The Duke Student Government had its first meeting with all of its members, including new freshmen senators.
During the meeting, Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, spoke to the senators about their role as representatives of Duke on both a campus level and a national level. Additionally, President Keizra Mecklai, a senior, welcomed new senators and advocated for more careful spending on student group activities.
Schoenfeld told DSG senators to be cautious when speaking to members of the media, especially when the University receives national attention.
"These things don’t operate just in a campus context, but also in a national and global context," he said.
He also noted the recent controversy about the summer reading book "Fun Home" as an example of how on-campus events can become national news stories. He encouraged the members to remember that when they speak to the media, they are representing all Duke students and should act accordingly.
In addition, Mecklai addressed the new assembly, reiterating her excitement about having a full Senate. She encouraged new members to participate and engage in discussion, despite their status as new members.
“We had actually really contentious debate over a piece of legislation and that made me super proud to see the senators really engaging," she said after the meeting. "I think we have a lot of independent thinkers who ask great questions and who are going to be great senators.”
Additionally, she noted that she would like to see the Senate be more cautious about how it approves spending, because the student body collectively funds activities through the Student Activities Fee. She also introduced a new proposal that would require a roll call vote on student group spending requests of more than $5,000.
In other business:
The new freshmen senators and senators at-large were sworn in by Chief Justice Dana Raphael, a junior.
Student Organization Funding Committee approved funding for two upcoming events: the Duke Chapter of the NAACP was allotted $5,838 for the event Healthcare as a Human Right, with former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin; the Duke Business Society and the Investment Club were allotted $4,167 for a day-long seminar hosted by Pillars of Wall Street.
After the success of last week’s DevilsGate tailgate, the DSG approved $3,000 from surplus funds to pay for expenses such as tables and megaphones. Mecklai was very enthusiastic about the event.
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“I think DevilsGate went incredibly. I was super impressed by the way that the student groups came out and supported the event," she said.
Mecklai noted that much of this funding will be used to create an area without alcohol for freshmen to enjoy themselves safely.
The SOFC recognized two new groups: Duke Rhydhun, a cultural dance group; and a Duke chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Four senators were appointed to the Financial Oversight and Appeals Committee: vice President for Academic Affairs Bansal, a junior; Senator for Residential Life Alex Yearley, a freshman; Senator for Services William Want, a junior; and Senator for Durham and Regional Affairs Nicholas Andrade, a senior. This committee hears appeals from groups who were denied funding.
A by-law amendment that would have allowed the executive board to fill only half of its committees was rejected by the Senate. Executive Vice President John Guarco, a junior, gave a speech in dissent of the amendment, overseen by senior Brian Hopkins, vice president pro tempore and senator for academic affairs. In a close vote, the amendment did not pass.
A new DSG Research Unit by-law was given its first reading. The by-law creates a steering committee and a project development timeline for the beginning of each semester. The by-law was introduced by Guarco, senior operations advisor Abhi Sanka, and former DSGRU director Kshipra Hemal, both seniors, and will be voted on next week.