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DSG execs reflect on year's work

Incomplete. Internal. Inefficient. In progress.

It has been that kind of a year for Duke Student Government--at least in the words of its own executives. Originally touted as a "year of implementation" for the organization, the first seven months of this administration have been a low-profile affair.

Now, as DSG enters its homestretch and president-elect Joshua Jean-Baptiste begins to assemble his cabinet, the body's four committee vice presidents and its president are reflecting on their terms.

"This was really an internal year for DSG," said Vice President for Community Interaction Carrie Johnson, a senior. "We had really young legislators, so we've been trying to develop leadership within the organization."

At the start of the year, 39 of the 50 legislators were newcomers and 38 were either freshmen or sophomores.

"I'd still give DSG an incomplete grade for the year," said senior Abhijit Prabhu, vice president for academic affairs. He said many projects began last year and will not be completed for the next several years.

Jean-Baptiste, current vice president for student affairs, agreed, adding that although the first semester was "inefficient," DSG's momentum this semester will continue into his term.

Vice President for Facilities and Athletics Matt Slovik, a sophomore, said that although DSG's work is in progress, most of its success has been behind the scenes.

Current President C.J. Walsh agreed. "This has been a tremendous year," he said. "We really have gotten a lot done."

Major initiatives

DSG's most recognizable accomplishment this year was the creation of a bus route from Duke to Durham on weekend nights. Aimed at reducing drunk driving and keeping up with the thriving off-campus social scene, the program has seen moderate success and may continue in the future.

"The bus system was very symbolic of the administration's willingness to work with students to provide them with resources necessary to enjoy themselves," said Jean-Baptiste.

Bus stops also recently received a facelift with the implementation of a five-year-old flyering policy.

Slovik, who worked with freshman legislator Emily Brady on the project, said their work exemplified the bureaucracy at Duke that often delays many initiatives. The policy, for example, has been idly in place since 1997, but it took numerous meetings and e-mails all of last semester for DSG to get it enforced.

Other major initiatives also traveled a bumpy road. The course evaluations system, for which work started in spring 2001, went into effect this fall, but at various times skated on thin ice with the Arts and Sciences Council, which has not permanently approved it.

Legislator Alex Niejelow's work on campus safety--including hosting a community forum and working with the Duke University Police Department to improve lighting and increase police patrol--was jump-started when a freshman reported a sexual assault in late January. However, these plans took several months to manifest.

Further, the Community Interaction Committee's recommendation to create an eating disorder coordinator has seen little progress although the issue is still a hot topic on campus.

LIPs, forums and fishbowls

Many legislators said they abandoned their initial individual project after the first semester.

Some projects have been completed. The Student Affairs Committee brought beer on points to The Loop, bands to the Armadillo Grill, theme nights to the Marketplace and a pool table to the Bryan Center. Works in progress include bringing DTV back to the cable system and making laptops available in Perkins Library. One of the committee's major projects--incentives for students to live in Trent Dormitory--has partly come into fruition.

The Facilities and Athletics Committee sponsored a food drive that collected over 27,000 cans, a spring activities fair and "From the Grounds Up," its bi-annual campus beautification project. The committee also placed trash and recycling bins in the Blue Zone and improved equipment in Brodie Gym, as well as sponsored activities in Krzyzewskiville, including the John Mayer concert.

Most of the Academic Affairs Committee's initiatives are ongoing projects, including Perkins Library renovations, the reworking of Duke's honor code, wireless capability around campus, a report on the online course information website Blackboard and discussions with administrators about the laptop requirement initiative.

The Community Interaction Committee planned four fish bowls for this semester, organized a vigil following the reported sexual assault on East Campus and worked with the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau to create packets about the city for incoming freshmen.

DSG also produced a report on financial aid, due out Wednesday

DSG vs. Campus Council

For the first time since its 1993 inception, DSG found itself with an adversary on campus other than the administration--Campus Council. Previously a predominantly programming body, Campus Council was given residential life responsibilities by new Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta.

Council President Vik Devisetty seized the opportunity, leading his organization in the passing of several critical resolutions. What ensued was a very public turf war between the two groups.

"I think it got blown out of proportion," said Jean-Baptiste, who became part of the mudslinging himself when during a meeting he said Devisetty was on a "power trip."

The debate began in early November, when Campus Council passed a resolution calling for a smoking ban in all dormitories, which DSG followed up with a recommendation to allow each dormitory to decide on its own.

The power struggle reached a boiling point when a Feb. 28 DSG referendum asked students' opinions on the smoking ban and if Campus Council executives should be elected directly by the student body.

Although 63 percent of voters said Campus Council should hold direct elections, almost 58 percent supported the smoking ban, a vindication for Devisetty and a setback for DSG.

Jean-Baptiste said things will be different next year.

"We need to work as a team, not as competitors," he said.