Durham County

Duke annual trip for incoming freshmen suspended after public-nudity citations

A statue of James Buchanan (Buck) Duke greets visitors to West Campus at Duke University. Duke Chapel is pictured at rear.
A statue of James Buchanan (Buck) Duke greets visitors to West Campus at Duke University. Duke Chapel is pictured at rear. rgronberg@heraldsun.com

A Duke University annual program for incoming freshmen was suspended this fall after 23 participants were cited for public nudity in 2016.

Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said Project WILD (Wilderness Initiatives for Learning at Duke) was suspended only on a temporary basis and will be reinstated as an option for incoming students in the fall of 2018.

Project WILD is a two-week, pre-orientation trip which eases new students into their college experience by providing “solid friends and a large, established community.”

Since 1974, the program has taken incoming freshmen to the Pisgah National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains to bond and help them ease into campus life and their studies.

Historically, the trip has been student-run.

Twenty-three students were cited for public nudity and illegal blockage Aug. 22, 2016, by National Park Service rangers, Moneta said.

The illegal blockage citations stem from students’ illegally blocking off a trailhead which led to a waterfall where their naked peers – presumably – frolicked.

Moneta described the students’ actions as a kind of Project WILD tradition.

“We learned it’s something that’s been going on for years,” he said. “I believe they must have stationed some lookouts while the rest were near waterfall.”

Citations are given for minor legal infractions. Unlike a more serious criminal charge, a citation does not precipitate an immediate arrest.

“I don’t want to minimize this,” Moneta said. “But, also, I am not going to maximize it.”

Project WILD will return in the fall of 2018 chaperoned by Duke staff.

The story was broken by sophomore Duke University student Ben Leonard, reporting for the campus newspaper, The Chronicle.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks

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