At Wednesday’s Duke Student Government meeting, the Senate amended the Student Organization Financing Committee guidelines for the Spring 2018 semester.
SOFC Chair Luke Farrell, a junior, explained SOFC’s three-part “litmus test” for funding events: they must be open, free and accessible. Events can be tailored toward the funded group, but must not be exclusive for that group. Although there can be donations made at an event, they cannot be coercive, and the event itself must be free. Farrell stressed that SOFC evaluates accessibility in the scope of cost and transportation, as well as physical accessibility.
In fact, the guidelines prescribe that student groups not hold events in the Languages building. At last week's meeting, the Senate passed a resolution to encourage the Board of Trustees to renovate the building.
The guidelines read, “Recognized and Chartered student groups are prohibited from hosting Open or Closed events in the Languages Building until renovations are made to make this building physically accessible.”
Sophomore Avery Boltwood, senator for campus life, amended the guidelines to add the word accessible in caps to the first line of preliminary guidelines. The guidelines now read, “All SOFC funded events must be OPEN, FREE, and ACCESSIBLE for all undergraduate students.”
Other amendments included a $10,000 speaker event subsidy cap, a requirement for groups receiving outside funding to provide proof of such receipts and disclosure of event advertising plans.
However, there was one proposed amendment that did not pass.
Senior Kevin Mutchnick, senator for academic affairs, questioned the use of SOFC funds for philanthropic events. He voiced concerns such as people feeling coerced to donate at SOFC funded events. Thus, he said that he was opposed to philanthropic events because of the uncertainty of the use of SOFC funding to advance the funded group’s mission.
His amendment read, “Events soliciting donations or otherwise making a profit from dues-collecting organizations should not be funded.”
“Why would DSG fund an event if a group can just make money off of it when we have no control where that money goes?" Mutchnick said. "Oftentimes maybe it’s going to a philanthropic event—which is something we would probably support, but that is something the Senate would want to take into consideration before approving such an event."
Expanding upon donation coercion, he said that it would be “awkward” if there was an expectation to donate, but they are attending an event that abides by SOFC’s free standard. He argued that “these kind of events” have the purpose to raise money in the same fashion as fundraisers.
“Are they really enriching events for undergraduates? I think the programming money should be–which all students contribute to–essentially our tax money should go to events that are enriching and truly open without any feeling of sense of awkwardness to the entire undergraduate student body," Mutchnick said. "This is a change from how we funded things in the past and our philosophy on it, but I feel that this is something definitely worth considering and talking about."
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Farrell said he believed there to be a “number of minor and glaring issues” with Mutchnick’s pointts.
About 60 to 80 philanthropic events have already been funded this year–of which 15 to 20 are hosted by Greek organizations, he said. Because of the number of organizations that fall under the umbrella of philanthropic organizations, such as the Red Cross and others that rely upon SOFC funding to exist, Farrell said SOFC would have to de-charter 100 to 200 groups “whose sole mission is to raise money and the sole purpose of them being recognized is for us to fund events so they can raise money.” SOFC funded philanthropic events have hosted thousands of students every year, Farrell said.
Although Mutchnick’s amendment did not pass, Dellinger noted that these modifications are not set in stone because they are addressing guidelines about the funding process.
In other business:
The Senate confirmed senators to refill spots on three committees. Boltwood, first-year Jake Satisky, senator for academic affairs, and Chief of Staff Yemi Kolawole, a junior, were confirmed to Internal Affairs Committee. The Board of Elections gained first-year Anna Kasradze, senator for academic affairs, and sophomore Sanya Kochhar, senator for campus life. Kasradze also was confirmed to Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Senate Judiciary Committee will be adjudicating all of the wonderful absences we have tonight as well as more issues in probably that regard,” Dellinger said.
Kasradze was also officially confirmed as DSG Secretary and commented on her experiences with senatorial absences.
“I haven’t been Secretary for very long, but—in the time I have been Secretary—I have mailed people’s attendance records and honestly a lot of people have repeated unexcused absences with like no explanation," she said. "I know this is really bad for Duke Student Government as a whole, but also—for all of you guys who are actually coming here—it’s not fair that these people can rack up absences and basically not deal with repercussions. I really would like to be on the Senate Judiciary Committee, so I can be a voice for enforcing attendance. I would really appreciate your support,” Kasradze said.
The Senate passed the chartering of Duke Disability Alliance and Business Oriented Women, enabling the organizations to switch their statuses from recognized so they could have access to the upcoming Annual Budget. The Senate allocated $2,025 to Duke Disability Alliance and $1,710 to Duke Catholic Center.
The Senate passed a $5,000 allocation from the DSG surplus funds for the Duke Partnership for Service Uber Program. According to the grant, the funds will “be paid to Duke Parking and Transportation Services to cover the additional Uber fees incurred during the Uber transportation program in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.” The Senate previously allocated $5,500 to the program.