Following a hearing Wednesday night, the Duke Student Government Judiciary ordered the Student Organization Financing Committee to hold an annual budget hearing for FORM magazine.
The ruling follows a petition by FORM, an arts and lifestyle publication on campus, challenging SOFC's decision to exclude the magazine DSG's annual budget for this academic year. The judiciary’s decision ordered SOFC to hold the hearing for the 2017-2018 school year under the presumption that the magazine has submitted all necessary files. It also mandated a “fair and impartial” hearing for the sake of students’ due process rights.
"I think that the Judiciary reached the appropriate decision in this case. I am honored to have been part of the process to rectify what I believe was an injustice to my client," wrote sophomore Jacob Chasan, a DSG judiciary advocate representing FORM, after the ruling. "Both my client and I are grateful for the time and energy of the Judiciary and all others involved."
Members of the Judiciary and Chasan came to an agreement during the discussion regarding some of the circumstances surrounding the petition. Last year, FORM failed to submit on time auditing paperwork that was necessary for the group to be allowed to submit an annual budget request. Because their late submission precluded them from submitting a budget request, FORM ultimately received no funding through SOFC's allocation process.
Throughout the hearing, Chasan argued that preventing FORM from submitting an annual budget request for consideration was an overreach of executive powers on the part of then-SOFC chair Alexa Soren, Pratt ’17.
He added that he felt Wednesday's hearing was important because SOFC has "systematically circumvented the language of their own bylaws."
Chasan read out an email from Soren to FORM where they were "strongly discouraged" to submit a budget form given their tardiness for auditing.
Junior Luke Farrell, current chair of SOFC, said that members of the committee had an understanding about what it means to audit student groups, and that it was within the committee’s purview to audit. He said that through official communication channels such as information sessions and emails, groups were made aware of the fact that auditing forms would be required in order to have an annual budget hearing.
Soren decided not to give money to the group and discouraged their submission of the budget form, he said, since there was already an understanding within SOFC that groups past the auditing deadline would receive zero dollars for their tardiness.
Farrell noted that FORM had the option to appeal to the Financial Oversight and Appeals committee, but instead chose to appeal to the judiciary. Junior Michael Brunetti, a member of the Judiciary, also questioned why FORM had waited close to five months since the SOFC budget was approved to raise a petition.
In response to Brunetti's question, Chasan said that FORM had recently experienced a change in leadership and had been unable to get an appointment with DSG Judiciary until now.
Ultimately, FORM's complaint centered around the idea of due process, Chasan noted. Although the group had missed a filing deadline for auditing forms, they were not given an opportunity to appeal or rectify their mistake.
The new annual budget hearing for FORM—as ordered by the judiciary—must take place within 168 hours of FORM submitting the requisite paperwork. Following the hearing, SOFC will have to secure any funds they allot to the publication for this school year. A full opinion from the judiciary will be released at a later date.
“After the conclusion of this hearing, SOFC should procure any allocated funds from any of their legally authorized sources of money or by request of the Senate of the Duke Student Government,” wrote senior Dev Dabke, chief justice of the DSG judiciary, in their decision. “SOFC should work to secure these funds with all haste and care.”
After the decision, Farrell wrote that he will work with FORM in order to maximize the use of SOFC's funds for university life.
"I understand and respect the Judiciary's decision, and look forward to working with FORM," he wrote. "Myself and the committee will go into negotiations with FORM, as always with the goal of equitably distributing the Student Activities Fee to maximize the value we can bring to campus."
Watch the full hearing here: