MARCH 8, 2021
ONE YEAR LATER During a year of changes and challenges, we at The Chronicle have been honored to continue our mission to serve the Duke community. In the 116 years since we began publication, the coronavirus pandemic is one of the events that has most disrupted life at Duke and the way we report on it. As we near the one-year anniversary of Duke’s March 10, 2020, announcement that classes would move online, we’re stepping back and considering how much our campus and community have changed. This special edition highlights just a few of the challenges our community rose to meet over the course of the past year. We will not be able to revert quickly to the lives that we had before the COVID-19 pandemic, nor will we forget the lessons in resilience that we have learned. From being kept from Duke’s campus to being kept under strict guidelines while on it, students, faculty, staff, parents and other members of the Duke community have managed to forge new paths ahead. To commemorate this anniversary, we have pulled together some of our most important stories of a year that will leave its mark on all of our educations, relationships and lives. -Maria Morrison, Chris Kuo and Anna Zolotor, project editors
2 | MONDAY, MARCH 8, 2021
MARCH 10, 2020
Duke announces move online By Rose Wong Senior Editor
Margot Armbruster Opinion Managing Editor
Chris Kuo Features Managing Editor
Di-Ding. “Urgent Message from President Price Regarding COVID-19 Plans” Click. “To the Duke Community…” Skimming. “Duke University and Duke Health will remain open, and many of our operations and activities will continue…” Scrolling. “Duke is committed to maintaining our daily operations, completing the semester…” Okay, okay. “First, all on-campus classes will be suspended until further notice, and we will transition to remote instruction…” What? “Second, all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who are currently out of town for Spring Break should NOT return to the Duke campus if at all possible…” Huh??? March 10, 2020 when President Vincent Price sent out the above announcement, was a historic day for Blue Devils. Many students casually exchanged goodbyes before taking off for spring break, thinking they would see each other in just a week—only to realize days later that their time on campus had come to an abrupt end. Some would never walk across the quad as a student again. The moment also signified the start of Duke’s uphill fight to adapt to life in the era of COVID-19, a battle that is far from over. From transitioning to online classes to socially distancing on campus in the fall, Duke has bid farewell to its familiar self for the foreseeable future. To recount how this all began, we interviewed a number of Duke students. These are a selection of the stories they told: stories of ruptured plans, frantic texts, unexpected relief, a life-altering email.
Stories that are each, in a way, our own. ——— March 10 came early for first-year Anya Gupta, who woke up at 6:45 a.m., HawaiiAleutian standard time. (The class years given in this story are students’ class years when the events took place.) But adrenaline soon jolted her body awake. Today was a big day: She and her classmates would be exploring the Kilauea volcano on the southeastern shore of the Big Island, the largest of the Hawaii archipelago. Five days ago, they had embarked on a spring break trip for their Volcanology of Hawaii class. Today, for the first time, they’d be guided by Don Swanson, a research geologist for the United States Geological Survey and a legendary volcano aficionado whose career stretched back to the Sputnik era. In her tent, Gupta rummaged for her gear: a North Face rain jacket, her gray Osprey backpack and a yellow notebook and mechanical pencil to write down her observations. She surrounded her dark hair with a hat she had bought at Yosemite. Soon, she and her classmates and professor packed lunches and piled into a van to drive from their campsite to the parking lot of the Kilauea Visitor Center, where Swanson joined them. Puffy white clouds floated above Gupta and the group as they arrived at the Kilauea park. The baby blue sky that held them began just above the horizon, melting into azure. The air was warm, drenched with moisture and the smell of sulfur. Gupta and her classmates spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon at the park, toppling over gray and black volcanic surfaces, plunging past yellow ferns that clung to the sides of narrow fissures, snapping photos of brown rock formations that rippled like the underside of a cow’s udder. They observed green crystals, spatter ramparts, lava trees. As the day wore on, the clouds grew thick and gray; rain occasionally pelted the ground. The only other sounds came from the laughter of the group and Swanson’s lecturing about volcanoes. Around 4 p.m., the group finished their last
SUMMER 2020 Students join nationwide protests By Chris Kuo Features Managing Editor
The evening of May 30, 2020, sophomore Bethlehem Ferede saw tear gas float toward a crowd of protesters in Raleigh. It looked like a cloud of smoke, she said. But smoke wouldn’t account for what came next: the “bloodcurdling” screams of people inhaling the gas. Besieged by the traumatic, the mind retreats to the concrete and the trivial. Ferede distinctly remembers someone at the protest walking around yelling, “I found someone’s yellow iPhone. Whose iPhone is this?” after the chemical fog spread. “And I think that was a microcosm of, like, how chaotic it really was,” Ferede said. Protests against racism and police brutality flooded the country after the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd, and Duke students joined in. They made signs, led chants, spoke and ran from tear gas. Ferede attended two protests: the one in Raleigh, and one in Durham June 13. Thousands came for the Raleigh event, which started off peacefully around 5 p.m., she said. But later that evening, Raleigh police fired the tear gas. Ferede and her sister stayed until nine in the evening. By that time, flashing
lights from police cars punctuated the darkness along every street. “You could just feel it getting more and more tense over time,” she said. “A lot of it had to do with the increased police presence.” The Durham protest had a much different feel, Ferede said. It was much smaller and less tense, with a focus on advocating for the removal of school resource officers from the Durham public school system. At the event, Ferede shared a speech drawing on her own experiences in the Durham school system and emphasizing the solidarity between Durham activists and Duke student protesters. “I think there’s oftentimes a very kind of odd divide between Duke organizing and Durham organizing, which is very, very dangerous and counterproductive,” she said. Making a public stance against school resource officers felt both scary and liberating, Ferede said: frightening because of the loss of privacy, but freeing because, despite the odds and opposition, she had found a way to express herself. The event also included poetry reading. One poem in particular stood out to Ferede. The author described how she felt her childhood had been stripped away because of her race and gender. “And how complicated it was to be
Courtesy of Erin Crumpler Some students were on a trip to Hawaii for a class on March 10, 2020, when Duke sent out the announcement that classes would move online due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
field observations and headed to the nearby Volcano House hotel. Still dripping from the rain, they drew looks from the guests in the sparkling lobby. Gupta and her friends didn’t care, though; they had come for two precious commodities—cheap coffee and free Wi-Fi. The hotel coffee was black and bitter, so Gupta dumped some extra sugar in hers. Then, she and the other students hurried over to the charging station, where they huddled over their phones, hungry for notifications. Wi-Fi had been scarce to nonexistent throughout the trip, so this would be a bonanza moment. Gupta connected to the hotel’s network. Immediately, an email from Price chimed in her inbox.
