As a new academic year approaches, the leaders of Duke Student Government are gearing up to accomplish their goals.
Following a year that included legislation to change the University’s statute of limitations on sexual assault and reforming the Knock and Talks policies for students living off-campus, the seven DSG vice presidents used the summer to prepare their agendas for the year.
“We've been working hard over the summer to make sure that this year is an amazing one for all students at Duke,” said President Stefani Jones, a senior. “This year will be challenging with so much construction going on around campus, but those changes also bring a lot of energy and excitement.”
The vice presidents lead seven respective Senate committees— academic affairs, Durham and regional affairs, equity and outreach, facilities and the environment, residential life, services and social culture.
During the summer the academic affairs committee, led by junior Ray Li, worked in conjunction with the Asian American Alliance and the Asian Student Association to pursue the creation of an Asian American Studies Certificate. Li said the committee will continue to work on this goal throughout the year.
Li said the academic affairs committee will use a two-pronged approach to improve the Duke academic community and student experience. The approach will feature both policy initiatives and academic programming.
“On the policy side, the committee will push to establish more student input in policy forming, specifically with the issues of academic advising, ACES reform and curriculum revisions,” Li said. “The committee will focus on the expansion of involvement with co-curricular programs and the encouragement of cross-cultural and service-focused academic experiences.”
He added that the committee will continue to work with Elizabeth Fox, director of the Academic Advising Center, to improve the academic advising programs.
“Academic Affairs is starting to plan our big social programming events of Academic Homecoming and Bookbag Sunday,” Li said.
Bookbag Sunday is intended to be a social event hosted on campus on the Sunday of each semester that bookbagging begins, he added.
“It would feature student-professor interactions, food, and entertainment,” Li said.
Durham and Regional Affairs
“Durham and regional affairs has been focusing on a lot of issues this summer,” junior Derek Rhodes, vice president for Durham and regional affairs, said.
The committee has been monitoring the progress of a voter identification bill, HB 589. Rhodes added that the bill will drastically change how people vote in North Carolina and has “serious consequences” for students.
He said the committee has also been getting ready for the revamped version of Knock & Talks. The program, created in the 1980s to help acclimate students to their new off-campus homes, features administrators and Duke Police visiting 12 to 15 off-campus student residences to discuss housing policy and regulations each Fall. Rhodes previously told The Chronicle that beginning Fall 2013, students living off campus will experience a less intrusive, less intimidating welcome to their new community.
“We'll be promoting that heavily so that students are not alarmed when administrators and Duke police come to their homes to discuss important topics related to off-campus living,” Rhodes said. “On that note, off-campus mediation will be big for us at the start of the school year and throughout the year.”
He added that this is the first year that DSG will have student representation on the Trinity Heights Neighborhood Association Board.
“We'll be working with neighbors continuously throughout the year to ensure great relationships,” Rhodes said.
The committee has also been discussing campus safety, Rhodes said, particularly regarding Central Campus.
“I received emails from students this summer who were concerned about living on Central, as well as off-campus, after the influx of Duke Alerts that we received in a week,” Rhodes said.
Equity and Outreach
Senior Jacob Tobia, vice president for equity and outreach, said that the committee is focusing on continuing its work on gender violence prevention.
“We've been doing work strategizing on how to continue the work of the Gender Violence Prevention Working Group from last year,“ Tobia said.
The group works to educate students on the prevention of sexual assault, harassment and gender based violence.
During the year the committee will continue advocating for increased endowment transparency through the DukeOpen proposal.
Tobia’s goals also include working to have a more effective process for the recruitment of minority students in admissions.
Facilities and Environment
The facilities and environment committee has been working with the construction teams as they renovate much of West Campus, said junior Jay Kennedy, vice president for the committee.
“I'm very excited for students to see the new Events Pavilion and the newly renovated Bryan Center,” Kennedy said.
He added that Baldwin Auditorium will reopen this Fall after almost two years of renovations.
“It's a great new performance space that I believe will make the first-year experience on East Campus that much more encompassing with a large space where many first-year students can easily go to see speakers and performances together,” Kennedy said.
The committee will continue to work with the renovations committees after the semester begins. In addition, it hopes to collaborate with other programs on campus.
“With the Bass Connections programs beginning this fall, we would love to work with the Energy Initiative and collaborate on ways to make both Duke and its individual students more conscious of their environment and energy usage,” Kennedy said.
Junior Jacob Zionce, vice president for residential life, said his main goal is to further foster a sense of community among independent houses in the second year of the new house model.
“The more we talk about this issue with students, administrators, house leaders, etc, the main theme that comes out of it is that if a house had a good president or a few leaders, it was able to achieve some great things last year,” Zionce said. “More than anything else, having strong leadership was the thread that linked successful independent houses.”
The committee is going to focus on developing and monitoring house leadership. Zionce added that building this infrastructure will produce productive leaders interested in, and capable of, creating strong and unique house communities.
“It's going to involve lots of small initiatives, such as getting the presidents together to discuss ideas, tying their funding to generating events, getting funding for [the Inter-House Council] and putting together an open house during rush in the spring,” Zionce said.
“Over the summer, Services has been working on trying to get transportation to the Lemur Center, working on getting afternoon food trucks and creating a preliminary group of students interested in biking to work on recreating Duke's biking program,” said sophomore Lavanya Sunder, vice president for services.
The committee worked during the summer to increase the presence of food trucks on campus and are currently working on concerns regarding parking.
“I've begun looking at prototype solutions for Duke's biking system,” Sunder said. “We would like to implement a user based model similar to the one implemented at Harvard and many other schools, where students can checkout a bike at one stand and put it back at another. “
She added that the Fix My Campus program, which was launched to great success last year, will launch a mobile application early September.
The Social Culture committee will continue focusing on tailgate this year, said junior Leilani Doktor, vice president for social culture.
“We are keeping a lot of last years relaxed BBQing style but fixing some of the short falls,” Doktor said.
She added they are also looking for ways to improve unity within the many different aspects of tailgate.
The pre-game celebration will be open to all after the individual groups have cleaned up and will allow for the momentum of tailgating to continue as the game approaches. The Inferno will host games and music to give a central location for all students to gather before the game.
The first tailgate will focus on freshmen through efforts such as Orientation Week publicity by The Inferno, Doktor said. She added that the intent is to establish the new tailgate as a lasting tradition.
“We will provide tents and grills for West Campus registered spaces and groups will get temporary parking permits to move their stuff to West easily,” Doktor said.
In addition, DSG will continue send out an email blast the week before games allowing groups seven days in which to register. The committee is seeking members for the tailgating team to survey individuals during the festivities before games.