Go West, Young Sophomore


A residential-life plan presented to Duke trustees at their October board meeting would move all sophomores to West Campus next fall and accelerate other changes aimed at improving undergraduate life.

The scheduled fall 2002 opening of the 350-bed West-Edens Link residence hall, which will connect the main section of West Campus with Edens Quad, has enabled the university to accelerate a multi-year plan aimed at addressing students' concerns about residential life, said Larry Moneta, the university's new vice president for student affairs. "We really do not have a cohesiveness in our current housing situation," he told trustees. "The addition of the West-Edens Link is the first step in changing the entire fabric of that relationship."

University administrators had expected a four-year renovation schedule for main West Campus residence halls to push back to 2006 the full implementation of several key residential-life policy changes, Moneta said. A shift to a summers-only renovation schedule, based on discussions with architects and contractors, would enable the entire process to be accelerated, while avoiding housing disruptions.

The "stunning success" of the residential experience for freshmen is a key factor driving the decision, said Moneta. "What we want to do is to take the East Campus experience and move it to the West Campus immediately. We cannot delay the implementation of the genuine sophomore residential experience. It is integral to what we're trying to do."

By avoiding renovation work during the academic year, the university would also avoid the prospect of requiring selected individuals or living groups to live in Trent Hall or on Central Campus. Instead, housing administrators are considering making Trent a single-room-only dormitory and filling it on a voluntary basis with upperclassmen. "We would have enough beds for everyone," Moneta said. "We may not have them where every student wants to be, but we would have them. And we would work to mitigate the impact on juniors and seniors."

Besides moving all sophomores onto West Campus next fall and implementing linkages between halls on East and West campuses, the university would beef up its residential-life and academic-support services for those students, Moneta stressed. "The notion here is to introduce a new level of community."

New residential communities--six "quads" on West Campus and four "clusters" on East Campus--would be established as the primary units for delivering support services. Selective housing groups would be "nested" and equally distributed within each quad, making up approximately one-third of a quad's total residency. And each quad or cluster would include staff offices, public facilities, and commons rooms.

Full-time residence coordinator positions would also be created, one for each quad or cluster, to supervise the undergraduate and graduate resident staff. In addition to living in the quad or cluster, the residence coordinator would serve as a liaison between students, faculty, and administrators. Residence coordinators would act as a "node" to connect existing academic resources to students and, by doing that, increase their academic focus, said Robert Thompson, dean of Trinity College. "What I see in front of us is a tremendous opportunity to make the kinds of linkages we've been talking about for a long time."

The offices of Housing Management and Student Development would also be integrated under the plan to serve students "in a more cohesive and seamless manner," Moneta said.

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