The application process for the position of young trustee, which has come under fire in recent years, has received mixed reviews from those involved in the process this year.
Several of the 21 people who applied for the position said that they were not entirely clear about the selection criteria, and that they applied not knowing what the 11-member Intercommunity Council wanted in a candidate.
"I think if you asked most undergraduates, they would have very little idea how the process works," said Trinity senior Lex Wolf, the immediate-past president of the Interfraternity Council and a young trustee applicant. "As the ultimate representative of students, it's important that the entire undergraduate community understand" the selection process, he added.
Wolf was not among the seven applicants granted an interview with the ICC, which is required by Duke Student Government bylaw to interview between seven and 10 of the applicants and from those interviews, send three finalists to the DSG legislature for final approval.
Applicants must turn in a written application that includes responses to five questions, not exceeding 10 typed pages, on topics such as the role of the young trustee and the three most important issues facing the University.
This year's finalists are Trinity senior Jen Bentz, president of the University Union, Trinity senior Peggy Cross, DSG president, and Trinity senior Shavar Jeffries, chair of the Union's Major Attractions Committee and immediate-past president of the Black Student Alliance (see graphic and related story, page 1).
Other applicants agreed with Wolf, saying that the ICC never let them know exactly what it wanted in an ideal candidate. Trinity sophomore Charmaine Yu said that she "didn't have a perfectly clear idea" about the selection process. She did not receive an interview.
Trinity senior Adam Katz, another young trustee applicant who did not receive an interview, said that he was not pleased with the lack of communication between the applicants and the ICC. Except for a short letter that comes with the application, the DSG bylaws say nothing about the qualifications of potential young trustees. And applicants have no contact with the ICC until they are notified whether or not they received an interview.
Trinity senior LaRonda Peterson, DSG vice president for community interaction and chair of the ICC, said she thought the process was fair.
"I felt like my letter was very clear and I made myself available for any questions or any problems," Peterson said. "For future reference, I would appreciate any feedback on" applicants' opinions about the clarity of the process.
In her letter, which was attached to all young-trustee applications, Peterson characterized the position as "the most influential role you have as a Duke student since the Board of Trustees makes all final decisions concerning the University. Therefore, you need to be knowledgeable in all the issues confronting Duke and its students. It is also important that you examine these issues from a holistic point of view."
Regarding the role of the young trustee on the board, Peterson stated in the letter, "The Young Trustees knows [sic] Duke and knows what it is like to be a Duke student, something most of the Board members do not know, so their input is invaluable. It is very important that each new Young Trustee maintain the level of excellence established by the previous trustees, so that the Board will continue to value this position."
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Engineering senior Imron Aly and Trinity sophomore Tina Covington, neither of whom received interviews with the ICC, said that despite the letter, they also were unsure of the ICC's criteria and therefore did not know how to shape their applications to fit those standards.
But Trinity senior Christian Grose, an applicant and former DSG vice president for academic affairs, said that he did not think that criticisms about that aspect of the process were valid.
"I feel that there's a suitable amount of information to guide people along," Grose said. "If people really want it, they should do research" about the position. Applying to be young trustee is like applying for a job, Grose said; it is the applicant's responsibility--not the company's-- to make sure that he is informed about the position.
Trinity senior and applicant Wayne Taitt, immediate past president of the class of 1996 and former member of the ICC, said that although he thought the process was fair, it could use more clarification in the beginning stages so that people considering applying are aware of the criteria.
Both Grose and Taitt were among the seven students interviewed by the ICC.
One young trustee is selected each year from the undergraduate population. Sophomores, juniors and seniors are eligible to apply for the position, which consists of one three-year term on the Board of Trustees. During the first year, the young trustee serves as a non-voting observer, and for the next two as a full voting member of the board.
The Graduate and Professional Student Council elects one young trustee every three years. A new one will be selected this year.