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First-Year Students

Green Dining Awards

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I Don’t Say “Queer"

During last week’s Greek Ally Week, Blue Devils United hosted a student panel about being both Greek and LGBTQ on Duke’s campus.  The next day’s Chronicle article incorrectly identified one of the African-American panelists as “queer,” which made her uncomfortable.  “What is ‘queer’ supposed to mean?” she asked me later.  The term is vague, politicized, and simultaneously lacking a concrete meaning while burdened with decades of history.

Picking a label is one of the most difficult parts of coming out.  Speaking in stereotypes, “lesbian” calls to mind masculine-of-center women with buzz cuts and motorcycles.  “Gay” often refers to flamboyant, cisgender men.  Many people believe “bisexuals” don’t exist, but when they do exist, they’re hypersexual animals—for example, when I came out to my parents as bisexual, my mother thought I just wanted to have a boyfriend and a girlfriend at the same time.

When I was a freshman, I identified as “queer” and moved primarily within the LGBT community, where people knew what the term meant.  PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) defines queer as “an umbrella term…[anyone] who feels somehow outside of societal norms in regards to gender, sexuality or/and even politics.”  Academic E. Patrick Johnson, however, believes that “queer” is only for white people, and that blacks should identify as quare: “Odd or slightly off kilter…one for whom sexual and gender identities always already intersect with racial subjectivity” (Quare Studies, 2001).

As my friend groups changed and I transitioned socially to Duke’s “Black Community,” I couldn’t leave behind my sexual orientation.  As I came out (or was outed) to new people, I had to pick a label.  When I picked no label, people assumed I was a lesbian.  When I said “queer,” people didn’t understand.  “Bisexual” was the most familiar; people had at least heard of bisexuals, even if they didn’t understand the particulars, and so that’s what I’ve chosen for the past two years.

This isn’t to say that black people are unenlightened or homophobic—we’re no more “unenlightened” than any other racial group in the United States.  And some of the most progressive, gay/bi/queer/quare/anti-oppressive, anti-normative, anti-labelist activists I’ve ever met at Duke are black.  To that end, I also don’t say “queer” to white folk; if I had joined a PanHellenic or Multicultural sorority instead of NPHC, I would have come to the same conclusions. I don’t even say “queer” to myself anymore.

Maybe it’s my job to educate people about the nuances of the LGBTQIA community.  I should start conversations about the differences between being genderqueer and genderfluid, the subversiveness of drag, the dynamics of being capital-A Aggressive versus capital-F Femme, and the politics of polyamory.  The list goes on and on.  The LGBTQIA (and I’m still missing letters) community is diverse and lovely and confusing.  By hiding its nuances, I’m doing it a disservice and erasing people from the conversation.

I’m getting better about starting these conversations, because I know that I don’t give people enough credit.  As I have come out to people within the Black Community and within Duke’s campus at large, they have accepted me.  They have wanted to learn more.  And some have even come out to me, confused about their place in the broader LGBT community.

I no longer identify as queer because I feel that it doesn’t apply to me, but the next time someone asks, I won’t be afraid to have that conversation.


Original Duke Chronicle Article

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What’s Eating You?

If you’ve never heard the term ‘mindless eating’, you are not alone. Mindless eating is much more common than you would think especially in college students.

What is mindless eating?
When you eat an amount of food large or small in quantity (usually large) while not paying attention to the food or how your body feels as you eat it.

Mindless eating typically occurs:
Late at night after long periods of studying, watching TV
● If you have gone long periods of time without eating
When you finally eat you are so hungry you consume a large amount of food quickly which can lead to overeating.

So how can you prevent mindless eating? Good question!
It is important to know there are two pieces to help you avoid mindless eating; physical and emotional.

• Eat regularly throughout the day (three meals and snacks in-between as needed). This will help prevent you missing meals and then becoming too hungry later in the day.
• Try to identify your own personal hunger cues (they aren’t the same for everyone). Physical hunger can be your stomach talking to you (growling) and feels empty or you begin to feel weak and low on energy, you may lose concentration or become cranky (“hangry”). Those are all signals your body uses to tell you it needs fuel and you need to eat. It is important to honor these cues by eating either a meal or snack.

• Learn to cope during periods of higher stress in your life. During periods of higher stress many of us turn to food for comfort whether it is for reward, or coping with stress and anxiety. When you catch yourself wandering to the vending machine or fridge or that box of cereal sitting in your room, and you don’t feel physically hungry you are about to mindlessly consume whatever is the next thing you eat.
• There are many ways you can cope with periods of stress in your life. Attending a yoga class, meditating, deep breathing, talking to a friend, taking a walk, working on a puzzle or doing moderate (45-60min) exercise at the Wilson Recreation Center can help. If you feel you need more help and want to talk to someone, Duke Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) can help.

