According to an internal survey, Duke Student Government had modest improvements to its representation this year compared to last year.
Executive Vice President Ilana Weisman, a senior, presented results of a DSG demographic survey to the Senate at its Wednesday meeting. Fifty-nine senators were surveyed, as well as all 12 members of the executive board, five members from the cabinet, two from Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee, one from Fix My Campus and one from another affiliate. No data was collected from the Student Organization Finance Committee, Judiciary, Line Monitors or Gatekeepers.
Weisman cited improvements specifically in race, gender and the number of independents in DSG. Fifty-four percent of DSG identified as male in this year’s survey, a decrease from last year’s figure of 64 percent. Also, whereas last year’s survey found that DSG was nearly 64 percent white, this year’s survey found that slightly more students of color than white students were participating in DSG.
“But if you just look at white people versus people of color, it’s 48 percent white, 52 percent people of color in this room, and that’s very representative of Duke’s population," Weisman said. "I think that’s extraordinarily important for our job as representatives of the student body.”
Weisman noted that there are some areas to improve, such as student involvement from the Pratt School of Engineering. About 10 percent of DSG members in Pratt, compared to the roughly 20 percent of Duke undergraduates that are in Pratt.
Additionally, DSG contains a disproportionately high number of merit scholars compared to the student population, with 29 percent of DSG members receiving merit-based aid, which is up from 21 percent last year. The percentage of DSG members receiving need-based financial aid almost doubled from last year.
The survey also reported a higher average annual family income, with an average of $178,020 compared to last year’s $134,690. However, last year’s survey was capped at 200k+ and this year’s survey was capped at 300k+, indicating that this average is a rough estimate. According to a recent New York Times article, the median household income of Duke students is around $186,000.
Weisman also presented an initiative from the Internal Affairs Committee to reconfigure DSG. Some of the proposed changes include consolidating committees from seven to four, changing the role of the executive vice president and changing the names of vice presidents to "committee chairs." Other proposed changes included having the committee chairs be internally appointed before elections, with the committee chairs acting as non-voting members.
Weisman noted that these changes—specifically the internal selection of committee chairs—could improve representation in DSG.
“I showed the data today that Greek students are more likely to be elected than appointed. One could infer but not prove that Greek students have an advantage in elections,” Weisman said. “I think that’s something that I definitely believe but can’t prove. I speak as a student involved in Greek life—that is something that we are cognizant of in this room. Something like having internal selections for committee chair, I think, eliminates the bias and advantage that being selective can confer upon a student.”
In other business:
DSG Senate approved a by-law amendment initially presented last week that would reduce the number of seats on the Board of Trustees reserved for members of DSG from eight to six and open them up to the student body. There are now five seats on the Board of Trustees available to the student body.
DSG moved to approve budgetary statutes recommended by SOFC for the Jewish Student Union, the Interfraternity Council, Campus Crusade for Christ, Persian Students Association, Duke Asian American Theater, Business Oriented Women, International Association and the Academic Affairs Committee.
Correction: Last year, DSG was 64 percent white and 64 percent male-identified. The Chronicle regrets the error.
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