——— After breakfast, senior Elena Puccio drove with her family from San Ignacio, a small town in western Belize, to Placencia, a fishing village at the southern tip of the country. Puccio’s 18-year-old sister, Mia, was home in Virginia because she was in school. Puccio’s dad was on his phone, furrowing his eyebrows, for most of the car ride. He is the medical director and chairman of the emergency department in the Inova Loudoun Hospital in Virginia. Family vacations are usually his one respite from his all-consuming job, but one coronavirus-related crisis after another would
fighting against this system that essentially stole her childhood away from her,” Ferede said. Sophomore Lily Levin was in Raleigh that day as well. She, alongside thousands more, started at the city courthouse and marched to the city jail, chanting, “No justice, no peace. No racist police.” The protesters also blocked Capital Boulevard, a major Raleigh highway, closing a section of the highway. Levin said she stood at the front of the crowd but remembers police officers shooting tear gas at the back of the protest around 7 p.m. Later, some people damaged downtown buildings and looted businesses. The goal of protests is to bring about change by shedding light on issues like police abolition, Levin said. Rioting can also be an effective political strategy, she said. “Honestly, I just really don’t understand the non-Black people who are criticizing rioting and looting,” she said. “It’s such a valid way to show anger, but it also gets things done… It’s the language of people who haven’t been heard.” When junior Catherine McMillan drove to Ardrey Kell High School, her former high school in Charlotte, it was only the second time she had stepped inside a car to leave her house since March. McMillan was headed to a communityorganized event to repaint a rock at her school. The rock had originally been painted with Black Lives Matter messages, but it had recently been defaced. Someone had used red paint to cross out messages that read, “I can’t breathe” and “End police brutality.” They had also used blue paint to cover the rock with the word “lies.”
Dressed in black, McMillan brought masks, water and a handmade sign that read, “All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.” At the school, she and the hundreds of other current and former students queued in four lines at the rock. Mcmillan waited in line for seven minutes before dipping her gloved hand in blue paint and pressing her hand on to the rock. In another part of the event, she and the other students gathered with their signs in a grassy area at the school. McMillan said she was surprised by the amount of activism that has taken place in Ballantyne, an affluent, heavily White neighborhood in south Charlotte. “The fact that Ballantyne is seeing a lot of protests, it really gives me hope that we’re beginning to open our eyes and see what’s around us,” she said. “When you’re in a position of privilege, sometimes it’s easy to ignore that which you don’t have to experience.” She emphasized that the repainting of the rock, though small in scope, carries an important message. “I think us coming together as a community showed whoever was responsible for defacing the rock that we are powerful, we are stronger, and we can surmount these ideas that are quite poisonous to social advancement,” she said. “Even though we’re just painting a rock, even though I just dipped my hand in some paint, I know that I’m part of something bigger.” The rock’s defacement also shows the reality of ongoing resistance to the Black Lives Matter movement, she said. “It’s not over yet, and that’s evidenced by the
See MARCH 10 on Page 6
See PROTESTS on Page 8
FALL 2020 SEMESTER
Matthew Griffin | Editor-in-Chief First-years Tommy Gress and Rachel Washart share dessert at Marketplace on the first day of classes.
