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'The flagrant misconduct of Duke Student Government': DSG Judiciary members investigate K-ville policy

Krzyzewskiville had been operating illegally until Jan. 17 and line monitors have held their position illegally for the past three years, Duke Student Government senators found out at a meeting Wednesday night.

What seemed to be a mere update on the DSG Judiciary took a turn when Associate Chief Justice Ross Winston, a junior, and Justice Hunter McGhee, a senior, revealed an investigation regarding the 2017-2018 K-ville policy. McGhee said that though K-ville operations were “technically” illegal, the Jan. 17 by-law change “made everything okay.”

The investigation lasted from Jan. 14 to Jan. 29 and had four main findings. 

It reads, “The Executive Board issued an unconstitutional executive order which they then failed to present at Senate…President [Riyanka] Ganguly severely and erroneously misguided the Head Line Monitors to the point where it interfered with their ability to discharge their duties…All branches of DSG acted in a negligent manner, resulting in an illegal use of power by a member of the Cabinet…The Executive Board violated Due Process in the selection of Line Monitors.”

Winston was the principal investigator and presented alongside McGhee. 

“At a minimum, the students at Duke University deserve something that they have not received and that is at its core a group of members of its student government that are competent enough to read and understand the government documents," Winston said. "The flagrant misconduct of Duke Student Government, discombobulation of the executive board and the lethargy of the Judiciary and the haphazardness of the Senate must stop."

Unconstitutional executive order

Passing a K-ville policy necessitates an executive bylaw amendment, which must be read twice—each reading seven days apart from each other—in order for it to be voted upon. 

On Jan. 10, President Pro Tempore Jackson Dellinger, a junior, held “an emergency session” to present such an amendment at which there was an unofficial “presentation” of the 2017-2018 K-ville policy. At the Senate meeting, senior Sara Constand resigned from her position as co-head line monitor, and Head Line Monitor David Duquette, a senior, “accepted legal responsibility for the position," according to the investigation. It also noted, however, that Duquette gave Head Line Monitor privileges and authority to Constand.

Later that day, Dellinger informed McGhee of an executive order issued by the Executive Board to amend the executive bylaw—an action that the Judiciary found to be unconstitutional.

Not only was the amendment not presented to the Senate on Jan. 10, but also the Board can only issue such an executive order in “emergency circumstances.” 

“The Executive Board has the authority to issue Executive Orders, however these Executive Orders may not enact By-law; moreover, they can only occur in emergency circumstances while Senate is not in session. In an apparent effort to subvert the appropriate legal process of amending By-law, the Executive Board disregarded this requirement in issuing an unconstitutional Executive Order,” the findings from the investigation read.

On Jan. 17, a snow day, the Senate held a session via a Google Hangouts to vote for the by-law change and the 2017-2018 K-ville policy. However, if the senators did not fill out the attendance form, it was assumed that they concurred with the policy. 

First-year Jia Jia Shen, senator for equity and outreach, described her reactions to the digital vote.

“Because of the extenuating circumstances, Senate was particularly uninformed about this issue. Because it was also time sensitive we had no choice but to act upon the bylaw,” Shen said. 

"What [the executive order] boiled down to was stupidity, incompetence or—at worst—an attempt to subvert constitutional processes," Winston said.

Head Line Monitors were 'severely and erroneously misguided'

The Judiciary initially discovered the absence of a 2017-2018 K-ville policy presented to Senate in a meeting with the Head Line Monitors Dec. 8.

On Jan. 13, Duquette informed the Judiciary of a discussion that he had with Ganguly, a senior, in September at which she would “coordinate with Senate to ensure that the presentation of the K-ville policy was done in October or November.” The Judiciary noted that if Ganguly had complied with her “promise,” the policy “could have been legally implemented.”

Last April, Ganguly—who was not present at Wednesday night's meeting and who could not be reached for comment in time for publication—led the executive branch in the selection process of two Head Line Monitors. However, the executive bylaw specifies that the Vice President or a replacement Senator would fulfill such a role. Also, the Constitution prescribes only one person to the responsibility of Head Line Monitor. 

“She does not have the authority to pass this unilaterally,” Winston said.

Thus, in light of the Executive Board stepping outside of its constitutional authority in this selection process and not discussing the matter with Duquette, the Judiciary discovered that the Board “violated due process.” In fact, DSG has neglected the proper standard of selecting line monitors for the past three years, meaning that eleven line monitors have held their offices illegally. The investigation highlighted that their every action is “cast in doubt” and “likely not enforceable.”

“President Ganguly, the Executive Board and the Judiciary—in not catching this in previous years—failed to abide by their oaths. The judiciary moving forward will no longer shy away from actively protecting student rights and enforcing and abiding by the documents of student government,” Winston said. 

Additionally, it appeared that the Senators were not aware of the exact contents of the K-ville investigation segment of the Judiciary’s presentation prior to the meeting.

“Can I request that they share the presentation before the meeting, and it isn’t with such colorful language so we don’t turn this into something where we point fingers?” said junior Sean Bissell, vice president of academic affairs, said.

When Bissell also asked why issues of constitutionality had not been previously released when they were initially discovered, Judiciary membes voiced concerns of causing disorder and the importance of line monitors to still maintain control in K-ville. Winston wrote in an email Thursday morning that the investigation only concluded at the beginning of the week.

Dellinger commented that the issues with K-ville policy should not be a reason for disobeying the demands of line monitors. 

“The takeaway that K-ville this year is business as usual is a message that might have gotten lost in the presentation," Dellinger said. "Although we should look back at our operating procedure and work out the kinks, let’s not forget that everything is exactly as normal this year."

Still, Winston stressed the magnitude of the constitutional violations in the Judiciary’s findings.

“A lot of people should be worried," Winston said. "Are you kidding me?”

In other business:

We Are Here Duke—a chapter of a national initiative to combat sexual and intimate partner violence on college campuses—appealed the Student Organization Funding Committee's decision not to grant its request for a funding change for is Restorative Justice Panel. The appeal to the financial oversight and appeals committee detailed that the funding request could not have been submitted by the deadline set by SOFC because of “mitigating circumstances.” Due to the original presenter for the Restorative Justice Panel being in the hospital just days before the event, WAHD “returned to an earlier plan” of panelists and promised two of them $500 contracts. WAHD acknowledged that it “should not have promised to pay the panelists with so little time before the event.”

The proposed request was $525 alongside the initial $475 grant from SOFC to cover the two promised contracts. The Senate tabled the legislation indefinitely to reconsider the claim at a “later date.”

“We think they’re a good organization and want them to be operating but we need to have evidence of better financial management,” Dellinger said.

The Senate approved $14,315.58 in funding for four events.

Stefanie Pousoulides | Investigations Editor

Stefanie Pousoulides is The Chronicle's Investigations Editor. A senior from Akron, Ohio, Stefanie is double majoring in political science and international comparative studies and serves as a Senior Editor of The Muse Magazine, Duke's feminist magazine. She is also a former co-Editor-in-Chief of The Muse Magazine and a former reporting intern at PolitiFact in Washington, D.C.


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