Tomorrow, the Duke Student Government Senate will vote on a bylaw amendment that seeks to open positions on standing committees of the Board of Trustees to the whole undergraduate student population. In the status quo, DSG vice presidents are automatically assigned to these standing committees, often in ways that do not line up with their roles in student government. The proposed amendment would continue to appoint the president and vice president of facilities, the environment and the arts to committees but open nine positions to all undergraduates via an application and interview process. Although we encourage the Senate to pass the proposal, we believe several amendments must absolutely be made.

Opening positions to applications by the general student body would better sample our wide range of experiences than allowing DSG vice presidents to walk on to committees. This is especially salient given recent news that the current composition of DSG fails to represent the student body in a number of ways. A rigorous application process would force applying students, including vice presidents-elect, to contemplate the workings of the Board of Trustees and more seriously consider the role they could play in this overseeing organ of the University. Further, vice presidents serving on certain DSG committees are currently piped into Board of Trustee committees outside their expertise. For example, the vice president of equity and outreach is currently appointed to the Business and Finance Committee. At its heart, the proposal enacts a self-explanatory and much-needed change in how students are represented on the Board’s committees.

However, the proposal is crippled by a number of oversights and potential errors. Trying to push the amendment through at tomorrow’s meeting and adhere to the timeline outlined in DSG’s internal memo on the amendment would be foolish. DSG requires more time than it currently has to clarify and implement the details of the proposal. The inability to sufficiently advertise the application in time for the pitched Friday deadline coupled with the stockpile of end-of-year work confronting all students risks damaging the change’s inaugural interviews and appointments by not reaching the very students it is meant to open the process to. More likely than not, only students already aware of the proposal or more intimately associated with DSG would be sufficiently prepared to apply.

Moreover, in the amendment’s current text, an Interview Committees for each of five Board committees are composed from one current or recent Board committee member and two DSG Senators. Given that vice presidents-elect are almost certain to apply among other students, the potential conflict of interest is clear and should be avoided. Additionally, having five separate Interview Committees is superfluous since candidates may apply for multiple committees. One larger interviewing body overseeing all of the application process would allow for a more sensible puzzling together of final recommendations. This would require DSG to carefully describe the committee's composition. We recommend a panel of student leaders perhaps in combination with DSG members, the president and faculty or administrators be used to give the most holistic assessment of candidates by employing a range of campus experiences.

On the whole, the proposed by-law amendment accomplishes something we have encouraged time and time again in DSG, namely bringing the broader student body into the fold and breaking down some of the insulating barriers between students and their student government. We urge the Senate to pass the amendment but only after making our proposed alterations, most importantly to the timeline of its implementation, if they want to get it right the first time around.