Duke’s student government heard campus administrators talk about QuadEx, Duke’s new model of residential living, at their meeting on Wednesday.
The conversation, which was chaired by Mary Pat McMahon, vice-president and vice-president of student affairs and Gary Bennett, vice-president of undergraduate education, included a comparison between QuadEx and the old Duke model, as well as a discussion of the potential impacts that QuadEx has on the culture of Duke.
Bennett and McMahon were also joined by their colleagues Shruti Desai, associate vice president of student affairs for campus life; John Blackshear, Dean of Students and Associate Vice President of Student Affairs; Chris Rossi, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs for Strategic Engagement and Dean of Residence Life Deb LoBiondo.
“Somewhere along the way, Duke became a place where selectivity was like the coin of the kingdom,” McMahon said.
She also commented on what she observes as a slow shift from the student experience from this previous culture to a new “culture of belonging”. This change, explained McMahon, was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, during which many groups of students could not afford to be selective.
Another objective of QuadEx is the “intellectual experience” of the students. The system is designed so that “this whole concept of your intellectual growth and development has genuinely meaningful support throughout your four years,” McMahon said.
Throughout the discussion, senators questioned administrators about the extent of student groups’ participation in the process and how students can make their voices heard.
In response, administrators emphasized that they are flexible and open to the opinions of students.
Currently, administrators rely on official channels to communicate with freshmen, such as “Identity and Cultural Student Groups, Many FOCUS Groups, Class Councils, Campus Councils from the east and quad boards, ”Rossi said.
Rossi said he hoped the discussion with the DSG could also be a “call to action” for senators to help administrators access student voices.
Bennett and McMahon stressed that they need the support and cooperation of the students.
“What we really need, we probably need a hundred of you all from the class of 2025, to really step in with us and say, ‘I want to start building traditions. I want to start thinking about what it’s going to be. I want to think about welcoming the students in the Class of 2027 who will pass, ”McMahon said.
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Bennett and McMahon responded to student concerns about the future of selective living groups with the advent of QuadEX. “If you are interested in joining a selective social group, or if you are interested in joining a Greek organization, we want for you there to be no barrier to your engagement,” Bennett said, “but we want you. give one the opportunity to try and experience Duke’s core community genre first.
QuadEx is intended to build a community without the “abrupt challenges associated with haste – which, frankly, have dismantled much of the community that has been built on the East Campus for so many years,” Bennett said. .
University administrators have made it clear that they are not opposed to the engagement that selective Greek and non-Greek life groups have to offer. “These groups will no longer have section accommodations, but we hope they will have a vibrant presence on this campus,” Bennett said.
Administrators also responded to concerns about students with marginalized identities and students with disabilities finding community through QuadEx.
Bennett pointed to the move from a dormitory to a larger unit of around 400 students. “We [will] have larger and more diverse communities, ”he said.
University administrators will ensure that students with disabilities have their accommodations respected. The University is committed to “working with these students to make sure they have what they need,” Bennett said.
Bennett and McMahon addressed concerns that students would find it difficult to meet people outside of their freshman circles. They believe that QuadEx will be a way to build relationships throughout the class years.
“It’s about creating the structure, but it’s also about providing the resources and the programming so that you can find people and feel good with the people around you,” Bennett said.
Despite this conversation, senators expressed concerns about QuadEx during their post-discussion roundtable.
In particular, senators were concerned about how QuadEx would affect the experiences of survivors of sexual assault, given that abusers and survivors will be more likely to live close to each other for years at a time. Before moving to an executive session, Senators also noted that administrators had not described any specific method they would use to contact Duke students, such as a town hall.