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DSG funds Social Justice Fellowship to increase conversation and tolerance

The Duke Student Government Senate passed a resolution and a statute advocating support for the Black Student Alliance and the black community at Duke Wednesday.

The motions were written collaboratively by members of the DSG Executive Board and BSA. The resolution and statute come in the wake of increased racial tensions across campus, including the discovery of a noose on the Bryan Center plaza early Wednesday morning. DSG and BSA had been working on the motions throughout the past week, however. The resolution pledges DSG support for BSA requests from administration and the budgetary statute moves forward unilaterally in funding a Social Justice Fellowship, which the BSA has called on the administration to fund. The fellowship is designed to fund student projects geared toward increasing conversation and toleration on campus.

“This was a great learning experience for us and a great moment for us to understand where we have failed,” said junior Keizra Mecklai, DSG president-elect and vice president for equity and outreach. “This has been a wake-up call for us.”

The resolution supports a series of “essential action items” made by BSA in an open memorandum published March 31. The demands include the creation of a pre-orientation program for black students to acclimate them to the culture of Duke and the publication of administrative incident reports concerning threats to community safety and instances of bias. In addition, the BSA asked for an orientation program for incoming students of all races to address issues of race, gender, class, religion and sexual orientation.

The resolution was introduced by Mecklai and DSG President Lavanya Sunder, a junior.

The budgetary statute, which was introduced by Sunder, Mecklai and DSG Executive Vice President Abhi Sanka, a junior, allocates $6,000 toward the creation of the Social Justice Fellowship. Creation of such a fellowship was another demand found in BSA’s memo. DSG decided to move forward unilaterally on the fellowship in order to demonstrate its support for the black community, despite the fact that the process for awarding the fellowship has yet to be determined.

The fellowship is intended to fund student projects which will create “safe spaces for discussion, enlightenment and active engagement,” according to BSA’s memo.

“I hope that these resolutions are an indication to BSA that we take their memorandum seriously and that we want to take action now," Mecklai said. “We want them to understand that while we want to react to their concerns today our concerns will not end when the Social Justice Fellowship is founded or when their four demands are met.”

Mecklai said that this collaboration between BSA and DSG is the first step in working toward campus-wide solutions concerning racial relations and that she hoped the partnership would continue.


In other business:

The Student Organization Funding Committee approved several group funding requests—$1,650 for the Duke Catholic Center’s Easter brunch and $2,354 for an Easter mass in Cameron Indoor Stadium, which will be used if weather prevents the mass from being held in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. The committee also approved $1,710.20 being allocated for the Coalition for Preserving Memory, which is holding its annual name-reading ceremony to commemorate genocide victims.

SOFC also recognized two new groups—Duke Robotics, which designs and builds autonomous vehicles for research and competition; and Time Capsule to Mars, which is working with a national organization to build a time capsule to go to Mars, in addition to holding space-related events and speakers.

The Senate passed a budgetary statute providing $490.20 to the “What Are You Going to Do About It?” campaign, which works to address social issues around campus such as sexual misconduct and alcohol abuse. The statute was introduced by senators for equity and outreach Ilana Weisman, a sophomore, and Alice Reed, a freshman. Funds for the campaign will come from the surplus fund.

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