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Resolutions escalate battle over authority

The escalating turf war between Campus Council and Duke Student Government may soon reach a boiling point if two proposed resolutions are passed at tonight's DSG meeting.

Both resolutions request the addition of questions to DSG's Feb. 22 executive election ballot. One, proposed by DSG President C.J. Walsh and his chief of staff Evan Davis, directly challenges Campus Council's student mandate on residential life policy by asking who should be the ultimate representative authority on the issue. The other, proposed by DSG Vice President for Student Affairs Joshua Jean-Baptiste, asks voters whether Campus Council executive officers should be elected directly.

"In many ways, it's a foolish approach to resolving role diffusion," said Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs. Since arriving at Duke, Moneta has repeatedly reaffirmed his belief that although DSG is the senior governing body on campus, Campus Council is better equipped to represent students on residential issues.

"I do applaud every effort by students to take leadership and to try to clarify roles of student groups," he said.

Walsh defended the proposed referendum question.

"I think it's an honest question," said Walsh, a senior. "There's been a lot of questions about Campus Council and DSG, and as elected representatives, it is our responsibility to ask our constituents what they want."

Campus Council President Vik Devisetty said any results of a referendum would be biased because the question would appear on a DSG ballot.

"The results would be different if 3,500 students were voting in a Campus Council election and that question was asked," said Devisetty, a senior. "I think the more interesting question would be, OShould DSG be dissolved for a lack of productivity and representation?'"

Jean-Baptiste agreed with Walsh and said that since Campus Council's influence seems to be growing, students should be able to vote on its agenda through election of its executive officers.

Central to the conflict between the two groups is the recent decision by the administration to ban smoking in dormitories. Campus Council passed a resolution in November calling for the ban, while DSG resolved in December to allow individual living groups and dormitories to decide for themselves.

Walsh and Davis claim that because executive members of Campus Council are elected indirectly by quad council representatives, Campus Council does not have a mandate to decide on residential life issues.

Devisetty said that direct election has been considered but has never garnered student support. He also defended Campus Council's mandate.

"If you are looking at it from a statistical point of view, more students vote in our elections than in the DSG election. We are the residential governing body. Students have already spoken that Campus Council should be that body," he said.

But Jean-Baptiste said students likely do not select their quad representatives based on policy implications and end up with policies they may not support.

"To make sure that Campus Council's just not a board of students that have a mind of their own, that are imposing rules by allowing the administration to impose rules on students," he said. "Having a direct election of the executive officers will force Campus Council to become accountable for their actions to the students."

DSG's meeting tonight will begin at 7 p.m. in room 05 of the Sanford Institute of Public Policy.

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