A first day of classes like no other By Matthew Griffin Editor-in-Chief
By Chris Kuo Features Managing Editor
By Anna Zolotor Local National News Editor
West Campus, 8:40 a.m. The morning of Aug. 17, 2020, dawned bright and clear, the blue sky reflected in pools of water from the previous night’s rain. The Bryan Center plaza was quiet, not unlike Duke mornings during more predictable times. Other than the occasional masked passerby, little indicated that this
was the first morning of a fall semester unlike any other. Inside the Brodhead Center, Franco Tompeterini prepared the Sprout eatery for breakfast. Wearing a blue checkered shirt and white gloves, he stood behind a bright assortment of nuts and fruit—part of Sprout’s new vegan yogurt spread. He has been back at work for a little more than a week, after COVID-19 forced campus to close in March. “It’s nice to be back into some type of routine,” he said. “It’s, you know, extremely different. No table. No chairs. The distancing.” Tompeterini, who’s worked in the food industry since age 18, said he’s never seen
disruption like this. “Hopefully, it will all go back to normal,” he said. “We want everything to go back to the way they were at some point in time, but this is how we live in today’s world right now.” Though Tompeterini wasn’t optimistic about the fall—he’s fearful students will relax and quit following restrictions—he was excited about one thing: Sprout’s new vegan cinnamon French toast sticks. “You want to try one?” he asked. He turned to the kitchen behind him and grabbed a pan, his face beaming. ——— Zoom, 9 a.m. As the morning rolled on, several members of the Duke community gathered virtually for the semester’s first Mindful Moment Monday, a weekly half-hour meditation session. Paige Vinson, assistant director of the International House and the session’s host, used her soft, soothing voice to start a meditation on implicit bias. “Take deep breaths, connecting our body to this present moment and arriving here and now,” she said. Then she called participants to focus first on an issue of self-judgement and then on a group of people they judged based on traits such as appearance, personality, race or gender, rather than on behavior. “These thoughts, actions, our speech may unintentionally harm ourselves and others,” she said while instructing remote viewers to explore prejudicial feelings. Before ending the session with a chime, Vinson invited meditators to check back in with their minds and bodies and ask themselves whether anything had changed since the session began. Vinson, a certified meditation instructor who has been practicing for 20 years, wrote in a message to The Chronicle that she believes meditation is particularly important right now because of its potential to free the participant
MONDAY, MARCH 8, 2021 | 3
from present suffering. “When we can connect our body and mind in the present moment, we can experience more space and openness—less stress. I think we need this skill now more than ever,” she wrote. ——— Griffith Film Theater, noon Around noon, Connel Fullenkamp, professor of the practice of economics, paced the stage in the Bryan Center’s Griffith Film Theater in front of a crowd of 100 or so students enrolled in Economics 101, one of the University’s largest in-person classes. Most of the students sat in the middle section of the room. “I’m wearing my happy turtle tie today,” he told them. He wore a brightly colored mask. A bandana and a baseball cap hung out of his back pockets. Fullenkamp fielded questions from the students, some ordinary—when’s the first assignment due?—and others unmistakably a product of the pandemic—will office hours be over Zoom? First-year Jeffrey Zhou sat in the first row of students, wearing a white mask and a buttondown. He’d had his first class—an online one— earlier in the morning. “I don’t really know what to expect from a college,” he said. “It definitely feels kind of strange. Like it’s hard to connect in a way, you know. But this one feels a lot more like, you know, just, normal.” Zhou lives in Edens, he said, and the decentralized location makes it hard at times to build community. Still, he’s had moments of connection with others. Late one night, he started a conversation in his dorm with a student who loves linguistics, and they ended up talking together for a couple hours. “He was just telling me about the progression of language and what makes a dialect a dialect,” See FIRST DAY on Page 7
SPRING 2021 SEMESTER Online teaching takes its toll By Madeleine Berger Staff Reporter
Students line Michael Munger’s screen in a four by three matrix. Some look around to grab their pets, unfocused. Others sit quietly, not a question in mind. Munger, professor and director of undergraduate studies in the department of political science, has no fear of teaching in front of a camera. He fell under thousands of camera lenses when he ran for governor of North Carolina. What stresses him is the quality of his pandemic-strained teaching. “It’s sort of boring and dry. You’ve got this Brady Bunch,” Munger said. “It’s not that intimate.” Even when teaching in-person classes, Munger feels distant from his students in 107 Gross Hall, he said. In one class, his 60 students were spread across the room, lined six feet apart, occupying every other row. They were too far away from the board Munger wanted to write on, too far away for Munger to answer questions easily and too far away to engage in discussions with each other. “The faculty are just not equipped to be able to give the students the sort of experience that we would expect from Duke,” Munger said. “We’re letting students down.” As the pandemic pushes classes out of classrooms and distorts Duke, it affects professors, too, as they must now adapt to new technologies and teach away from their familiar surroundings. “I have a very active Zoom life, which is nothing I would ever want to brag [about],” said Professor of English Thomas Ferraro. He feels like he’s endlessly in his chair, and said his days are dotted with committee meetings. It’s the three courses he teaches, however, that exhaust him most. Like Munger, Ferraro feels distant from his
students. He said he can’t even physically look at them. Age has hurt his eyesight, he said, so he bought a larger monitor to better see his students. He also finds himself needing to listen much harder than before. Despite describing himself as an “awful interruptor,” he hopes that the pandemic has made him a better listener. Before the pandemic, Ferraro could close his eyes and “get a real feel” for who was paying attention in his classroom, he recalled. He always knew who was whispering in the corner. But he gets none of it on Zoom. His Zoom students might not even see each other, he said. “We’re not even in the same tic-tac-toe board,” Ferraro said. He feels an urge to compensate for his discomfort with Zoom and concentrate as much as he can in his 75-minute classes, he said. It wipes him out. Ferraro believes that well-taught live class is exhilarating. A certain kick came from learning something from his students, excitement enough to run five miles or call an old friend, he said. Even when a class went wrong, whether it be caused by cranky students or sleep deprivation, Ferraro said live classes felt more amenable. “Going to classes is like baseball. It’s not football,” Ferraro said. “Class doesn’t go so hot? Oh, well. There’s another one.” Yet when teaching online, Ferraro said he finds he must quickly and extensively follow-up. He no longer has “the intellectual theater” of a classroom available to him. Student-teacher dynamics involving facial expressions and gestures are lost. As a teacher of novels, Ferraro said he aims to aid his students in seeing the theater in a text or hearing poetry within their ears, yet he finds the voices of his classroom reduced on his computer screen. “An MP3 file is a terrible thing to do to a
Simran Prakash | Photography Editor Many professors are teaching remotely during the pandemic. Some described feelings of exhaustion and difficulty finding personal connection with students.
