After a six-hour long meeting Wednesday, Duke Student Government senators approved a proposal to restructure the organization.
DSG President Pete Schork, a senior, proposed that the Senate created five new committees—facilities and the environment; social culture; residential life; services; and equity and identity affairs—while maintaining the academic affairs committee and Durham and regional affairs committee.
Two current members of DSG also announced their unofficial candidacy for DSG president. Juniors Chris Brown, external chief of staff, and Alexandra Swain, vice president for Durham and regional affairs, will make a bid for the presidency in the coming weeks.
The proposal to restructure passed in a roll call vote of 38-8. During the presentation of the proposal, Schork and senior Esosa Osa, vice president for residential life and dining, explained the reasoning behind the increased number of committees—from five to seven—and changes in the committees respective purviews.
“This makes it easier for the student body to come to us with questions but also makes it harder for the administration to make the excuse that they didn’t know where to go with an issue,” Osa said.
Schork noted that these seven categories cover all types of current issues presented to DSG as well as those that may arise in the future.
“If we’re not thinking in a multi-year, consistent way, then we’re behind,” Schork said. “These seven committees help create continuity from year to year.”
During the debate, senators proposed amendments concerning the equity and identity committee specifically. The initial proposal from Schork and Osa designated it as the diversity and equity committee with five senators. As a compromise with the senators, Schork and Osa changed the committee’s name to the equity and identity committee and also increased the number of senators from five to 10. Now, only the social culture committee and the facilities and environment committee will operate with five senators.
“We’re making committees that were previously fractions of other committees, but we can’t conclusively predict the workflow for committees that haven’t existed,” Schork said. “A varied number of senators does not mean that certain committees are better or more important.”
Sophomore Stefani Jones, senator for athletics, services and the environment, presented a counter-proposal that encouraged only minor changes to DSG’s current committee structure.
“The structure of our organization should remain the same—elections should change the direction of the conversations of DSG each year,” Jones said. “It’s the third year in a row that we’re making constitutional changes and that undermines our credibility.”
Senior Ebonie Simpson, vice president for student life, was responsible for proposing the increase in the number of senators on the ultimate equity and identity affairs committee.
After an extensive debate on the various possibilities, the Senate held an instant run-off vote between three options. Schork and Osa’s proposal received 26 votes, Jones’ proposal received 13 and the status quo received four.
After the changes to the committee structure passed, the Senate decided how to incorporate the new structure into the upcoming elections. Because the DSG constitution only allows for five vice presidents, the first election for the executive board—to take place April 12—will elect the DSG president, executive vice president and five vice presidents for five of the new committees.
These five committees were selected randomly. Students may run for vice president of the Durham and regional affairs; services; facilities and the environment; social culture; or the academic affairs committee in the election April 12.
Students will also vote on a constitutional referendum on this first ballot, allowing for an addition of two vice presidents in the second round of elections April 23. If approved, candidates may run for the additional two vice president positions, completing DSG structural transformation. During another part of the Senate meeting Wednesday, Brown and Swain announced their intentions to run for the position of DSG president for the 2012-2013 academic year. Before becoming official candidates, Brown and Swain will submit petitions with 100 student signatures. “Ultimately, I think I have good experience and good knowledge about the University, the area and the state,” Swain said. “I have a unique view on how to engage students more in DSG.”
Brown also noted his experience as a DSG senator and vice president as well as his other Duke experiences.
“I’ve been intimately involved with different areas of campus, from tutoring in Durham to DSG,” he said. “Making the Duke experience for each and every single person who is here as good as possible is something that I’m very passionate about.”
In other business:
The Senate chose sophomore Katharine Krieger, vice chair of the programming fund, as the Student Organization Finance Committee chair for the 2012-2013 academic year.
“She has some ideas and insight into the future of SOFC,” said senior Kaveh Danesh, vice president for academic affairs and Young Trustee-elect.
DSG also approved changes to its judiciary bylaw and constitution. The chief justice will now be selected from the seven elected associate justices, and the chief justice will serve a one-year term as opposed to a two-year term. This way, juniors with experience on judiciary can serve as chief justice their senior year, said Executive Vice President Gurdane Bhutani, a junior. The changes also streamline the impeachment process with a judiciary hearing and a two-thirds vote in the Senate.
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