Response by The 40 Percent Plan to DSG columnsAt a recent meeting, the Duke Student Government rammed through changes to the way student groups get funding. In the weeks ahead, DSG plans to sell these changes to the student body, trying to convince us all that the Student Organization Finance Committee’s many flaws have now been alleviated. We ask you not to buy in to the government’s non-responsive and ill-fitted legislative attempt. At best, DSG has moved the football one yard down the field—and now they’re going to tell you they’ve scored a touchdown.
Let’s look at what hasn’t changed. First, SOFC deliberations are still closed to the public. This means that, when SOFC decides where your money goes and how much to give to each group, no one can hear what they discuss. Second, SOFC still controls $700,000 of students’ money with a line-item veto and is barely accountable to students. Third, SOFC can still be stacked with students with particular affiliations and preferences and can disburse funding in a viewpoint-biased manner. Fourth, you, as a student, still have practically no say in where your own money goes.
Along with the columns by President Stefani Jones, SOFC Chair Joyce Lau and Vice President Ellie Schaack written in opposition to The 40 Percent Plan, I, as one of the architects of The 40 Percent Plan, think that this latest round of legislation perfectly demonstrates how DSG is completely out of touch with student concerns over funding. The government’s many columns identify supposed flaws with The 40 Percent Plan, which we would like to examine.
First, we would like to clarify all concerns about the logistics of our proposal. We do not specify any onerous requirements for SOFC. In fact, we welcome ongoing dialogue with DSG and UCAE on how to best achieve our vision technically and establish appropriate levels of accountability to ensure funds are not misused. We envision students being able to see real-time allocations during the allocation process, proposed budgets and the recommendations of the SOFC to help inform decisions. We envision allocation processes beginning at the same time of Annual Budget allocations. This plan will take time to implement, and we envision trials and extensive testing. We also think we can learn from the superior infrastructure exhibited by our peer institutions in implementing our plan. Yes, our proposal is only 127 words, but the U.S. Constitution is a mere 4400 words, and yet it governs a nation of over 320 million people. We recognize the importance of taking time to develop a strong, practical solution. It will not be a rushed or hasty process—the website will be implemented only when it is ready.
Second, The 40 Percent Plan will not require twice as much paperwork every semester or groups to run massive campaigns. Students will give to groups they care about, which means they will allocate their own money to their own groups. All group leaders have to do is reach out to those who care and encourage them to allocate in the interests of the group. That is an incentive that already exists at our peer institutions, such as Stanford, Harvard and Yale, with voluntary fees or funding referendum systems. We merely want to introduce that incentive at Duke.
Members of the DSG Executive Board have publicly stated that this idea does not warrant further consideration. They claim they are well-versed on problems with SOFC and the supposed best path forward. Yet, they also seem keen to ignore the student input and feedback that has plastered the opinion pages this week. To put this in context, never before in the history of Duke has there been a successful petition to amend our constitution. We are concerned citizens who want to make a difference, and, our government, instead of talking to us, attacked us in three unique columns before ever asking to meet with us to learn more.
We are seeing an incredible discussion happening on campus about how our money is used. To learn more, we encourage you to visit The 40 Percent Plan website, and please read our General FAQs as well as FAQs about implementation. We want this discussion to continue, and we hope that our elected representatives will encourage this discussion instead of silencing it and ramming through their own legislative agendas.
Ajeet Hansra is a Pratt senior and an architect of The 40 Percent Plan.