song … I’m not doing movies and music online. I need people in a room together watching film or in a room together listening to music and the way it was produced,” Ferraro said. Although David Banks, professor of the practice of statistical science, believes he does a better job connecting with students when teaching in-person, he still finds that there are some upsides to “Zoom socialization.” “I’m able to have Zoom meetings with a group of people I went to college with. I get to have Zoom meetings with a group of students I taught back in the 1990s,” Banks said. Banks recently had a Zoom call with a student he taught in 1992. That year, Banks’ son was about to be born. Banks and his wife were debating between two names, so he put the question to his students on a quiz: “Which is a better name for a child?” He gave the two names as an option and left a write-in blank if students had any alternate suggestions. The
student he Zoomed with wrote “Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim,” he recalled. Impressed that his student knew the real name of the Swiss physician, alchemist, theologian and philosopher Paracelsus, Banks bonded with her. He said that he appreciates that he can continue to maintain connections with students like her through Zoom. He enjoys having greater control over how his time is spent, too. Before the pandemic, Banks said he was shuffling around his schedule at least once a month to give talks or attend conferences. He said he feels he can now be more productive because he has fewer interruptions. “By not commuting, I basically have an extra hour in my day, and that’s really good,” Banks said. For every gain, however, some loss lingers. Munger said he misses how he used to have coffee with students. While he still does once or See TEACHING on Page 8
4 | MONDAY, MARCH 8, 2021
Special section created by: Reporting, editing by Maria Morrison Managing Editor Chris Kuo Features Managing Editor
Anna Zolotor Local and National News Editor
Graphics by Evelyn Shi Contributing Graphic Designer
Cover photo by Rebecca Schneid Sports Photography Editor
MONDAY, MARCH 8, 2021 | 5
TIMELINE OF EVENTS AND STUDENT REFLECTIONS ON THE PAST YEAR
6 | MONDAY, MARCH 8, 2021
March 10 FROM PAGE 2 soon demand him to leave Belize early. The family made a pit stop at the Inland Blue Hole for a swim at 11:30 a.m. local time, arriving at the resort two and a half hours later. Puccio spent the next few hours unpacking and walking on the beach. She then settled in a cabana with her laptop, answering emails and working on an assignment due shortly after spring break. As a front-line worker who had been watching the health crisis escalate since the fall, Puccio’s dad told her that her college graduation would certainly be canceled, if not in-person classes as well. Puccio brushed off the warning, unable to let her mind consider such a tragic loss. At 5:54 p.m., her friend Ethan texted her: Idk if you heard but rumor is Spring Break extended by two weeks 5:55 p.m., Puccio: WHAT 6:01 p.m., Elena: Helloooo what do u meannnnb 6:08 p.m., Ethan: Sorry was driving Classes cancelled for two weeks after break Online classes only I think 6:23 p.m., Ethan: Check your email ——— Chaos reigned in Carly McGregor’s living room even before she learned the second semester of her senior year would be cut short. Eleven members of her Christian a cappella group, Something Borrowed Something Blue (SBSB), were sprawled across her Columbia, S.C., home, where they planned to spend much of a weeklong spring break trip focused on group bonding, prayer and performances for the community. That day, SBSB awoke on a jumbled assemblage of leather couches, air mattresses and beds, then trickled downstairs to make pancakes. After breakfast, they crammed into McGregor’s “Scrabble room,” affectionately named for the board-game design McGregor and her dad painted on the ceiling when she was 12—four to a sofa, three to a chair, with the rest filling in on the floor. McGregor loaded a Google Slides presentation onto a TV screen. This was McGregor’s “life story,” a hallmark of SBSB’s annual trip. Each SBSB member prepares an elaborate, sometimes hours-long, summary of their life, displaying accompanying images (a baby photo, a weathered picture of an ancestor, a portrait with a prom date) as they speak. McGregor’s life story, the last of four she’d give as a SBSB singer, was 233 slides long. After another member led the group in prayer, asking for courage for McGregor to speak freely about her experiences, McGregor started talking. Clicking through the constellation-themed slide deck, she revealed her Myers-Briggs type (INFJ-T), her early artwork and pictures from her parents’ wedding. She described her home church, her first forays into music, some romantic escapades. About 90 minutes later, she wrapped up and fielded questions—some silly (“What’s your favorite color?” “What hue?”), others