On the flipside you also want to be a mindful eater
Pay attention to what you are eating
● Notice the tastes, feels, and smells of foods
● Notice how the food makes your body feel
● What type of mood are you in before you begin eating?
Positive moods make it easier to eat mindfully versus negative or sad moods make it difficulty to eat mindfully.
● Do you get hungry soon after eating these foods; do you feel energized or sleepy after eating?
● Pay attention to how well the food you eat makes you feel. And most of all enjoy your meals.

If you would like to talk to a nutrition professional in more depth about how you can become a mindful eater visit Duke’s Student Health Nutrition Website.  You can email any of our Registered Dietitians and make an appointment. This service is included in your tuition and does not cost extra.


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First-Year Student Blog Series: The Duke Chapel

In this week’s segment of my blog series describing “The ‘What’s,’ ‘Who’s,’ and ‘Where’s’ that Make Duke So Special”, I will introduce you to a campus celebrity who ironically happens to be one of Duke’s best-kept secrets. His name is Oscar Dantzler, his title is Chapel Housekeeper, and his wisdom is absolutely remarkable.

For anyone visiting or exploring Duke for the first time, I would certainly recommend that the first place he or she should visit is the Duke Chapel. It is undoubtedly a campus landmark and is full of history and character. On the other hand, I would recommend that the first person he or she should meet is Oscar, because he is someone who can really bring that history and character to life.

I first met Oscar in a serendipitous way during my first semester. One early morning, I entered the Chapel while it was vacant. I was in search of a quiet place to think and reflect on my own before starting another busy day. Before I knew it, a kind man wearing glasses, a baseball cap, and blue collared shirt approached me to ask how I was.

During my first encounter with this man, I learned that his name is Oscar Dantzler, and he prefers that everyone call him Oscar. Oscar quickly establishes a first-name basis with everyone he meets. He is the kind of person who you can be sure has interest in getting to know you from the very second you come across him.

In addition, I learned two more basic things about Oscar…

1. Oscar works diligently from within the Chapel.
Oscar’s job is to work daily from 5am onward cleaning the Chapel. As he likes to describe it in the words of his mother, “if you can't keep the House of God clean, you can't keep your own.”
2. The Chapel’s beauty and serenity works similarly from within him.
Having worked at the Chapel for quite some time, Oscar has truly gotten to know it inside and out. His positivity and wisdom are representative of the Chapel’s ambience and his personality is representative of its beauty.

The Chapel is one of the most beautiful symbols of Duke as well as one of the most visible chapels among American research universities. It was constructed and completed in 1932 and, since then, has served the Duke community in more ways than one. According to the Chapel’s mission, “It serves students by convening and contributing to a dynamic and diverse culture of religious life on campus—a culture that models respectful and enriching engagement in the context of profound difference.” The Duke Chapel is certainly unique, and so is everyone who walks through its doors. Sunlight pours into it through seventy-seven stained-glass windows and fills it with warmth. In addition, people like Oscar embody its spirit and further its mission of “engaging all to look to the future with faith, gratitude, and hope.”

On another note, Oscar happens to be somewhat of a campus celebrity. On the first day that I met him, he introduced me to The Philosopher Kings, a documentary about college custodians like – and including – him. The film introduces its audience to several custodians from some of America’s most prestigious universities. According to IMDb, a major movie database, The Philosopher Kings teaches us that, “wisdom is found in the most unlikely places.”

After meeting Oscar, I wouldn’t simply call him the Chapel custodian. I would call him a friend. Without knowing who I was, Oscar was genuinely interested enough in how I was doing to approach me in the Chapel that morning. I am certainly glad he did.

In the next blog post of this series, I will introduce you to another campus landmark that I admire. Wallace Wade stadium is the home of Coach Cutcliffe’s excelling Blue Devil football team… as well as some of my fondest memories of Duke athletics thus far. 


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A Word About Lavender Graduation

You may ask,  “Lavender graduation…why the need for a special ceremony?”  I’m glad you asked.  A lot of seniors at Duke have been positively affected by their existence at Duke as a LGBTQ student and/or as an ally.  Some students have also been very negatively affected and found the Center to be a safe haven at some point in their journey… a place to get support, a place to be greeted by a smiling face, a place to get a hug, a place to crash on the couch, a place to have fun and forget your troubles even if just for an hour.  But most of all Lavender graduation is about celebrating who you are and one another as you have walked the campus of Duke as an LGBTQA students…even if you consider that part to only be a small part of who you are. 

