The Duke Kunshan University campus has more than doubled in size. Phase 2, the long-awaited second stage of construction on the DKU campus, officially inaugurated on May 22. Student housing, employee canteens and offices are now up and running, known as a “soft opening” ahead of a “hard opening” that occur for the rest of the Phase 2 campus in the fall.
Construction for Phase 2 began in August 2019 and was originally expected to be completed by the end of 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic, labor shortages, and extreme weather led to a series of delays in the opening of Phase 2.
Now covering nearly 47 acres, Phase 2 of the DKU campus is home to a library, a sports complex, a research center and nine new student residencesproviding enough housing for seniors and graduate students.
Summer housing students moved into three of the Phase 2 dormitories in May, leaving the Talent Apartments off-campus and the Kunshan Canadian International School dormitories the university had been lease out for the past three years. Students were also previously housed in the Phase 1 Conference Center and Student Residence.
The sports complex and new soccer field, which promise to increase sports opportunities for students, will open on July 17 and August 13 respectively, according to plans announced by the DKU Office of Operations in an email from May. Concept plans are already instead for Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the campus expansion.
Students react to the new campus
For some students who experienced “soft opening,” the first glimpses of their new buildings were exciting. DKU senior Nika Tatoshvili said he was “impressed” by the new dormitories and facilities, noting that the dormitories were “so superior, even compared to Phase 1.”
The opening of student housing on campus has also been “much more convenient” for DKU senior Cammie Li, who used to live off campus and no longer needs to wait for the shuttle to walk to parts of the campus.
Living in the DKU Phase 2 dorms required some adjustments for students used to living in the Conference Center or Talent Apartments. DKU senior Yufan Gao, who moved out of Talent Apartments, said she was “shocked” when she first arrived.
“This room is much smaller than expected. I think at first we were coddled, and then we’re coming to this smaller space,” she said.
There have been some bumps in the road. Li noticed that Building E’s kitchen was still under construction and was missing appliances such as a refrigerator during the initial move-in of the students.
“Moving into a new dorm where no one has ever lived before, there are little issues here and there with a leaky roof, air conditioning issues and things like that,” said DKU senior Erica Ham.
Students also raised concerns about the Phase 2 cafeteria, a three-story building that opened July 1 and is run by a brand-new vendor, Pandora. Li noted that although students now have more diverse food options, the price of food has also increased. Other students echoed that Phase 2 food options are more expensive than their Phase 1 counterparts.
Ally Chen, associate director of operations for campus services, wrote in an email to The Chronicle that the cost of Phase 2 dining options “varies,” but takeout and some Chinese options on the third floor of the cantina were consistent with the prices in Phase 1 Dinner and were provided by Pandora on a “non-profit” basis.
“We have received positive feedback on the quality and diversity of the new food service, but we recognize that there will be opportunities for improvement,” Chen wrote.
In the first month of the Phase 2 residence hall opening, DKU held regular assemblies to hear student concerns regarding the new dormitories. The heads of Residence Life, Housing and the Phase 2 construction team were in regular attendance. However, these gatherings ceased prior to the opening of the Phase 2 dining hall.
Tatoshivili noted that the new communal living situation could potentially create a community, while Gao said it has already given him better opportunities to talk with neighbors and other international students.
Gao, who is also a resident assistant, mentioned that having all students live on campus in the fall will lead to an increase in residence life events for students in dormitories.
“There are a lot of cultural differences that can come up with how people use spaces,” Ham said. “[T]There were a lot of complaints about when you use the bathroom you do this, or when you use the kitchen you do this, and I fully understand people’s frustrations. But I do think we should have more patience with each other.”
“At least all the issues were heard,” Ham added. “If they were addressed, I think time will tell.”
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