serious (“Where do you want to be in ten years?”)—from her arrayed friends. Then the group piled atop McGregor in a group hug, the air mattress they sat on groaning in protest. SBSB was running late (as always, McGregor said) to their next engagement, a performance at McGregor’s elementary school. On the way out the door, they slapped lunch meat on sandwich bread and tossed each other clementines for the road. Crammed like sardines into three cars, they hummed and vocalized through the drive to warm up their voices. The crowd of 80 or so third-throughfifth-graders eagerly welcomed them. SBSB performed a five-song set, pivoting from a Whitney Houston cover to a moody contemporary Christian piece to gospel. Before the finale—an uproarious call-and-response take on Bill Withers’s “Lean on Me” for which members welcomed teachers to the stage— audience members posed earnest questions on everything from Duke’s workload to beginner beatboxing. SBSB high-fived the kids on their way out, giving an extra moment to one little boy in a Blue Devils basketball jersey. After lunch, the group scattered to the winds. Some stayed home to nap, play cards or catch up on schoolwork; others drove to the mall and tried on silly outfits. Two of the boys, dismayed by the dearth of salad materials, headed out for groceries. By evening though, SBSB found their way back to the house, many clustering, rapt, around a game of Monopoly Deal being fought out on the living-room floor. People were talking in vague tones about dinner: The plan was a pasta bake and green bean saute. At 7:24 p.m., right as the card game was rising to its crescendo, SBSB’s general manager looked up from her phone. “Guys,” she said, “we just got an email.” ——— When junior Laura Benzing joined her family for spring break, they soon thought of her as the resident coronavirus police. She had earned the title from the copious amounts of hand sanitizer she had applied to hands, door handles, refrigerator surfaces, bathroom faucets and the like. For spring break, she had joined her boyfriend, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents at Jekyll Island, a relatively isolated island off the coast of Georgia with “jungle sort of vibes,” Benzing said. Benzing’s family wasn’t taking the novel virus too seriously, even though they were the “prototypical at-risk group”—her mom is immunocompromised and her grandparents are in their 80s. That left Benzing as the family’s sole protector against an invisible and potentially life-threatening enemy. The morning of March 10, Benzing and her family took a Jekyll Island tour, which required them to enter buildings, touch stair banisters and gather in tight places. For Benzing, the tour was “pure chaos,” a minefield of potential coronavirus transmission in a time when six feet wasn’t even
Courtesy of Carly McGregor Members of the a capella group Something Borrowed Something Blue eating a group dinner on the day their college experience changed forever.
in the vernacular yet, she said. Benzing did her best to control the chaos. Before the tour guide handed out the earpieces to her family, she intercepted them and managed to lather them with Clorox and Purell. At every stop, she forced her family to wash their hands, drawing some looks from the other tourists. She also doused her family members with wintergreen isopropyl alcohol, and, from then on, wintergreen became the scent of the week for the Benzing clan. Parts of the experience felt foreign. At one point, Benzing went up to a hot dog stand and realized that she had no idea how to navigate the situation. Was the hot dog clean? How to add condiments without contaminating everything? A bottle of ketchup might be swarming with spiky, microscopic spheres. When Price’s email arrived later in the afternoon, Benzing, who had been stressed for most of the day, immediately felt relieved and validated. “I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing,” she thought. Her family also took notice: no more griping about the sanitizer. “That’s what the email did,” she said. It changed her from the coronavirus police to the family’s “corona queen.” ——— Sophomore Nicole Moiseyev was in her local Whole Foods when the email arrived. Before the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Moiseyev had planned on spending spring break in Spain. Instead, she headed with her friends to her hometown of Closter, N.J. This evening, she and her friends had come to the grocery store to try to buy ground beef to make meatballs. Moiseyev, a self-described Whole Foods fanatic, noticed that the store was packed, thronging with people who pulled item after item from the shelves. The ground beef had disappeared, so had baking flour (thankfully, the toilet paper frenzy had not yet set in). Disappointed, Moiseyev and her friends headed to the kombucha aisle. They were in that aisle when President Price’s email arrived. When she read the email, Moiseyev panicked. The world felt suddenly uncertain. She