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Lavanya Sunder elected DSG president; 40 Percent Plan voted down

Sophomore Lavanya Sunder became Duke Student Government with 63 percent of the student body's vote.
Sophomore Lavanya Sunder became Duke Student Government with 63 percent of the student body's vote.
This article was updated 1:34 a.m. Wednesday.

Sophomore Lavanya Sunder will be the Duke Student Government president for the 2014-15 academic year.

Sunder, the current DSG vice president for services, defeated her opponent junior Will Giles, associate justice for the DSG Judiciary, in the election Tuesday. Sunder received 63 percent of the student body vote. Giles received 28 percent of the votes, and write-in candidates received the remaining 9 percent, said sophomore Syed Adil, DSG attorney general. Rence Nemeh dropped out of the election Tuesday morning and did not appear on the ballot.

Seventy-one percent of voters voted no on the 40 Percent Plan. Additionally, 91 percent voted for sophomore Abhi Sanka for executive vice president. Sanka has served as senator for residential life for the past two years. Ninety-three percent voted for sophomore Davis Treybig as Student Organization Finance Committee chair. He is currently DSG treasurer and a member of SOFC.

“I am really excited,” Sunder said. “I am really happy that the race was clean and I’m ready to start planning."

A total of 3,742 ballots were cast this year, compared to 2,251 votes last year. The turnout, given the total number of undergraduates, was approximately 58 percent.

“I’m really happy that we had a great turnout," Adil said. "That’s pretty big for a student government election. I’m happy people are taking the time to think about their decisions.”

Adil added that the campaigns this year were fair and of the type that “people should try to emulate in the future."

Sunder said that first action items on her agenda are tailgate and the creation of an all-inclusive female mentorship program, both starting next Fall.

She added that she looks forward to changing food services on campus through the creation of a “food fair" to increase student participation in vendor selection—an idea rooted in her experiences as vice president for services.

"She obviously ran a good campaign because she won and I got absolutely murdered," Giles said.

He added that he does not think he will pursue his vision of internal changes for DSG, because the judiciary is looked down upon by other branches and has little ability to change the power structure.

Senior Stefani Jones, current president of DSG, said she was quite happy with the new executive board, which is full of incredible leaders.

“I have been able to serve with [Sunder] on the DSG executive board this year and she has been one of the most effective leaders I have seen,” Jones added.

Seniors Daniel Strunk and Ajeet Hansra—co-creators of the 40 Percent Plan—said that though their plan was voted down, there were still long-term benefits as a result of the campaign.

“This might have been a defeat for the 40 Percent Plan, but it was a victory for Duke democracy," they wrote in an email Wednesday. "Voter turnout was 30 percent above average and doubled from last year's presidential election. We'd like to take some credit for that.”

Last year, 33 percent of students and 39 percent voted the year before compared to this year's 58 percent turnout.

Strunk and Hansra added that they hope their efforts “spark an interest in student petitions as a means of democratic involvement in future years.”

Adil said that the 40 Percent Plan does not necessarily deserve credit for voter turnout because students could choose to vote only for candidates and abstain from voting on the referendum. He added that 20 people chose to abstain from voting on the plan.

Jones, who opposed the 40 Percent Plan, said she was happy to see that the plan did not pass and also that so many students were engaged with the issue.

“It’s an important conversation to be having and I’m confident that DSG will continue the conversation of improving the funding process for student groups," she said.


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