The Chronicle hosted a debate with the three candidates for Duke Student Government president. Sophomore Jackson Dellinger, junior Riyanka Ganguly and sophomore Will Hardee squared off to answer questions about their respective visions for DSG. We curated some of the most interesting and revealing moments during the debate here.

The debate and post-debate analysis are available in full below.

The Chronicle: What are your plans to improve student perceptions of DSG and DSG’s engagement with the student body?

Dellinger: This I think falls under the general topic of communication for which I have a four-point plan. First—and this is something Will and I would probably agree on—you have the campus council. This is something we had four years ago that originally failed, simply because it was too large, and we weren’t necessarily hitting the right stakeholders. The first thing I’d do in DSG is reinstitute the campus council but in a smaller version, the idea for which being that DSG’s priorities and agenda should be defined at a meeting of campus and student leaders at the start of the year. That’s part one.

Part two is refurbishing and institutionalizing the DSG Ambassador Program. Every single major club on campus should have a dedicated senator representing both their policy and financial interests. This would allow them to craft DSG policy in the direction that students want and second, protect them and advocate for them in [Student Organization Funding Committee] hearings. Third, we need to have office hours. This is a pretty basic idea, but one that DSG has failed at. And fourth, we need to rethink the way we have meetings with the administration. Instead of bringing in other DSG members, we should be bringing in student leaders themselves.

Hardee: Frankly, I kind of differ from a lot of DSG in the respect of how students perceive us. Honestly, I don’t really care if students like DSG. I just want to make sure we are creating policies that help the student body and that we are actually working on policy that changes Duke.

One thing is that students don’t know a lot of things DSG has done but they participate in those things. You’ve got the New York Times readership program, free menstrual hygiene products in the Bryan Center, along with a lot of other things. A lot of students don’t know that DSG did that, but the whole point is that we are actually working on things that help the student body. So I’m not really concerned about our perception. I just want to work to make sure we are representing students and working on policies that represent every sort of student and considering how we can make sure that there’s not a single student at Duke that doesn't have the opportunity to succeed.

Ganguly: My big thing is that I really wish students could realize that DSG can be a really good resource for them. So the ways that I want to do that is that I genuinely love talking to people. I want to have office hours as well, but I want to set up in the West Union biweekly and have students really just come up to me, ask me questions, tell me exactly what your agenda is and then help push forward an agenda together.

Honestly, my history of collaborating with student groups has shown me that students are the experts, especially in the niche subjects that they have, so helping bring students to the table with the administration is one of my big priorities. So at those office hours, setting up an email together so that we could meet with an administrator who might not be responding. So that’s one, and I also want to expand our ad-hoc model to encourage students to use our DSG resources, whether that be funding or expertise or connection to the administration.

TC: Do you think any changes need to be made to Duke’s sexual assault policies or the administration’s implementation of them? If so, what?

Dellinger: Yes. But let’s start first with prevention and then move into the sexual assault policy itself. If we’re talking prevention, Duke’s policy is really misguided. You can read study after study, which show that the best way to actually increase sexual assault prevention is with repeated, long, gender-specific and community-specific professionally-run workshops. Once we’re working in that vein, we’re doing the best we can with prevention at the start. However, prevention itself via the educational policy is definitely not enough, and that’s where I move into the sexual misconduct policy.

Our previous Executive Vice President [senior] Ilana Weisman put out her thesis on the specificities of the policy, and although the policy itself isn’t horrible, it’s the implementation where we really fail. There’s a few ways we can make that better. Primarily by refocusing our energies on separating a person who claims sexual assault and the person who’s supposed to be guilty during the trial process.

Hardee: I definitely would have to agree with that. I think it’s more important about being preemptive rather than reactive. I think we need to make sure we are educating different groups and making sure that they can work on sexual assault prevention and working on different environments where there are hot spots.

So we go to Shooters and make sure that that’s a place where people are making it home safely and where people aren’t consuming alcohol. At off-campus parties, that we’re making sure alcohol overconsumption [is prevented] and that students have a chance to go home safely and having those networks to make sure they can get home safely. So I definitely think the most important thing is that we’re preventing it so it doesn’t even have to get to that stage.