proceeded to buy all the remaining teas of her favorite flavor. Who knew if she’d ever have the chance to buy them again? That night, Moiseyev returned home with a shopping bag bulging with a dozen lemonade kombuchas. ——— SBSB had planned to return to campus at the close of spring break, but now members were trying to book flights and debating whether to cut the trip short. “Everyone was breaking off into different rooms to call their parents in various languages,” McGregor recalled. McGregor, realizing her final semester on Courtesy of Carly McGregor campus had just concluded, ducked into a Students in the a capella group Something Borrowed Something Blue were on a trip to Columbia, bedroom to cry as goodbyes to friends, spring S.C. when they got the news. Gardens strolls and SBSB’s annual WaDuke tea
went up in smoke before her eyes. The evening continued to unfold, a few members gathering in the kitchen to cook, others still on the phone with friends or significant others, and so did McGregor’s grief. “Different parts of what it meant would just hit us,” she said. She’d been sad that she and a friend missed out on E-ball tickets, but it struck her now that she could never have gone anyway. Then, remembering SBSB’s unfulfilled album contract, she panic-dialed the producer to explain why the group couldn’t record in person. Late that night, the singers packed into a single bedroom, talking quietly and picking out songs on the ukulele. The following day’s itinerary included a church gig in a Charleston suburb— as it turned out, McGregor’s final performance with SBSB— but this plan felt suddenly gauzy, unformed. Should we just go back to Duke to grab our stuff? One of the guys, an RA, said his sources didn’t think the dorms were even open, nor had most of SBSB settled on a method of getting home. (In reality, students did not immediately lose access to dorms, as was made clear in later emails outlining campus access and then further curtailing access.) They’d do the concert in the end, reassured by the knowledge that they’d kept out of big cities and virus hotspots. But for now they filtered one by one from the warmly lit room back to their beds, the music and laughter fading slowly into the sweet Carolina breeze which kept whistling above and around them. ——— 6:23 p.m., Ethan: Check your email 6:24 p.m., Elena: I sAw At 6:18 p.m., Puccio received Price’s email, confirming what her dad had gently warned months ago. 7:07 p.m., Elena: Dude Spring show I’ll never sing my senior song I might never rehearse with [Out of the Blue] again 7:22 p.m., Elena: I think my dad is flying back early 7:23 p.m., Ethan: Rop 7:23 p.m., Elena: I’m so sad I planned so many things For the rest of Puccio’s time in Belize, she could only fall asleep with the help of Benadryl and consistently woke up at 4 a.m., thinking nonstop about the abrupt end to her time at Duke. “I’m not an emotional person at all, but I was so sad. I hadn’t been that sad in a very long time,” she said. Puccio is a firm believer in working hard in the beginning in order to enjoy the end. Having overloaded throughout college except for freshman year and while studying for the MCAT, the chemistry major had intended to make her senior spring her best semester. There had been so much to look forward to. She was supposed to perform in her last See MARCH 10 on Page 7
Jackson Muraika | News Photography Editor At lunchtime on Aug. 17, 2020, the Brodhead Center was less busy than in more normal times.
FIRST DAY FROM PAGE 3 Zhou said. “That was just a really engaging and awesome experience.” ——— Brodhead Center, 12:15 p.m. Familiar scents wafted through the air of Duke’s cushy cafeteria: coffee, melted mozzarella, cooking beans. But the usual sounds of joyful reunion and anticipation didn’t accompany lunch on this first day of fall classes. Blue arrows marked the floor, futilely attempting to control foot traffic only to be overridden by students’ distraction or their excitement at seeing old friends and acquaintances. Masked students and the occasional professor picked up to-go containers and doggy bags. Others waited in socially distanced lines that any returning Blue Devil would recognize as remarkably short for lunch rush hour. Several students stood alone at tall tables next to Cafe or perched at the few seats and booths still in place next to Skillet. The outside of the Brodhead Center was a different story. Groups sat around tables, eating, chatting and studying. Most were either masked or actively eating, and many were socially distanced. Still, their laughter rang out across the BC plaza. At 12:15 p.m., first-years Clara Harms and Chloe Beittel sat opposite each other at a rectangular table outside Au Bon Pain, eating lunch and reflecting on the morning. Harms said her favorite thing to eat at Duke is “easily” Sprout’s soy nuggets. Beittel said she was happy she’d ended up on West Campus. “I think West is way better than East,” she exclaimed.
