Believe it or not, we aren't fond of student government types.
Writing bylaws is not productive; fundamental student interests are fairly obvious; and we're not sure that 50 people sitting in a room lobbing resolutions at the Allen Building will change much about this particular $10-billion institution.
The good news is we have met extraordinarily few student government types in our four years here. In fact, there are extraordinarily few student government types at Duke, and we're not even sure they are to be found in Duke Student Government.
The people we've met, for the record, love Duke. Not only do they think Duke should be better, they think it's worth their time to make it better. It's because of them that we jumped on the bandwagon, which in our case meant joining Duke Student Government and/or writing for The Chronicle.
We ran, we won, we wrote a lot and we owe all of you a hell of a lot for it. Thank you. It has been our good fortune and, frankly, our honor. We've argued with the institution, and we've met with some success on your behalf. And most importantly, we've learned one important lesson along the way:
Change doesn't come from the framework that is "Duke Student Government." It doesn't come from The Chronicle. It doesn't come from "committees."
It comes from individual students who care enough about this place to articulate what we want. Those students might happen to be in DSG, or write for The Chronicle, or sit on a committee, but fundamentally, they are Duke students who give a damn.
If this place is going to improve, it will have to be because we all love Duke, we all think it can be better, and we all care enough to try and make it better. A giant Dutchman and a twisted version of one of Jim Henson's Muppets should never be two of the most visible sources of student advocacy on this campus.
If you have a substantive gripe about this place, fire off an e-mail (or two, or three, or four...) to the appropriate administrator. Moreover, get one, or two, or three, or four hundred of your friends to do the same. Better yet, occupy the Allen Building.
We're serious. While there are plenty of students fighting this battle now, many more can and should.
Whatever you do, don't just ask Duke Student Government for help or talk to The Chronicle. They're busy, and after years of working for both, we can assure that we're not any smarter than you.
One doesn't need to have been "elected" or "selected" to recognize and articulate undergraduate priorities.
It's simply not possible to ask every student what he or she wants and amalgamate that into a coherent mission. Moreover, attempting to do so is a waste of time. If we had to guess (and we have), we'd say that undergraduates are interested in the following:
We'd like to keep costs down; we'd like to increase the programs and services offered to us; and we'd like to limit infringements on our freedom. If you can make an argument for any of those things, and make the institution swallow it, please stand up and do so.
At Duke, any student has the capacity to make a compelling argument to the institution-from a first-semester, unaffiliated freshman to a president of Duke Student Government. Administrators, unless they are affiliated with the Office of Judicial Affairs or the University Counsel, are extremely receptive to well-reasoned discourse and open to debate on important issues. This is, after all, a university.
And not just any university-this is Duke.
As for the two of us, we're out of here, and we're going to miss Duke a lot. At a place so forward-thinking that it still has a Gothic cathedral, we've done what we can with our four years. Unfortunately, substantive change takes quite a bit longer.
It's now up to you.
Elliott Wolf and Paul Slattery are Trinity seniors and the former and current presidents of Duke Student Government, respectively.
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