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Slap on the wrist

After determining that the Interfraternity Council had tampered with the March 11 Duke Student Government run-off election, the DSG Judiciary upheld the election results while vowing to punish IFC for its misconduct.

At the time, The Chronicle questioned the courage and intelligence a decision that found IFC guilty of a damning transgression yet failed to throw out a tainted election.

Last night, the DSG Judiciary made an equally disreputable decision with the punishment it issued to the council.

Assuming that administrators follow through on their pledge to the judiciary, IFC will lose its meeting space in the West Union Building for one year-and relocate to a new office behind the Bryan Center Info Desk. In other words, the judiciary has punished IFC by making the council use the same facilities that nearly every other student group on campus is thankful to have.

Symbolically, this punishment is significant. IFC's office in the West Union Building is its long-time home and ranks among the nicest student group spaces on campus; the offices behind the Bryan Center, on the other hand, are notorious for being cramped and providing little privacy.

But the punishment will have absolutely no functional effect on IFC; it will be business as usual for the council, just from a different location on campus.

The second component of three-part punishment, however, deserves praise: The judiciary ruled that all future election-related activities by IFC gain preliminary approval by the DSG Election Commission. This stipulation is a good idea-not just for IFC but for all student organizations. Such review would leave no confusion about the legality of events such as the IFC's voting contest.

Furthermore, the judiciary ruled that, next fall, the legislature review and change the by-laws governing the elections in order to clearly prohibit such tampering in the future. These components of the punishment indicate the judiciary's attention to the integrity of DSG elections-attention that was altogether lacking in its initial decision not to overturn the election.

But the punishment's weak centerpiece overshadows its sound but peripheral components. The judiciary's point would have been made had it recommended that IFC forfeit any office space on campus for perhaps two or three years, or that it remain in the Bryan Center indefinitely. Instead, IFC is simply moving to a less luxurious home. This punishment is little more than a minor inconvenience hardly commensurate with the magnitude of the offense.

The bottom line is that IFC, for all intents and purposes, has gotten away with its conduct. Its leaders have never admitted they did anything improper, and there is little in the punishment to reinforce the message that they're wrong.

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