Thursday, March 01, 2007

Duke Needs To Avoid "Culture of Excess"

The Frat Boy News Daily College Column
By Eric Ferreri and Jane Stancill, Staff Writers for The News & Observer

After nine months of study spurred by the lacrosse scandal, a campus culture committee at Duke has made 28 recommendations to promote diversity, strike a balance in athletics and change a "culture of excess."

The report, released today by the university, takes a critical view of Duke's social life. Housing policies allow large groups of friends, fraternity or sorority members to live together and occupy large chunks of space, resulting in cliquish, racially segregated dorms that unfairly favor male students, the report said. Students too often drink to get drunk, it said, leading to bad behavior, impaired health and lost weekends.

"There's definitely a theme in this report of pushing in our students the philosophy of respect," said Robert Thompson, a dean and co-chairman of the committee.

Among the proposals: mandate one course about race, religious, gender or socio-economic difference in the United States; drop the practice of allowing student groups larger than 12 people to live together; enforce alcohol regulations; and establish a bar on campus where students over 21 can drink in a responsible way. Other recommendations have to do with admissions and athletics, including more faculty oversight in both areas. Proposals include cutting travel and practice time for athletes, establishing a higher admissions bar for athletes and aggressively recruiting more minority and international students in general.

In a prepared statement, Duke President Richard Brodhead said none of the recommendations is a done deal. The conversation begins now about where to go next, he said. "This is a time for vigorous debate, which is a healthy thing in a university," he said.

The discussion will no doubt be heated. Reallocating precious real estate on the Gothic quads is sure to stir controversy, but Thompson said the current room assignment policy promotes division among students.

"The process causes some students to feel less privileged and less empowered," he said.

In 1995, former Duke President Nan Keohane moved all freshmen to Duke's East Campus. The change was greeted angrily by many alumni, but has since been accepted and viewed as a success. Some of the new recommendations will likely be followed as the university builds a new Central Campus with apartment-style living for older students.

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