Ganguly: I actually really disagree with the other two answers. I think there really should be changes in the sexual misconduct policy. I’ve had many friends who have gone through the student conduct process and there’s things that need to change in the policy itself. So, there’s many ideas I have, but the big thing for me is having student input on them, on things I want to research more like having a verbal consent policy or having unanimous approval on the board when choosing student conduct cases.

But the things I don’t think need any research that I want to go for right now are if any student leaves Duke with a pending charge or is expelled from Duke, their transcript needs to say something, so that they don’t become an offender at another campus. Another thing is we need to make sure students coming on campus have tougher background checks and we need to institute that to make sure there aren’t offenders coming on this campus, and again, I do know offenders who have come on this campus. I agree there should be more gender violence prevention, but the bottom line is the policy itself has much that needs to be changed because right now even though there’s some leniency with it, it isn’t instituted and the second some administrators leave we don’t have that safeguard. So we need to work very actively with the policy itself to make sure we can keep our students safe.

TC: Duke Student Government has recently stopped making SOFC funding requests public and has told The Chronicle that it will not announce a specific number for the amount that DSG has in surplus. Do you support these policy changes?

Dellinger: No and yes. SOFC recommendations should be public—it’s pretty evident that any group will be much happier with the recommendation if they know the specific information that goes on behind that, and if other groups can check in on each other and say, “okay, this is how much information our group received for these line items.”

There’s a lot of reform that needs to happen with the SOFC process, specifically in regards to auditing, which could be implemented through the DSG Ambassador Program that I proposed earlier. But that change is just one small start to the entire cacophony of problems that exist within SOFC.

On the surplus, releasing the information to The Chronicle poses an issue for DSG insofar as our negotiations for specific companies could be influenced by them knowing exactly how much money we have to spend. In that respect, making the information public does pose a little bit of a logistical problem. That said, and I think this is where things get doubly problematic, not only have we kept it from The Chronicle, but also from all of DSG, which is strategically really not smart.

Hardee: I definitely agree with the current president on how we’ve handled surplus for the reason that Jackson just said, but the surplus fund is open for any student to know. They can go to ask the president, and she will tell you. Any student or any senator, just anyone involved with the Duke student body. It’s just not open to vendors.

As far as the SOFC funding goes, I think one thing that DSG really needs to work on is our relationship with The Chronicle. A lot of DSG people will complain about The Chronicle not reporting in a way that they would like, and then The Chronicle doesn’t like how we’re not transparent with some things, so next year I definitely want to create a press secretary position that’s an advocate for The Chronicle, and we work together on making Duke the best that we possibly can.

In that sense I would definitely release the SOFC funding if we had a good relationship with The Chronicle, and we could make sure that everything is being reported correctly. As far as how it goes this year, I think that how our relationship was with The Chronicle was the reason it was not released, because we were unsure if the reporting would be honest.

Ganguly: This is going to mirror everyone else. There needs to be accountability for SOFC in general, and I apologize for that, that should have been released to you, and I did say that it should have been released.

However, the surplus funding—and I know this from personal experience—in negotiations with speakers to come on campus, if they know or somewhere they can look up Duke Student Government funding and they know how much we have, when I try and negotiate like different numbers, if I’m trying to be stingy with the money and even like a 100 dollars, if they can be like “well we know you have this sum,” it doesn’t help our negotiating power, so it is important for us to keep that.

Right now the problem is that if we in front of the Senate just say it out loud, we’re afraid that if students don’t need it, it might spread. Honestly with the Internet things get out so fast—like what is technology, how does that happen—but we have to make sure that that is taken account of, but I know right now if you just go up to the president or even the SOFC chair, they’ll be able to tell you, and I think that’s a system that works best.

Check out the full recording of the debate above for answers to questions about the role of Greek life in elections and the candidates experiences in DSG. Post-debate analysis from senior Tanner Lockhead, vice president for Durham and regional affairs, and sophomore Alan Ko, a member of The Chronicle's Editorial Board is below.