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Finalists named, complaint lodged

The Young Trustee Nominating Committee named seniors Sara Elrod, Adam Grossman and Bunia Parker as the three finalists for the undergraduate position on the Board of Trustees Friday.

But over the weekend, the committee's interviewing and selection processes, as well as the conduct of its chair, Duke Student Government President C.J. Walsh, were called into question by three of the eight semi-finalists. One semi-finalist, senior Sean Young, filed an official complaint with the DSG Judiciary Saturday.

"I'm not asking for the entire process to be done again," said Young, "but I am asking that the Judiciary publicly reaffirm the integrity of the young trustee selection process. This is an accountability measure."

In his complaint, Young said there were inconsistencies in the number of interviewers for each candidate and that Walsh took part in the final vote, a practice explicitly prohibited in the DSG by-laws except in the case of a tie. He also said in an interview that just 10 of the 15 committee members were involved in the finalist selection process.

Upon hearing about the complaint late Sunday night, Walsh admitted to the allegations. The Judiciary is expected to convene and address Young's complaint sometime this week, said Chief Justice Meggan Wurzburg, a senior. The Legislature and the YTNC are supposed to choose the next Young Trustee Feb. 6.

"I didn't realize I wasn't supposed to [vote]," Walsh said. "But my vote did not make a difference. It was not pertinent in the final tally."

Also at issue is the number of YTNC members present at each interview. At the start of his interview, only four members of the committee were present, plus Walsh, Young said. Two more committee members entered his interview halfway through.

YTNC member Jin Park, a senior, confirmed that not all 10 committee members were present at the first three interviews--those of Young, Drew Ensign and Chronicle Managing Editor James Herriott.

Ensign, a senior and executive vice president of DSG, said only seven committee members were present at his interview, including Walsh. "I was kind of disappointed," Ensign said. "The candidates put a lot of effort into the applications, and, at least in my case, less than half of the committee was there for the interview."

Elrod, Grossman, Parker and senior Vik Devisetty said about 10 or 11 committee members were present at their interviews, though none was sure of an exact number. Semi-finalist Michael Calvo said about eight were at his interview, and Herriott said there were less than 10 at his.

"Everyone was invited, people just didn't show up," Walsh said.

Young also alleged that only 10 of the 15 committee members voted in the selection of the finalists. Park said Walsh decided to limit the committee to nine members, plus himself, as the other six members had not read the semi-finalists' applications.

Both Young and Ensign said that in past years, all 15 members of the YTNC were present during all interviews, as well as the voting process. Young served as chair of the committee last year, and Ensign served on both of the past two committees.

DSG by-laws do not specify whether all committee members must be present at interviews and at the final vote. "After interviewing these candidates, the Executive Committee shall recommend three (3) of the candidates as finalists...." the by-law states. "These finalists will be conducted by secret ballot, with each member voting for three candidates. Candidates must receive a 2/3 vote to be recommended."

DSG legislators, however, are required to attend their committee meetings prior to the final young trustee vote. During these meetings, each of the three finalists meets with and answers questions from the legislators.

"Last year, I had people come into [individual] committee meetings a couple minutes late, and I had to prohibit them from voting," Young said.

Walsh, who appointed himself chair of the committee after former chair Carrie Johnson resigned in order to pursue the position, said each applicant was reviewed completely before the vote took place. "We went through their applications, rehashed their interview and formed a well-rounded picture of each candidate," Walsh said.

Devisetty criticized the questions asked of the candidates. "The questions were entirely superficial," Devisetty said. "The questions didn't allow the interviewees to exhibit any knowledge."

Devisetty said the questions included general background queries into why the candidates chose to matriculate at Duke, what they liked about the University and their take on the new residential life plan.

The three finalists and Calvo said their interviews were handled in an appropriate manner. Herriott, a senior, declined to comment on the selection process.

"I personally thought [the questions] were very fair," Grossman said. "A lot of them were personal. They dealt with the skills we would bring to the Board. They didn't pull any punches."

Walsh said the questions were used to fill in the gaps of the semi-finalists' applications.