Junior Abhi Sanka will work to enact his vision as this year’s Duke Student Government executive vice president. Sanka has served for two years as a DSG senator for residential life and served as chair of the Senate Judiciary selection process and a member of the Rules Committee. When elected in the uncontested race for EVP in March, Sanka said one of his biggest goals was to strengthen the connection between DSG and the student body, in particular by increasing campus dialogue about legislative issues. The Chronicle’s Carleigh Stiehm sat down with Sanka to discuss what else he hopes to accomplish this year as DSG executive vice president.
The Chronicle: If you could say anything to the incoming freshmen, what would it be?
Abhi Sanka: Stay grounded. It can be very easy to get lost in the Duke bubble. If you are a member of the Class of 2018, be prepared for an inundation of advice, tips, "do-thises" and "don’t-do-thises" when you arrive on campus from administrators, RAs, FACs, upperclassmen, to fellow first-years and everyone in between. When navigating these well-intentioned but sometimes conflicting influences, take a moment of introspection and touch base with the path which brought you to Duke. Call home or check in with high school friends. Sometimes the best way in figuring out how to move forward is to look back.
TC: What is the first thing you want to see done in DSG next year?
AS: As executive vice president, my chief responsibility is to oversee how we function as an organization. As student government representatives, our responsibility is to identify problems within the Duke community and fill these spaces with policies or programs which can improve the undergraduate experience. One thing I would like to see is more data infused into this process. It would be useful to have a unit within DSG focused on building an evidence base for our policy discussions by collecting data and producing reports on the issues which seem to persist year after year on campus—sort of like a FiveThirtyEight for DSG. My hope is that we attract a different set of data-driven, quantitatively-oriented students into the policymaking process by establishing this unit.
TC: What so you see some of the biggest challenges facing DSG being?
AS: In recent years, we’ve made some great strides in how we reach out to and solicit feedback from the student body through Fix My Campus, a revamped website, and a series of articles through The Chronicle. Engaging the student body in campus issues, remains, however, our biggest challenge. Ensuring that our student government is fully representative of all parts of the student body can also sometimes be a challenge.
TC: What are you most excited about going into the new year?
AS: I am really excited about what the Class of 2018 has to offer. Every year we get a fresh crop of student leaders looking to make their mark on campus, and I am really looking forward to working with them next year. Student government is home to all types of campus leaders, and if you’re a first-year looking to make an impact on campus, definitely consider running to be a senator in student government in the fall.
TC: Were there any issues brought up in DSG that you would like to see again next year?
AS: Perhaps the biggest campus-wide issue last year was how the portion of the student activities fee, which DSG has control over, should be allocated. Discussion and debate over that issue unfortunately boiled down to being for or against one particular plan which was up for referendum, but I think it’s worth revisiting whether there are ways we can be more efficient and/or better capture student desire in allocating the student activities fee. There was also momentum behind strengthening the independence of the Judiciary at the end of the year, and I’m interested in reform there.
TC: What else do you think students should be aware of before we start the new year?
AS: We’re always open to suggestions, and our door is always open. DSG is the student body’s means for agency in advocating for student needs to the administration and we’re committed to keeping DSG open, accountable and legitimate in doing our job.