It’s 5:15 p.m. on a Monday, and Veronica Martinez, an exchange student from Ecuador, sits quietly in the corner of the Student Union.
Directly to her left, the UNC-Duke portal sits silently as well, its camera focused on a nearly empty portion of the Bryan Center at Duke University.
The portal, meant to connect UNC and Duke students, received its fair share of attention when it launched in February, especially during basketball season.
But Martinez said she has barely noticed the portal.
“I’ve never used it,” she said. “Maybe if it were located in a different space.”
Relocating the portal to better surroundings is just what its creators want to do.
“We’re planning on relocating it really soon to the lower level,” said sophomore Chris Batchelder, who came up with the idea for the portal.
“The biggest feedback we’ve heard is that it’s really hard to use in that part of the Union, mostly because there’s so much background noise.”
Batchelder said he thinks once the portal is moved downstairs, it will allow students a more convenient and low-key space to use it, away from crowds.
He said Duke plans to move its portal to a more convenient location as well.
The UNC portal must be moved regardless, because the Union is putting in new infrastructure to make the portal’s current location a performance space, Tom Low, president of the Carolina Union, said in an email.
And moving the portal isn’t the only new idea Low and Batchelder have discussed.
Low said that while the Carolina Union Activities Board likes the idea of the portal, it wants to refocus its purpose.
“For example, the board likes the idea of a portal that could connect students on campus to other UNC students around the world, such as those on global immersions or studying abroad,” Low said.
Batchelder said he hopes to connect the portal to UNC students studying in London and Berlin, linking UNC’s community abroad back to campus.
He is planning structural changes, such as reducing the size of the box the portal is located in and making its appearance similar to video screens in the lower level, potentially by hanging it on one of the walls.
Batchelder said he hopes to finish the upgrades later this month, and he said any changes will come at no additional cost to the project.
He said he hopes the changes will open up more opportunities for academic and community involvement.
“I think it has great potential, especially for student groups,” he said.
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