As next week's election approaches, both candidates for chair of the Student Organization Funding Committee highlight transparency as a major issue for SOFC’s future.
The two candidates for the chair position are sophomore Gwen Geng—the current vice chair of the committee—and junior Alexa Soren, a two-year SOFC member. The two were initially joined by junior Neshmeen Faatimah, who informed The Chronicle via email Tuesday that she had suspended her campaign after talking to the current SOFC chair, senior Nikhil Gavai. Both of the candidates prioritize increasing transparency as one of their goals for the committee.
SOFC allocates program funds to student groups on campus.
“The biggest problem SOFC faces is transparency and communication,” Geng said. “A lot of students are unsure about guidelines for getting funding. I want to make sure people know who to contact with questions.”
Soren agreed, noting that many students are unaware of what exactly SOFC does on campus. One idea to increase transparency would be to conduct information sessions at the beginning of the year, Soren said.
Geng also noted that there is inconsistency in the application of the committee's policies right now and that some arbitrary policies should be made clearer.
Soren said she hopes to meaningfully change the way SOFC operates, stating that it should "act as a funding channel for students and not as a higher power." She added that she wants to modify the committee's relationship with Duke Student Government.
“My platform is really a big overhaul of SOFC," she said. “There has not been a lot of change because SOFC is always run by the same people. The past two chairs have both been treasurers of DSG…and that really set off red flags for me.”
Geng, who is DSG treasurer in addition to SOFC vice chair, sees her connections to DSG as being potentially useful if she wins the election.
“I am very clear with the financial information that gets to SOFC,” she said. “I am also on Duke’s Financial Oversight and Appeals Committee, so essentially I am part of the application process for funding, I am part of the decision process for funding and I am part of the appeals process for funding. So anything to do with student funding I really understand.”
Soren went on to explain that she wants more separation between DSG and SOFC. Although she said SOFC should continue to be a part of DSG, she emphasized a need for checks and balances between the two.
Both candidates see their past two years of experience as members of SOFC as key to their ability to lead the committee.
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“I have served on the committee for the past two years, and I made sure that I understand everything about SOFC,” said Soren, who also said she had diverse extracurricular experiences that would help her as chair.
Geng said that as vice chair of the committee, she is involved in all ongoing projects and will be able to ensure that they continue.
Soren also emphasized that her lack of bias would help her be a good SOFC chair.
“I am an extremely unbiased candidate, and I fight for every group that comes in [for funding] in an unbiased way,” she said. “A lot of people just sit on the committee and let the decisions happen, but I take an active role.”
Students will be able to vote next Tuesday and Wednesday.