MARCH 10 FROM PAGE 6 spring show, which she painstakingly planned as a cappella council president. She would have sung her only senior song—“Valerie” by Amy Winehouse—a solo at the last Out of the Blue performance. She had yet to play for the last time with the Duke Symphony Orchestra in Beaufort, S.C. She was going to finally present her research for the first time at the American Chemical Society Conference. She was set to make her debut at Beach Week and finally visit Asheville with her best friends at Duke. “I’m really big on last times, for the sake of closure, and I feel really uncomfortable when I didn’t know something was the last time and didn’t appreciate it for what it was,” Puccio said. “It was very topsy turvy, trying to remember my college experiences and relive them with the
Sophomore Audrey Alexander had been studying outside the Brodhead Center for several hours. She said that every time students began noticeably violating social distancing rules, Duke employees approached them and asked them to spread out. ——— Bryan Center plaza, 4:40 p.m. Students sat scattered on the BC plaza, eating or working. A small group gathered to chat, standing less than six feet apart but wearing masks. The afternoon was sunny, 80 degrees, but a light breeze stirred the trees and cooled the air. It was hard to imagine that less than an hour earlier, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had announced that all undergraduate classes would move online starting Wednesday, a change that came amid rising coronavirus cases and multiple virus clusters at the school. In one of the swinging benches at the edge of the plaza, senior Chiara Settineri sat reading for an independent study, unaware of the news from 10 miles down the road. The plaza is Settineri’s “happy place” on campus, she said, and she’d missed it over the summer. Being there gave her a sense of normalcy—despite the prominent signs announcing a two-person limit for each bench. It was “unfortunate,” Settineri said, that her last first day of classes was taking place under such unusual circumstances. “But I’m happy I have my friends, I live off campus,” she added. “I feel like I’m less affected than… juniors and sophomores and freshmen.” Settineri said she was hopeful that people would find a balance this semester of being responsible while “reigniting” old relationships and starting new ones. Still, she worried that
realization now that they were my last time. My last lecture, my last time hanging out with my friends at Duke.” ——— Huddled together in the lobby of Volcano Hotel, Gupta and her classmates scoured the email from President Price. Many in the group began frantically calling their family and friends. Others hugged each other and cried. Gupta called her dad. “We’re not going back,” she told him. Gupta felt particularly sad for the seniors in the group, one of whom was from Pakistan. She, along with the other seniors, had lost the opportunity to say goodbye to her Duke friends. “I remember feeling like crying, but nothing came out,” Gupta would later write in a journal entry about the day. “I was in a state of shock— everyone was.” The hotel lobby had a wide window that gave guests a view of a massive, gray crater. Gupta watched wisps of sulfurous gas rise from the crater
COVID-19 cases would go up. “I just hope that everybody’s being careful,” she said. “I’m worried that we’re going to end up being more hurtful than helpful to the Durham community.” Storm clouds began to blow in. The Chapel bells rang, their sound echoing across campus. The light turned gray. The plaza emptied, except for a few students at the benches or under the tent set up by the Brodhead Center for outdoor seating. The wind picked up. Scattered raindrops began to fall. ——— The C1, 5:35 p.m. Rain lashed the windows of the bus as it pulled away from West Campus. Drops drummed on the roof. First-years Dagny Edison and Bryce McMullin sat in the back. The East Campus residents had come to West to see Peaches and Mamabean, two celebrity campus cats, but had turned back because of the rain. Both struck an upbeat tone about the semester, despite the circumstances. “I’m just happy to be here, honestly,” McMullin said. “The on-campus experience makes online classes so much better. Even if I do have to take it online, it’s great that I do it in my dorm room instead of just at home.” Edison had heard the news that UNC was moving online, and she said it made her grateful for Duke’s virus-control measures. She had been selected to participate in pool testing Tuesday, she said. (Duke would give an update on its testing of returning students later that day, announcing that only 11 out of 5,765 tests had come back positive since Aug. 2.) Still, McMullin acknowledged that socializing and making friends were harder than he would have imagined, without large group activities. He said things felt unnatural, with students “living in fear, kind of, while trying to socialize.” “I just hope I don’t get sent home early,”
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Edison said, laughing. The bus pulled up to the East Campus stop. Edison and McMullin stepped out into the pouring rain. They rounded the bus and set off at a run across the quad. ——— Marketplace, 6 p.m. Inside Marketplace, sheltered from what was now a light drizzle outside, first-years Tommy Gress and Rachel Washart shared a meal at a distance, sitting at separate tables placed side by side. The beginning of the semester had been “a little surreal,” said Washart, who’d had class online that day. “When I pictured where I’d be, a year ago, where I’d be in a year, I definitely did not envision this,” she said. “I spent most of my day in my room on Zoom calls, but… it felt amazing to be here.” Both said they were nervous for the rest of the semester. UNC’s change of course was “kind of terrifying,” Gress said. But Washart said she felt students were starting to respect social distancing and mask-wearing more. She’s hopeful, she said—if still anxious. In many ways, Marketplace was unrecognizable. Spaced-out seating replaced crowded booths. Arrows on the floor told students which way to walk. Yet even from a distance, Gress and Washart engaged in the light-hearted banter that has marked so many a conversation in the first-year dining hall. “Maryland: clearly the best state,” Washart said. “Old Bay. Have you ever had it?” Gress hadn’t, and Washart explained the merits of the seasoning, from its use on crabs to the way it can season “basically any kind of food.” “Anyways, yeah, if you’ve ever gone to Maryland, obligatorily they’ll put Old Bay on whatever you’re eating,” she concluded. “I’m gonna tell you, Ohio’s spice of choice is salt,” Gress said. “So—” They both laughed.
Rebecca Schneid | Sports Photography Editor Students sit outside on the Bryan Center plaza on Aug. 17, 2020, enjoying the warm afternoon on the first day of a semester like no other.
and dance between sheets of rain. At least, she thought to herself, she had heard the news here. Eventually, Gupta and the group left the hotel and took the drive back to their campsite, their spirits as soggy as the wet sky. It was “lots of questions, lots of interactions with our professor, asking, ‘What’s gonna happen?!’” Gupta wrote in her journal. But their spirits rose as they got back to camp and prepared a dinner of pasta with chicken and vegetables, along with Oreos for dessert. Gupta helped cut the zucchini. Occasionally someone would mention the email—accompanied by a chorus of “What are we going to do?”—but mostly they avoided the topic. There were still five more days left in Hawaii, and they would make the most of it, email be damned. During the rest of the evening, they played Avalon, a card game, laughing loud in the dark—loud enough that their professor, who had turned in early, kept hollering for them to
keep their voices down. “March 10 was THE most incredible day of field geology of our entire trip, and one of my favorite days of being in Hawaii,” reads one of the closing lines of Gupta’s journal entry. “It was also the most emotional day, knowing that life would arguably never be the same.” Once the laughter had died down, Gupta climbed into her tent, which she shared with a couple other classmates. It was warm inside. She found her purple sleeping pad and slid inside her black sleeping bag. But then she remembered that she had borrowed both of them from her friends at Duke—friends she wouldn’t be seeing again for a long time. That night, she fell asleep thinking of them. Editor’s note: Margot Armbruster, one of the authors of this article, is also an opinion managing editor for The Chronicle. Mona Tong and Charlie Zong contributed reporting.
