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GPSC votes to cut DUU contribution by half, voices concerns about parking, transportation

Members of the Graduate and Professional Student Council gathered Tuesday to approve the revised funding plan for Duke University Union and discuss parking and transportation options for graduate students.

The proposed plan will cut the GPSC’s contribution to DUU by almost half. Currently, $17.50 of the $37.50 student activities fee paid by each graduate student goes toward DUU activities. The proposal will slash that to just over $9, or a quarter of the activities fee.

Along with the cut to funding, the plan would also require DUU to host at least one graduate-specific event every month, as well as to coordinate its social calendar so that it aligns with the dates of all large-scale graduate and professional student events.

“I think it’s a really good idea,” said Maxwell Ramage, a general assembly representative from Duke’s music graduate program, encouraging fellow council members to approve the motion. “It’s a great opportunity for grad students to get control of some of the fees that we actually pay.”

Bobby Harris—a PhD student in the economics concentration of the University Program in Environmental Policy—however, had doubts about the proposal, questioning how DUU would be able to continue hosting events after the hit to its funding. He also questioned the merits of taking money away from DUU.

“I don’t think we’ve been good stewards of our money in the past,” Harris said. “I have trouble understanding how we feel we can do a better job spending our money than DUU can.”

Senior Lesley Chen-Young, president of DUU, warned that the plan could cause problems.

“Obviously, we’re gonna be taking a hit to our budget,” Chen-Young said. “We won’t be able to offer the same number of events and services.”

Chen-Young added that DUU is considering cutting many of the large concerts and speakers hosted on campus, as well as reducing the number of weekly Jazz @, trivia or karaoke sessions. She reassured GPSC members that the quality of the remaining events would stay the same and that services like Freewater Presentations and Small Town Records would be unaffected.

GPSC president Rashmi Joglekar, a Ph.D. student in the Nicholas School of the Environment, defended the proposal. She noted that the new plan will increase GPSC’s budget by 50 percent, while DUU’s budget will only decrease by about 5-10 percent. She also said that the money would possibly go toward some of GPSC's financially strapped initiatives, such as the community pantry and the emergency travel fund.

The motion to approve the plan passed, with two representatives opposing.

The council also held a discussion on parking and transportation on campus. GPSC Attorney General Ceri Weber, member of the Duke Transportation Advisory Committee and graduate student in cell biology, addressed concerns. And the council members had many.

Ryan Martin, representative from the J.D. program, asked to know why the parking fees had risen for some students by almost $300.

“There are a lot of schools in the middle of cities that have better parking situations,” he said.

Weber said she did not know why but sympathized with his concerns.

“The parking office said that the fee only went up by 2.9 percent, and we called foul on that,” Weber said. “But I absolutely agree. It’s obscene.”

Ryan Huang, a graduate student in ecology, suggested that the situation may be due to Duke’s Climate Action Plan, which aims for the University to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2024. A price hike may be to incentivize other transportation options, such as biking or carpooling.

“Duke is exceeding its goals for its Climate Action Plan in every sector except transportation,” Huang said. “[In transportation], our carbon emissions and footprint have been going through the roof.”

Huang confirmed that there are no plans for new parking lots on campus. He also said developing some of the 8,700 acres of unused land owned by the University is not an option due to the geology of the underlying bedrock and, in the case of the Duke Forest, research and conservation purposes. He, like the others, expressed displeasure with the explanation.

“If anybody asked me, ‘What’s the worst thing about Duke?,' I would tell them parking,” Huang said.


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