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Duke budget faces deficit of $100M

Executive Vice President Tallman Trask spoke at Duke Student Government's weekly meeting Wednesday about the University's strategy to cope with the economic downturn.

The University's spending budget has been reduced by more than $100 million, Trask told The Chronicle Wednesday, and he estimates that the deficit is close to $130 million.

"How to adjust to this without destroying the momentum of the institution and causing more damage than necessary is really important," Trask told senators at the meeting.

He emphasized, however, that there will not be "any backing away from academic programs," and said students should not expect any abnormal changes in tuition fees.

"There will be various strategies employed by different universities. Some will see lower tuition costs as more beneficial and others may substantially increase the cost," Trask said. "Duke will not seek any extraordinary adjustments to its tuition."

It is difficult to adjust to the loss as the entire economy is looking down, Trask said. He added that administrators are considering various models for a smart and effective way to deal with a $100 million deficit over several years, rather than reducing spending all in the next year.

Also at the meeting, DSG leaders announced their latest plans and updated the Senate on earlier projects.

President Jordan Giordano, a senior, announced that a private attorney for students will be available soon. The hire will allow students to receive free legal advice on campus, he said.

"It is important to note that the attorney will help students in a variety of ways," Giordano said. "The attorney will help with speeding tickets, [driving under the influence] or court issues, but matters regarding new business ventures or initiatives could also be consulted."

He said specific matters about the attorney's availability and meeting schedule are still being decided, but added that he hopes the procedure will be completed by the end of the year.

DSG members also passed a resolution to work toward a new policy on pass/fail courses, presented by junior Chelsea Goldstein, vice president for academic affairs. The proposed policy is an effort to "expand the use of pass/fail courses," she said.

"There is a problem at Duke where students are scared of a low GPA and don't take challenging or unfamiliar classes," she said. "This will give students a lot more flexibility and give them a chance to take a variety of courses."

The pass/fail policy will next be presented to the Academic Standards Committee by the end of the week, Goldstein said.

Although these pass/fail classes will not count toward T-reqs or major requirements, Goldstein said it will allow students to try out harder classes and further explore their careers and interests. Changes in this proposal include extending the deadline for declaring pass/fail courses until the end of withdrawal period and allowing undecided and undeclared students to register for these classes.

David Graham contributed reporting.

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