Whether a student has been in the Center every day or only just passed by our doors they are welcome to participate.  And yes, there have been students in the past who participated in Lav grad who had never entered the Center door before, but who as they leave Duke want to celebrate/embrace who they are, and we welcome them! We also especially welcome allies to participate because it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to thank you and recognize your contributions to making Duke a safer place to be for LGBTQ students staff, and faculty.  
If you are not a graduating senior why should you attend?  If you are a Duke staff member or faculty member why should you attend?  What a very visible show of support your presence is to the seniors as they leave this place they have called home for four years. It’s one of the last memories they will have of their time at Duke and you can help make it a very positive one that they will never forget.  It will also fill your heart with pride for them and hope…hope that we are making this campus a more welcoming and safe space for all students and recognition that you play a very key part in making that happen and in ensuring its continuance in the years ahead. 
I look forward to seeing you there!

Click here register to attend Lavender graduation


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Queer in Costa Rica

Over Spring Break, I traveled to Costa Rica with Duke Chapel.  I carried preconceived notions of the country, most notably that its predominately Catholic population would be homophobic and unwelcoming.

Costa Rica (literally “Rich Coast”) has a population of 4.5 million people, and is located snugly between Nicaragua and Panama.  The average family makes $10,200 dollars a year.  Seventy percent of Costa Ricans identify as Roman Catholic, fourteen percent identify as Protestant, and two percent identify as Buddhist.  And same-sex civil unions are legal.

Because I was traveling with the Chapel, I stayed in the closet while other students discussed whom they wanted to marry, and what they wanted to name their children, and which seminaries they hoped to attend.  The Chapel is gay-friendly, of course, but some situations aren’t. 
We slept in a Methodist church in San Isidro de El General, a small town filled with flower farms and fruit plantations, a town with streets of asphalt and sidewalks of dust, a town where tourists seldom travel and I passed as a local from Limón.  I talked to dozens of people during my stay.  I talked to mothers and pastors and the doctor who stitched up my knee.  I talked to Chapel administrators and students from Wake Forest.  I talked to storeowners and students.  Although we discussed dating and marriage, sexuality never came up, even in my conversations with Americans.
However, it’s still a pertinent issue in Costa Rican culture.  In 2000, the Costa Rican Supreme Court opposed the closing of a gay sauna in San José.  In 2008, the President declared May 17th as the National Day Against Homophobia.  In 2011, gay inmates were allowed to receive visits from partners.  And in 2013, the Legislative Assembly allowed gay citizens to have civil unions and domestic partnerships “without discrimination contrary to human dignity.”
Costa Rica also has a vibrant LGBT tourism scene.  Manuel Antonio Beach attracts thousands of queer visitors, while organizations such as GaytOurs help visitors find particularly gay-friendly activities.  Furthermore, America has approximately three million gay baby boomers, many of whom are looking toward Costa Rica as a possible retirement destination.

While I doubt that Costa Rica is the gay Mecca that GaytOurs claims it is, it is more welcoming and accepting than I expected.  In Costa Rica, just as in the United States, the question of gay rights is complex.

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5 Reasons to Visit the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity

As a freshman I would rarely ever stop by the center. I believed that it didn't have much to offer me aside from a couch to power nap in between to classes on. However, as one of my good friends kept dragging me along to the LGBT Center's events (as it was then called), I began to realize that there was much I could gain from the Center. And so, I've compiled a short sweet list of reasons to come visit the CSGD (and me when I'm working).

1. Discussion Groups! The center provides discussion groups lead by students for students that want a space to discuss topics that we don't talk about in every day life, from sex and relationships to local and international news that affect our communities. Man to Man is a discussion group for men who like men, Women Loving Women is the female equivalent, Spectrum provides a space for trans men and women, and Athlete Ally provides forum for athletes and their allies to discuss issues that affect them. All these group welcome questioning individuals, and provide a safe, discreet space to openly discuss issues that affect us all.

2. Profiles in Sexuality and Keynote speakers! The CSGD is constantly on the look out for speakers to come in and talk about their research related to the queer community. In the past we've invited Nanette Gartrell who spoke about her research on Lesbian families, and Hudson Taylor the founder of athlete ally! These speakers provide resources in fields of study and activism that help to enrich the lives of our community.

3. Kickback Fridays! Previously, known as Fab Friday, is a social event every Friday that gives students the opportunity not only to meet others in the community but also allies and potential mentors. The social events range from Holiday themes to simple board games in order to provide unstructured, casual opportunity to meet others in an open environment.

