Brandon Goodwin was selected last week by Duke Student Government to be the newest Young Trustee, giving him the honor and privilege to serve on the Board of Trustees for three years and vote on it for two.
Goodwin beat out fellow seniors Chris Kallmeyer and Hirsh Sandesara by garnering a majority of the votes of the combined DSG Senate and InterCommunity Council. It only took one round of voting for Goodwin, the executive vice president of DSG, to win a majority.
Goodwin showed a new side in his question-and-answer section with the Senate. Normally restrained, keeping parliamentary order in an otherwise confused DSG world, last Wednesday he was exuberant and energetic.
Sandesara and Kallmeyer were more reserved, treating the Senate with a gravity they did not deign to return, snickering when they thanked senators for their questions and commented on how difficult the queries were. The Instant Messenger problem remains, although use has become less rampant since the first meeting I attended this year. (However, Senator Matt Hoekstra, a junior, seems determined to continually chat online, crack jokes every two minutes and not pay attention at any meeting, ever.)
Every candidate talked about the importance of Central Campus, student initiative (certainly a tip of the hat to Board member and President Richard Brodhead) and improving the residential experience.
After the speeches, I was torn: It was simply too close to call. Kallmeyer seemed too focused on the arts, bringing the Nasher or performance spaces into almost every question. No doubt he has been a phenomenal Union president, but he was miles behind the other two Young Trustee finalists.
Goodwin tried to show how he has had the experiences of the typical Duke student, like studying abroad, getting parking tickets and living in Krzyzewskiville. He talked about the personal relationships he already has with some Board members and about how he feels he has always connected with students. His original ideas were stressing the need for an architectural school (while at the same time backing the current policy against pre-professionalism-and that while being the president of Bench and Bar, the pre-law society) and making Sanford a separate undergraduate school, pushing it to be on par with Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of International Relations.
Sandesara advocated the integration of the Duke Medical Center into other parts of the University. His strength was his wide range of experience: He is already a member of the board at the medical center and works on a Central Campus planning committee (he said he's not afraid to "ask the tough questions" and knows most of the work happens outside the boardroom) and participates in many student groups, including serving as president of Diya.
Both are proven leaders, both share visions with the current University leadership, both have ideas of their own, both are dynamic and could hold their own on the Board of Trustees. So who should have been elected?
Don't look at me!
Honestly, either candidate would have been a good choice for Young Trustee. And, honestly, neither of them could do a whole lot. The Board of Trustees might not be an old boys' club anymore, but it's still all about networking. Which, according to urbandictionary.com, is an "Updated version of 'Old Boys' Club' that doesn't require being old or male; the primary purpose is to place acquaintanceship and social skills before merit, education and knowledge in. advancement." And on the Duke University Board of Trustees, amount of money donated goes along with acquaintanceship and social skills.
The Young Trustee position was created to bring a different viewpoint to the Board and, despite the privilege of voting, the voice of the student members is no doubt barely audible. Do you really think the Board of Trustees, which will in a few months likely go over the heads of students and Dining Services Director Jim Wulforst to support renewing ARAMARK's contract, does more than superficially listen to the recent graduates' opinions?
That said, the Young Trustee position is not an empty title. With a lot of effort and the right maneuvering, Goodwin will be able to have an impact on the board. He certainly won't be as powerful as the other members, but if he can throw in ideas or stop bad ones, he will have done his job.
The Young Trustee decision was a difficult one this year. Anytime a body votes one of its own members into a position of power, there's a whiff of favoritism. But DSG handled the process as well as they have anything-which isn't saying much.
Elizabeth Rudisill is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs every other Thursday.
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