Midnight Breakfast 'Madness:' Students Exchange Campus Kitchens for Their Home Ovens

students share thoughts during the Midnight Pancake event.
Students share thoughts during the Midnight Pancake event.

There were no costumes in the Marketplace, but there were recipes for red velvet pancakes and everything-bagel frittatas.

There was no gathering at the Landing, but there was much anticipation over who would win tickets to next season’s Duke vs. UNC men’s basketball game. (Congratulations Danny Wu and Megan Lemcke!)

Midnight Breakfast still closed out the 2020 spring semester from home kitchen tables instead of beloved campus eateries. About 670 students, including about 227 members of the senior class, logged on to special Zoom rooms in the closing hours of April 24 to take a break from studying for finals and spend time together.

Rachael Lau ’20 said the event allowed her to reunite with friends in an unexpected way.

“While the breakout rooms allowed me to talk with people I hadn’t spoken to in years (which I may not have been able to do in a typical midnight breakfast situation), perhaps the best part was the chaos of having everyone in one giant room when the breakout rooms weren’t working,” she wrote in an email. “It was pure madness but it was so heartwarming to see so many of my classmates in one place. You could feel the love that we had for our class in that Zoom room. It was probably one of the most comforting experiences of my senior spring.”

A dozen students from East Campus Council, Duke Student Government and Duke University Union had worked for weeks – remotely, of course – to re-imagine this cherished tradition. In advance, they distributed recipes, conversation starters and Zoom backgrounds showing campus dining locations.

The ad hoc group received enthusiastic help from Duke OIT to make it happen, and from Duke Athletics to make it memorable. Class councils spent programming funds -- unused because of canceled events -- to create 250 giveaways, many of which were gift cards bought from Durham-area restaurants.

During the 90-minute event, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Gary Bennett, Trinity Dean of Academic Affairs John Blackshear and his wife Kimberly Blackshear logged on to say hello.

Sophomore Shrey Majmudar and his fellow organizers hopped in and out of class breakout rooms to hand out prizes.

“One of the most rewarding parts of the night was to enter into a breakout room and have the students not notice you,” he said. “They were all engaged in such great conversation amongst themselves – literally just a random group of undergraduates coming together to form bonds, which was the whole goal behind the event.”