4. Monthly Events! The CSGD provides the opportunity for students to get involved and give back to the community. Every semester brings along new opportunities to participate in events such as the Annual NC Pride Parade, National Coming Out Day, Trans Day of Remembrance, AIDS Awareness Day, Women's History Month, Lavender Graduation, and Ally Week! The Center works hard year round to plan for these events but ultimately it is through student participation that makes these events successful.

5. Building Community! The CSGD's new and more visible space is great place to interact with others in the Duke Community, queer or not. A great number of students stop by the center every day, whether it is to each their lunch, study, nap, in search of resources, or even simply to come in and talk to our staff. The student assistants are more than happy to answer questions or simply strike up a conversation. I encourage everyone to stop by in between classes or during your more free time to come hang out and explore the CSGD."

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Student Health Closed Saturday 3/8

The Student Health Center will be closed on Saturday, 3/8, due to Spring Break.

For after hours care, please contact us at 919-681-9355.


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Peer For You Peer Responder Applications Open

Peer For You is now welcoming applications for Peer Responders to serve Duke students for next year.

Applications due March 16. Apply now.

We are a student-run resource that provides the space for undergraduate students to reach out for support and referrals in times of struggle. Any Duke student can send an anonymous message to one of our Peer Responders about a struggle or challenge that they are currently facing. The approached Peer Responder will respond to the message within 24 hours.

Peer responders are trained through CAPS personnel and facilitate the sharing of personal experiences and encourage students to make use of existing, supportive resources. The role of the Responder crucially is to provide an open, non-judgemental, open ear for students to express their stress. Ever felt alone at Duke? Inadequate? Marginalized? If you've experienced challenges at Duke in any way, consider applying to be a Peer Responder.

Visit the Peer For You website for more information.

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First-Year Student Blog Series: Enjoying the Trinity Cafe and Learning More about the Duke Community

The second blog post in my series of “The ‘Whats,’ ‘Whos,’ and ‘Wheres’ that Make Duke So Special” addresses a wonderful personality WHO happens to warm our days be it with her smile or her fresh brewed coffee.     

Trinity Café is one of the most popular spots on East Campus, where all freshmen dormitories can also be found. It is located within the Marketplace (cafeteria for freshmen) and is a convenient place to swing by for coffee, a pastry, or even some sushi at nighttime.  Often, freshmen can use credit on their Duke Card to purchase café items if they do not eat dinner at Marketplace that night. As a result, many students stop by after 9pm to grab a snack or fuel up on coffee for a late night of studying. Whether stopping for a quick break at noon or a late night snack as midnight approaches, many freshmen pay a visit to Trinity at some point.

At Trinity Café, the setting is comfortable, the coffee is good, and the convenience is appreciated. In addition, though, the staff is notably friendly. In particular, Tamika is one of the baristas I have come to know. I remember running to Trinity to grab something to eat after coming from the gym one night. I was in a rush and, like on any other day, I had an endless list of things to do. However, that didn’t stop me from taking a break to talk to Tamika as she checked out the items I was buying. After pointing out a large, intricate bracelet on her wrist, I quickly learned that she loves crafting her own jewelry for herself and friends. The conversation spanned her jewelry crafting, her predilection for comics, and the snowfall that was occurring at the time. In the midst of all of that, I had not bothered to wonder how much time I spent or what was next on my to-do list. For a few brief minutes, I got to know someone who I see in passing nearly everyday. I stepped away from my own busy schedule to learn about what was going on in someone else’s life.

With all the academic pressures and prestige that surround us at Duke, we can easily forget to stop and smell the roses… or coffee! Overlooking these little things really causes us to lose perspective. In the words of famous aviator and author Anne Morrow Lindbergh, “Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.” Fortunately, such conversations are not hard to find on campus. The positivity of on-campus employees who understand students’ ongoing lists of responsibilities and plans is tremendous. Though they are not often recognized, people like Tamika work hard to  “refuel” students – albeit with a cup of coffee or a flashed smile.

Being a student at Duke is a wonderful privilege. It is incredible to be surrounded by the driven group of individuals that make up the Class of 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. At the same time, it is worth acknowledging that we are part of a larger community at Duke. We, including the faculty, the administration, the bus drivers, and the baristas, all proudly wear our Duke blue. Every individual on campus is an invaluable thread in the beautiful fabric we embody.

In my next addition to this blog series, I will describe yet another beautiful feature of Duke’s Campus: The Chapel. Specifically, I will venture within it and introduce you to custodian Oscar Dantzler, who adds to the beauty of campus in his own special way.    


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