The pressure of a week in the classroom or the library gives way to a weekend atmosphere of relief, but rather than relax, everyone flips the switch over to party mode and the intensity hardly abates. Duke students eat, sleep and breath the "work hard, play hard" mentality, by which stress becomes a justification to party in rather excessive measure. The social scene revolves most visibly around greek life, as fraternities throw parties at off-campus bars up to five nights a week. The open parties are typically attended by the same core of greek-affiliated students or the independents who are their friends. It's a huge plus that sororities are completely non-residential, which means groups of friends and roommates often encompass people from all walks of greek and independent life, and those who choose not to pledge can— and do— attend greek-sponsored events.
There is not much to do in Durham itself, but students who choose not to participate in the party culture have on hand the university's offerings of movies, plays, musicals, and concerts. Recently, the administration and several student organizations have made an impressive effort to come up with more creative and universally appealing social events— such as swanky cocktail and DJ parties at the library or art museum— with the goal of shifting the "play hard" to "play well." There are also a number of diverse selective living groups that provide a non-greek alternative for social membership and that occasionally throw dry parties.
In January, the most dedicated of basketball fans spent months sleeping outside in K-Ville to gain entry to the biggest games, and the tent city becomes another alternative outlet that fills up before tip-off with inebriated Cameron Crazies. K-Ville appeals mainly to freshman who don't yet realize that sleeping outside will dictate your life and ruin your grades, but it is part of a "freshman experience" that Duke holds dear: All freshmen live together on a separate campus with its own library, dining hall and gym, and first semester social life revolves around "section parties" that frats throw in their dorm rooms. As a result, each class is assumed to bond tightly before being disseminated into the various lives they will lead at Duke.
Several traditional cornerstones of the social calendar are celebrated by the entire campus: Oktober Fest, Old Duke day, and the infamous Last Day of Classes restore a skeptical student body's faith in their administration. LDOC marks the end of the year, and the entire campus turns out for a big-name headliner and an all-day, anything- goes party on the quad. The circulated guidelines typically read as follows: "students must have their own alcohol with them at all times." Other festivals feature international food, charity fundraising and beer on points. Perhaps the most anticipated season of the year is Tailgate, a thrilling culmination of Duke debauchery that often begins at 9 a.m., fueled by vodka shots and dean-dispensed hot dogs, and ends with everyone forgetting about the football game and struggling home in the remnants of their beer-soaked costumes.
Ultimately, the social scene is most often defined in terms of raucous parties, heavy drinking and a widely- accepted "hook-up culture," because these are the elements that best lend themselves to negative attention. The school's interest in intellectual stimulation and healthy socializing together provide innumerable alternatives that enrich student life. But the dionysian revelry is undeniably fun, and all the novelty and excess and stimulation of the place— regardless of what your interests are— create a bona fide collegiate Disneyland.