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You, me and the trustees

At its weekly meeting on January 18, the DSG Senate had its first reading for an updated amendment concerning the number of seats on the Board of Trustees that are reserved for members of DSG. The amendment is a revised version of a similar proposal that the DSG Senate ultimately rejected in the spring of 2016. As it currently stands, five of the eight student positions on the Board of Trustees committees are reserved and occupied exclusively by DSG vice presidents and presidents, with the remaining three open to representatives from the student body at large. The updated amendment would instead place one DSG member on each of the five committees with a seat reserved for the DSG president. The remaining five open positions on the committees would be open to the general student body to apply for.

In the past, most of our DSG-related commentary has criticized the organizations various shortcomings—detachment from the student body, compositional homogeneity and lack of transparency for example. Last April, in an editorial concerning the original DSG Board of Trustees amendment, we praised the initiative for its potential to benefit the general student body, but criticized the proposal’s many oversights and potential errors. We were greatly disappointed to see the Senate shoot it down.

Seven months after the unfortunate rejection of the proposal, it is refreshing to see the idea of Board of Trustee committee reform resurrected in the governing body. The revised amendment has the potential to open up student administrative positions – long criticized for not reflecting the demographical makeup of the student body – to a more diverse range of campus perspectives. Moreover, the updated legislation will force all applicants (vice presidents, DSG members and non-DSG affiliated students) to more seriously consider the role that they are applying for on the Board of Trustees. The amendment can thus reinforce accountability for DSG’s role on the Board, with genuinely interested applicants being considered over DSG members who would be more apt to see their committee positions as secondary asides.

As with the previous DSG proposal, we still have some complaints about what we see as potential problems with it. First, like all legislation that curtails the privileges of the status quo holders, the proposal has the capability to quickly become a source of political drama by eliminating certain positions earmarked for DSG members, yet keeping the mechanism for choosing new representatives for those positions firmly within the ruling body. Second, the measure also rules out exploring other ideas for bridging the gap between the Board of Trustees and the general student body outside of DSG, such as making use of elections or various independent processes.

These critiques aside, we commend DSG for venturing to make the student administrative positions more accessible to the undergraduate student body through this proposal. Having promised to increase accessibility and diversity within DSG at the beginning of her tenure, we commend DSG President Tara Bansal for keeping up with her political promises rather than leaving them by the wayside. This amendment demonstrates a rebuilding of trust in one of the DSG’s historic missions: to act as the intermediary between the administration and the general student body of Duke. Although in its current state, the proposal is far from perfect, it is certainly a good start. We urge the senate to improve and approve it.


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