Officials allowed bonfires this year, after unsuccessfully banning them last year. Wednesday night's fire was started in a safe spot, set aside by the university.
One student says the bonfire brings back a sense of unity.
Duke senior Keatly Haldeman enjoyed the diverse turnout. "There's nothing dividing everyone," Haldeman says. "Everyone is a Duke student."
Students watched the blaze from all over campus. They're happy the bonfires are back, but say it's different this year because it was too premeditated.
Sophomore Melissa Lan feels the celebration lacked spontaneity. "You miss out a little on it because if you know what's coming every time then it's not worth it. You become complacent."
But some say it might be a good idea to map everything out, so the bonfire doesn't spark any problems.
"They were going to do it anyway," says student Clint Cheng, a sophomore. "This is just a smart way for the administration to keep everything under wraps."
Senior Raj Shah was just worried about protecting his bench.
"I'm trying to save my bench from getting burned. I built this bench with my own two hands. It's kind of like my baby," Shah says.
The bench made it through the night, along with about 1,500 people. Duke Police say they have no report of any injuries.
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