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What do Robertson Scholars think of the UNC-Duke rivalry?

Robertson Scholar Rivalry
Sam Zahn(Left) and Brady Hanshaw(Right) are Roberston Scholars attending UNC-Chapel Hill this semster. Roberston Scholars are required to attend both schools during their college career at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke. Zahn choose Chapel Hill as his home institution over Duke for its Southern Charm.

During basketball season, you cheer for either UNC or Duke University – unless you’re a student at both universities.

Students accepted to the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program are what Executive Director Allen Chan calls “dual citizens.”

As Robertson Scholars, students have full access to classes and activities at both UNC and Duke. There’s even a bus line named after them: The Robertson Express Bus takes students between the two campuses.

Though students choose one university as their 'home university' where they live and eventually earn a degree, all students live on the opposite campus during the spring semester of their sophomore year.

That semester happens to coincide with March Madness.

“It's definitely been hard to root for, or watch my friends here root for, a team that I’ve been so opposed to for my entire life,” said Annie Evans, a sophomore UNC Robertson Scholar who currently lives at Duke.

Evans originally comes from Indiana, where she said she was a Tar Heel, born and bred. Having seen the rivalry on both campuses, she has noticed that UNC takes the banter beyond the realm of basketball.

“I think at UNC perhaps, there’s a hatred of Duke as a school, as a place and as a basketball program,” she said. “Whereas, I think in Duke culture it exists more in just the sphere of basketball.”

Chan, who said he does not have a favorite university between the two, said the Robertson staff does not try to diminish the rivalry. Instead, they expect students to respect both universities, which he says complement each other.

Lawton Ives, a sophomore UNC Robertson Scholar living at Duke this semester, said he sees the rivalry beyond basketball, though.

“There's definitely plenty of chirping about how they think their basketball program is better,” he said. “Certainly a little bit of air of academic superiority, as well.” 

Serena Lim-Strutt, a sophomore Duke student currently living at UNC, said she does not know whether she’ll root for Duke.

“I think it definitely depends where I end up watching the game,” she said. “If I go back to Duke for the game, definitely. If I’m on UNC’s campus, I’m probably going to be more neutral.”

Having to be careful about team allegiance is not new for Robertson Scholars.

Ives referenced a group of Robertson Scholars that entered Cameron Indoor Stadium for the 2006 UNC-Duke game wearing Duke gear, until tip-off when they revealed Carolina blue wigs and shirts. They were silent until Duke's first free throws, when they started a "U-N-C" chant. Duke missed the second free throw and UNC went on to win the game by seven points.

That game had consequences for future Robertson Scholars.

Ives remembers being told early on that students can be evicted from the Duke stadium for wearing the opposing team’s attire in the student section.

“When I was going through my Robertson orientation, they were laying down some pretty clear rules,” he said. "Like don’t get arrested, don’t go to Honor Court and don’t wear UNC gear in the student section at Cameron.”

Even making it inside of Cameron Stadium is no small feat. Whereas Carolina uses a lottery system to distribute tickets, students at Duke have to go “tenting” to get tickets.

Days before the Duke-UNC game, Duke students set up tents in hopes of getting tickets. Duke has official rules about where the tents can be located and how many people must be in the tents at certain times of the day.

Lim-Strutt says that tenting, along with Duke’s smaller campus population, makes the basketball environment at Duke more intense than at UNC. She says that in addition to the die-hard fans, she has met more people at UNC who do not follow basketball than at Duke.

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Evans admits she is one of those die-hards. She recently came back to UNC to watch a basketball game.

“I still prefer cheering on my Heels in the Dean Dome,” she said. “The Dean Dome is one of those places where I feel like my love for UNC is completely rational.”