For senior and Duke Student Government President Mike Lefevre, “Beer Trucks”—the traditional commencement week event that was canceled this year—is worth fighting for.
Under Lefevre’s leadership, there has been a student-led effort to reinstate an event similar to Beer Trucks during commencement week. Last night, Duke University Union voted to postpone their decision on providing funding for the event until the DSG Senate makes a funding decision in tonight’s meeting. The two organizations’ combined decisions will determine if Lefevre’s plan could become a reality.
“All the seniors realized something needs to be done and it was just a matter of who is going to get the event off the ground,” Lefevre said. “We are beginning an initiative to get the event going again, and I have rallied some student leaders to help me in the process.”
Some members of Lefevre’s team include outgoing Duke Partnership for Service President Becky Agostino and Alison Lane, outgoing chair for Duke University Union’s annual events committee.
The seniors have worked out a plan that will not bring Beer Trucks back in its original form but will provide a chance for seniors to celebrate together one last time before they don their caps and gowns. Using the proposed funds from DUU and the DSG Senate, the group would organize kegs on the Bryan Center Plaza or in the Blue Zone for seniors to enjoy the night before graduation.
“I went to Beer Trucks last year and it was a great atmosphere with students and their families,” Agostino said. “It doesn’t have the same stress or gravity of graduation. I was upset it was canceled this year and I was glad that Lefevre was taking some initiative to continue the celebration in some way.”
Due to budget constraints imposed on commencement week activities, the Duke Alumni Association was forced to eliminate the event, which has cost approximately $65,000 in past years. But Lefevre said there are ways to maintain the integrity and value of the event without tacking on a hefty price tag.
“An event like this is really not that expensive to run,” he said. “A realistic budget is around $20,000 and we are asking [for] that from student groups, and any support we can get from local vendors in the form of donations is also really going to help us out as well.”
Lane, who is primarily helping with programming aspects of the project, said the group is trying to get the costs down to as low as $13,000, which would simply cover beer, snacks, security and housekeeping services. The major costs for previous year’s events were the tent itself, lighting, tables and outdoor restroom facilities. But by moving the event outdoors, Lane said they could use the Bryan Center, Great Hall or intramural gym as a reserved space in case it rains, thus cutting out all the big-ticket expenses. Other cost-saving ideas include only allowing admittance to Duke undergraduates and their families, which will reduce the number of people attending the event.
“Beer Trucks has been a part of graduation week for 20 years and is a great way for seniors to see each other one last time before graduation in a relaxed environment,” Lane said. “When you talk to students and read the comments on The Chronicle [website], it’s obvious [Beer Trucks is a] favorite part of graduation weekend.”
Kim Hanauer, DAA director of young alumni and student programs, wrote in an email that canceling the event was a tough decision but that she is not surprised by the student-led initiative to ensure the event happens.
“We understand that some students and parents are unhappy with this situation and that there are students working to plan an alternative event for Saturday night,” Hanauer said. “Duke students are smart and resourceful by definition, and it’s not surprising that they would explore other possibilities.”
Although the ideas are firmly in place, Lefevre said his group still needs DUU and Senate funding before it can move forward with planning. Despite the event’s name, he stressed that the alcohol is not what makes Duke’s Beer Trucks tradition special.
“The beer is inconsequential,” Lefevre said. “People are going to want to go somewhere when they come home after dinner before graduation and I think it would be a shame if we didn’t give seniors that.”
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