Senior Daniel Strunk, chief justice of Duke Student Government, has launched The 40% Plan to alter the way money is collected from students through the Undergraduate Student Activity Fee, which is then allocated to student groups.
Currently, the Student Organization Funding Committee controls the entirety of the $667,000 collected. The 40% Plan would allow students to directly apportion 40 percent of their activity fee to a group or groups of their choosing. Although we recognize potential difficulties, we endorse The 40% Plan in principle and as a ballot measure.
The current funding allocation system for student groups lacks accountability, efficiency and a well-aligned incentive structure. SOFC is a group of 14 students that decides how to respond to all funding requests from groups. We believe that this represents a problematic concentration of power and has allowed for the inefficient expenditure of student monies, such as the Chanticleer, which has received an average of $102,983 each year for the last seven years.
The 40% Plan would cut red tape and positively incentivize groups and students while retaining robust auditing standards. The new system would continue to require groups to go before SOFC to obtain funding for events, and groups would still have to deliver receipts to SOFC to certify that the money was used appropriately. The key difference, however, is that SOFC would no longer have the discretion to veto or alter budgets for these events; it would be able to recommend, but not mandate, a budget for each group. In other words, groups would be able to decide for themselves how much of their money to spend and on what.
The proposed changes would eliminate needless regulatory hoops and give groups an incentive to accurately inform students of their planned activities. If the plan passes, individual students will be more incentivized to partake in or attend events by extracurricular groups since they will have a financial stake in the groups they contribute to.
However, the a transfer of spending power away from SOFC and into the hands of students may cause inequity and harm certain small but valuable campus groups, like the Muslim Student Association or Duke Robotics Club. For this reason, by-laws accompanying this constitutional amendment must guarantee that student groups deemed essential by Duke Student Government receive a budget that sustains their programming. Furthermore, we also recognize the need for a base guarantee to all chartered groups that they will receive, at minimum, funding to cover basic operations.
We recognize that the implementation of such a plan will be difficult. The challenge of passing bylaws promulgating the amendment and altering current SOFC guidelines, as well as logistical concerns about the website, must be overcome. Despite that, we are convinced that The 40% Plan represents an improvement that will directly benefit students. We urge the plan’s drafters to include a funding guarantee for essential groups, recommend that the plan appear on the ballot and encourage students to vote for its passage.
The Chronicle is independent from the University and, therefore, does not receive SOFC funding.