At its Wednesday meeting, the Duke Student Government Senate passed amendments to reconfigure its structure after many failed attempts in the past few years.
Last week, the Internal Affairs Committee presented an initiative to reconfigure the structure of the Senate, which consisted of three separate amendments. The Senate unanimously agreed to pass an amendment that would consolidate the seven existing Senate committees into five committees. In other words, the amendment keeps three old committees while creating two new committees that are combinations of four old committees.
The new committees are campus life—a combination of residential life, social culture and arts—and services and sustainability, which encompasses construction, services and facilities and the environment.
The Senate also unanimously agreed to eliminate the position of the executive vice president, instead distributing that position's power to a new vice president role and the existing position of senate president pro-tempore. However, the Senate voted down an amendment that would change the title of vice presidents to committee chairs.
Executive Vice President Ilana Weisman, a senior, noted that there have been several reconfiguration plans throughout the years, citing proposals to eliminate at-large spots if they were not contested, to cut committees, to change the election process and to reduce the number of senators.
“What we did was kind of look at all of those [plans] and find out, one, what issue were they trying to address and were they successful trying to address it policy-wise? Two, why didn’t it pass or why shouldn’t it have passed? And three, incorporate those into proposing something that we think is, one, going to produce more efficacy in Senate, two, be palatable to the student body—is it a change that the student body would be able to still themselves reflected in DSG?—and three, quite frankly, what people in this room can separate themselves from and think big picture DSG, not ‘me’ in DSG,” Weisman said.
Weisman said that she did not expect the two proposals to pass unanimously. She also did not think that the third amendment would be debated as heavily as it was, noting that its only purpose was to change the nomenclature.
Sophomore Josh Curtis, a senator for academic affairs and a member of the Internal Affairs Committee that presented the reconfiguration, clarified that the name change was contingent on an amendment that would put the committee chairs into a managerial role, along with an amendment that would internally appoint committee chairs. Curtis noted that if the amendment to internally select committee chairs does not pass, the vice presidents will keep their current titles. The amendments will be voted on next week.
“It would be unfair to elevate the role of an internally selected position to the role of vice president. It is also confusing to administration in general to think about senators and [vice presidents], because normally those seem like different branches of government that are separate,” Curtis said. “Making [vice presidents] committee chairs more accurately describes their role and better describes to administration that they are sort of the point person of a committee of multiple elected people instead of one.”
In other business:
Durham Mayor Bill Bell spoke at the meeting and answered questions regarding the relationship between Duke and Durham.
The Senate unanimously voted to pass a resolution against Donald Trump's recent executive order, on immigration, which has produced considerable controversy and protests on campus. The resolution is in support of Muslim, immigrant, refugees, asylum seekers and minority members of the community.
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The Senate also moved to approve budgetary statutes recommended by Student Organization Funding Committee for Inside Joke, Marketing Club and Sangheet.
In addition, they moved to charter Canine Companions for Independence and Ensemble Hippocrates.