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police department headquarters. The day was “hot as hell,” up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Burns wore khakis and a white shirt emblazoned with the word “Relevant.” As the group marched through the city, Burns helped lead chants for the middle section of the protesters: “Who are we? Breonna Taylor” and “No more pain for Tony McDade,” among others. The protest was peaceful, with very little confrontation between protesters and police. Burns worried less about tear gas and more about the threat of COVID-19. “Coronavirus is a plague, and it’s a plague that disproportionately affects Black and Brown people,” Burns said. “It’s something that I was really cognizant of because most of the people marching were obviously Black and Brown. And so it’s like, we’re all here in this space, but we have to remember the fact that the healthcare
system is not systematically designed to support individuals like this.” FROM PAGE 2 Everyone who attended the march was required to wear a mask, Burns said. He kept fact that the rock was scrawled over with ‘Blue people from touching hands, encouraging Lives Matter.’ It’s definitely not over. There’s them to hit elbows instead. Six feet apart is a still more work to be done, which is why the tough standard for a protest, but Burns tried to protests will continue. And they will until keep people at a “respectable distance.” But there was much more than the coronavirus change is won.” on his mind that day. The past weighed heavily on Senior Jamal Burns grew up during Black Burns, who is a history major. Lives Matter protests. He was around five or six “We are really situating ourselves in a when his father told him about the Rodney King historical moment. But the historical moment riots; Burns, who is Black, remembers his school is not 2020,” he said. “It goes back to 1992. It in St. Louis being cancelled for a week because of goes back to 1965. It goes way further back protests after Michael Brown’s death. than we think.” On June 7, Burns participated in a protest Because each of us lives for a finite period, in St. Louis. 5,000 people had RSVP’d for the it’s easy to lose sight of what’s come before, he event on Facebook. Around 2 p.m., the group said. But, for the Black community, a protest started at the city hall and marched to the is an act of solidarity with the activism of the past. Rebellion is in our “genealogical tree, in our blood,” he said. “While I agree with a revolutionary mindset, it’s like this is a part of a revolution that has been happening for so much longer than we have, and I think that taking your ego out of it sometimes is important. And just realizing this is a long historical struggle, and now you get to be a part of that struggle and you can make a decision to be a positive or negative influence.” Dwelling on the past also forces a person to grapple with the future. During the protest, Burns saw a child sitting in a wagon. The kid was very young, barely able to walk, and he held a cardboard sign that his parents must have written for him. It read: “Am I next?” Seeing such things motivates him to keep fighting, Burns said. “You have to realize that there was a ‘before you’ and there’s an ‘after you.’ We can make a legitimate change if we continue to fight,” Burns said. “And I think, you know, it’s very optimistic. Em Adler | Contributing Photographer And I get that, but I think you have to err on the A May 30, 2020, protest in Durham against racism and police brutality. Duke students recounted side of optimism, because optimism is a tool leading chants, speaking and running from tear gas at similar events across the country. against White supremacy.”
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TEACHING FROM PAGE 3 twice a week at the Broadhead Center, he said it does not feel the same. He and his student sit outside, freezing. Munger would also chat with students two or three times a day before the pandemic. He could actually connect to his students, learning where they are from and about their families. Despite the lost intimacy, Munger finds a positive in the fact that his office hours are better attended. “We depend on the energy and dynamism of students to give our lives meaning,” Munger said. He describes an excitement in meeting new students. Some are goofy and interesting to him, and he enjoys hearing their plans and ideas, regardless of if they work or not. But the pandemic makes him feel isolated. Ferraro shared a similar sentiment. “There’s no chat around the photocopier, there’s no chat in the hallway, there’s no chat because you both walked into the gym at the same time, with each other or with me,” he said. Ferraro believes in the power of tables. To him, tables unite and protect. He recalls teaching in Venice at Ca’Foscari University. Most of the students had never experienced a seminar table, though they were accustomed to lecture halls. To spark conversation among them, Ferraro made them meet him at a cafe instead. “It’s not the coffee or the beer. The only tables they know are social tables,” Ferraro said. He believes it is the experience of the table that is missing with virtual learning. The social, temporal and corporeal dimensions are gone. Ferraro can no longer go to cafes, host dinner parties or bump into students in the hallways. Nevertheless, he is hopeful. He said he still feels satisfied when he teaches well, or while reading a terrific paper, regardless of which kind of classroom he is in. “This, too, shall pass, as my mother says,” Ferraro said. “We will get through it.”