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Senators examine DSG demographics survey at Wednesday meeting

At Wednesday’s Duke Student Government meeting, the Senate discussed and edited the annual internal demographic survey, but one senator was troubled with the process.

President Pro-tempore Jackson Dellinger, a junior, presented the DSG demographic survey to the Senate, which had been drafted and reviewed by himself and members of the executive board. Senate reviewed each question of the survey, including prompts about demographics, such as family income, whether a respondent is a part of Pratt of Trinity and involvement in Greek life. The purpose of the survey was to gauge how DSG self-identifies.

“We are going through the various questions,” Dellinger said. “Once everyone is comfortable with the product, we will then present that as the demographic survey that will be sent out to all of DSG, not just to Senate.”

Among the changes was a request by sophomore Manish Kumar, senator for academic affairs, to alter the survey options for the question about sexual orientation. He asked that DSG members have the chance to select “gay/lesbian” as a choice and not “homosexual." The motion passed. 

Additionally, the survey asked members of the organization about their home states, but there was technically no option for international students. Sophomore Sanya Kochhar, senator for campus life, requested that a question be added asking members whether they are international students. This request passed.

Senior Kevin Mutchnick, senator for academic affairs, took issue with the presentation and open-editing process of the survey.

“Senators and VPs have established a tradition of presenting carefully researched and professional reports to the Senate,” Mutchnick wrote in an email. “For the Senate President Pro Tempore to introduce a poorly constructed survey that revealed a lack of research of several topics is troubling.”

Mutchnick noted that though he agreed that Senate should have oversight of the survey, spending time during Senate discussing technicalities and typos of the survey should not have been how the situation played out.

“It was unfair to the Senate and to our constituents that our time was wasted correcting the survey rather than debating policy and funding for student groups,” he said. 

Dellinger emphasized the importance of Mutchnick's decision to take action on his beliefs.

"I've read Kevin's statement, and though I disagree with his analysis of the text, even a single person complaining shows we have room to grow," Dellinger wrote in an email. "In that spirit, I appreciate that Kevin expressed his discontent. Criticism is a chance to improve, and any opportunity for improvement is relished."

In other business:

The Student Organization Finance Committee presented its funding decisions to the Senate, and considered chartering three new organizations.

SOFC Chair Luke Farrell, a junior, first presented the Arts Annex Advisory Board’s request for funding to paint eight giant satellites. Among the organization’s requests were funding for cranes and for the artists to do the job. Because Duke students themselves are not involved in the project, SOFC cut funding to only include funding for the grand opening of the project. This decision passed unanimously.

Senate then considered a request from Blue Devils United for funding for its fourth annual queer dance party at the Duke Coffeehouse. Senate agreed unanimously with the funding decision.

Senate then approved funding requests by the Duke Catholic Center, Devils on Pointe, Devlish Keys, Duke University Improv and Duke Chinese Dance. 

Farrell presented that SOFC’s decision to fund transportation for Duke Chinese Theatre’s annual showcase at an off-campus theatre because the charter buses allowed the event to be open and accessible to all Duke students and this decision was met with approval by the Senate. 

When Farrell presented DUArt’s requests for funding for the organization’s week-long festival, there was contention among some senators regarding SOFC’s decision not to fund materials for making succulents because the plants are considered a giveaway, and not an activity.

First-year Andrew Carlins, senator for academic affairs, suggested that an amendment be made to fully fund the succulents for the organization—an amendment that passed in Senate. 


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