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The downfall of DSG

Earlier this week, news broke of a Duke Student Government Judiciary investigation which found DSG guilty of “flagrant misconduct” regarding Krzyzewskiville. The inquiry found that through a series of bureaucratic missteps, K-Ville had been operating illegally earlier this January and that line monitors had been holding their positions unlawfully. The latest dramatics surrounding the Duke undergraduate representatives have plunged the university tradition into controversy. While some of the language used in describing the situation appears to be, in truth, overly harsh, this supposed scandal does allow for a chance to consider the errors found and their implications for campus politics.

The misconduct and constitutional problems found by the Judiciary stemmed from DSG’s inability to follow proper protocol in passing this year’s K-Ville bylaws. The bylaws themselves generally are some of the more mundane tasks set before DSG and usually don’t warrant considerable attention from those outside of the representative body. Nonetheless, despite being considerably less exciting than new projects often touted by senators, bylaws are truly important to many basic university functions. Had they simply been introduced in November as previously planned, most of this spectacle could have been avoided. That being said, the bylaw bumble, as it stands, is not entirely culpable for the rule-bending that has been taking place in K-Ville for years. According to current rules and best practices, only one Head Line Monitor may preside over the students tasked with maintaining order among the tenting students and a vice president is responsible for overseeing the new Line Monitor selection process. This year, however, K-Ville had been governed by two Head Line Monitors and an alternative selection process had been used. One could make the argument that this selection procedure and labor distribution is more efficient or effective, but that doesn’t make up for the failure to ensure written regulations reflect these processes and practices. Here in lies a larger issue afflicting elected student representatives.

What seems to be at the root of these bureaucratic debacles is that such tasks, while important, tend to fall wayside for many DSG members because they don’t have the same potential for self-aggrandizing glory as other initiatives do. Consequently, we must recognize that in failing to pass the K-Ville bylaws, DSG has unequivocally failed to do its job. Officers are elected under the promise that they will—to the best of their abilities—serve the student body. This includes dealing with dry and often arduous jobs like modifying and passing tenting-related regulations. Despite the incredibly non-controversial nature of these chores, they represent a set of policies which have a considerable impact on a large number of students. Too often, DSG officers become overly attached to their own personal initiatives and fumble less glamorous projects that require their collective attention.

The failure of senators to properly pass K-Ville bylaws at first try is nothing short of incompetence. Unfortunately, the incident represents a larger problem in a system that rewards new and interesting initiatives with praise—often rightfully so—but in which important procedural work is often seen as fruitless. Going forward, we implore DSG and its distinguished members to remember their promises to serve student interest. Even when—or, rather, especially when—these interests are not synergistic with their own personal agendas. 


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