fraternities and all sororities in the now-former Duke Interfraternity Council and Duke Panhellenic Association voted to disaffiliate from the University, forming the Durham IFC and Durham Panhel, respectively.
QuadEx also aims to support students’ intellectual experience at Duke. Outside of housing reforms, new initiatives like Experiential Orientation, which revamped pre-orientation programs for incoming first-years, Sophomore Spark, which provides career and networking opportunities to rising sophomores, and the Faculty Fellows program, which seeks to connect the academic and residential lives of students have been implemented.
So how does the first class to see QuadEx in action feel about Duke’s new living and learning system?
How does the Class of 2026’s perceptions about QuadEx, Greek life, SLGs and LLCs compare to the Class of 2025’s?
What a difference a year can make.
For the Class of 2025, around 22% of those surveyed had a strongly unfavorable opinion of QuadEx, and 29% had a somewhat unfavorable opinion of the new campus residential system. Among those surveyed in the Class of 2026, only 8.9% of students had a strongly unfavorable opinion of QuadEx, and 17% had a somewhat unfavorable opinion.
A greater proportion of first-years were neutral about QuadEx this year compared to last — 32% this year compared to 26% last year — while the percentage of those who found it either somewhat or strongly favorable jumped from 22% for the Class of 2025 to 41% for the Class of 2026.
For the Class of 2026, around 60% of students expressed at least somewhat of an interest in taking part in Greek life. This is higher than the Class of 2025, in which just over 50% of students expressed at least somewhat of an interest in Greek life.
Interest in selective living groups is comparable among the classes — for the Class of 2026, 71% of students expressed some interest in taking part in an SLG, compared to the Class of 2025’s 74%.
There was a slight increase in the percentage of students in the Class of 2026 interested in joining a living and learning community as compared to the Class of 2025. For the Class of 2026, 72% of students reported feeling at least slightly interested in joining an LLC, compared to the Class of 2025’s 66%.
Community on East Campus and East-West connections
East Campus is divided in its style of dorms. On the main quad lies older dorms, sometimes with mold problems, while behind the main quad are the newer, larger dorms housing first-years.
But along with the potential for mold on East Campus’ main quad is a potential for greater sense of community. Of those dorms that have the highest rates of residents feeling a community around them, many are on the main quad.
Overall, 80% of first-years reported feeling at least some sense of community within their East Campus dorm.
Alspaugh, Bassett and Brown had between 4% and 11% of their residents feeling that they have very little sense of community within their dorms and no residents who responded to the survey found no sense of community within these dorms.
Among main quad dorms with lower senses of community, East House and Giles had 29% and 23% of residents have very little sense of community, respectively. Another 5% of respondents from Giles reported feeling no sense of community in their dorm. In Wilson, 36% of residents felt that they had little or no sense of community.
Pegram, the dorm for the performing arts living and learning community on East Campus, also has one of the greatest senses of community, with 65% of its residents either feeling a strong sense of community and 95% sensing at least some sense of community.
Bell Tower has 38% of its residents not finding any sense or very little sense of community, and Trinity has 29% of its residents in the same two categories. Randolph had 43% of its residents who took our survey report that they found little or no sense of community, while only 10% of Southgate residents and 5.9% of Blackwell residents felt similarly.
First-years do not feel close to their connected West Campus quad, which is one of the goals of QuadEx. Of those who responded to our survey, 87% noted that they feel either not close at all or not very close with their connected quad.
Greek life, QuadEx and income
Opinions about QuadEx for the Class of 2026 vary based on reported family income.
For those with reported family income of less than $40,000, 43% indicated that they are either somewhat or strongly favorable of QuadEx as a system, while nearly 10% report finding QuadEx strongly unfavorable. Of those with reported family income between $40,000 and $80,000, 47% find QuadEx at least somewhat favorable, and that remains similar for those with reported family income between $80,000 and $125,000, with around 3% indicating that they find QuadEx strongly unfavorable in each category.
There is a drop-off in the favorability of QuadEx for those with family income greater than $125,000. Among those who reported a family income between $125,000 and $250,000, only 37% find QuadEx at least somewhat favorable and for those who reported a family income between $250,000 and $500,000, 39% find it at least somewhat favorable. Meanwhile, in these income brackets, the percentage of students who find QuadEx strongly unfavorable jumps back to nearly 10%.
Members of the Class of 2026 who reported having a family income of greater than $500,000 find QuadEx at least somewhat favorable at a near-40% rate, but a lower proportion are neutral at this income bracket. The percentage of these students expressing a strongly unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable opinion jumps to around 17% and 14%, respectively.
Like opinions about QuadEx, perceptions about joining Greek life are also tied to income.
Only 24% of the respondents who reported family incomes below $40,000 said they would be at least slightly interested in taking part in Greek life. As reported family income ranges from $40,000 to $125,000, around 42% of students indicated they would be at least slightly interested in Greek life.
That figure crosses the 50% threshold for students with reported family income of above $125,000 — for those with family incomes between $125,000 and $250,000, nearly 57% are at least slightly interested in joining a Greek organization and between $250,000 and $500,000, that figure jumps to 72%.
Among those who reported a family income above $500,000, nearly 85% are at least somewhat interested in Greek life, and 51% indicated that they are very interested or extremely interested in joining a fraternity or a sorority — a marked step up from any other income bracket.
Experiential Orientation: popularity and community
Popularity of Experiential Orientation programs varied across programs. Project Wild and Project Waves — staples carried forward this year from the University’s prior pre-orientation programs — led the way in terms of satisfaction with over 90% of respondents in these programs indicating that they were ones they wanted to take part in.
Project Play, a program in its inaugural year, which featured an opportunity to play basketball with the Duke men’s basketball team, also had over 90% of its participants say that this was a program they wanted to attend.
Project Lead, Project Research and Project Wellness had at least 50% of their participants not wanting to participate in these programs. Project SEED, Project Earth, Project EDGE, Project Citizen, Project Identity and Culture and Project Farm to Table were close in unpopularity, with each having at least 30% of respondents note that these programs were not ones they preferred.
Experiential Orientation programs are divided into four categories: EXcel, EXcite, EXpand and EXplore. The levels of community experienced by respondents to the survey across these four categories are relatively stable, with the exception of EXplore programs, which fostered a particularly strong sense of community.
Across EXplore programs, over half the participants felt that they experienced a strong sense of community in their Experiential Orientation program. No other category crosses the 50% threshold for participants feeling a strong sense of community.
Katie Tan contributed data analysis.
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Adway S. Wadekar is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.