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DUU aims to streamline new budget

A series of major changes are in store for the Duke University Union budget in coming months, after the organization came under scrutiny this year for some of its funding allocations.

In an effort to move away from unnecessary expenditures, Union officials said they have eliminated an annual trip to the South by Southwest festival and other conferences. In addition, next year's proposed budget includes a pared-down marketing budget and a $33,000 decrease for Cable 13 and movies in the Bryan Center.

With those adjustments and smaller cuts to most of the other committees, the Union hopes to make way for more high-profile events and big-name artists, said Union President Katelyn Donnelly, a junior.

Union members said a new Oktoberfest "on steroids" and performances of Broadway hits "Hairspray" and "Chicago" are among the changes in store for next year.

The budget is pending approval by the Union's executive board, which has final oversight over the $600,000 of student fees allotted to the organization each year.

"It's something we've been thinking about this entire year-we want to be a dynamic organization and people thought we were sort of a static one," Donnelly said. "We tried to re-evaluate what Duke students wanted and how to make money decisions to bring better quality events."

Donnelly was chief financial officer for the Union last year and had a front-row seat for some of the difficulties it faced, including the controversial firing of a committee chair and allegations of overspending on sparsely attended events.

Following her election, Donnelly said she reached out to Duke Student Government and other campus organizations to form an independent review board of the Union's finances.

"One of the things we talked about was how to make the Union back into a really important organization after some of the problems of the past year," she said.

One of the most outspoken critics was DSG President Elliott Wolf, a junior, but his successor, junior Paul Slattery, sat on the review board with an eye toward productive change. Even without making individual event decisions, Slattery said there was much work to be done.

"I think the idea of what they're doing is to have programming that appeals to a much broader audience," he said.

That is the philosophy behind the reforms with Broadway at Duke, which Wolf said he "opposed throwing money at" in October.

Now, Broadway at Duke has been merged with the On Stage committee to form Live Entertainment, which will have four shows next year, half of this year's total.

Recent performances of "Wonderful Town" and "Man of La Mancha" have underperformed at the Page Auditorium box office and sold only half of their tickets to students, said senior Josh Posen, chair of Broadway at Duke.

"It didn't make sense to continue that vein-to bring shows that students didn't care about," he said. "Over the last couple of years the attendance has stayed strong but it has been skewing toward the community."

High-profile shows, such as "Hairspray," "Chicago" and "The Second City" comedy tour, are more expensive but worth the price because of their "brand names," he said.

The Union is also making a greater effort to reach out proactively to Campus Council, said President Ryan Todd, a junior.

Campus Council will offer its help in planning Joe College Weekend this fall in place of Oktoberfest, Todd said.

Donnelly said the event will feature high-contract bands and a beer garden in one of the quadrangles, in addition to the traditional vendors on Main West Quadrangle.

"This year, we went line item by line item on every budget and each director had to defend it to everyone else," she said. "If the 25 of us aren't excited about it, then the campus isn't going to be excited about it."