President Vincent Price and the Board of Trustees are creating a task force to address the undergraduate residential experience.
The Board has been reviewing its committee structure throughout this past academic year, and trustees will discuss a new structure proposal at their May meeting, wrote Richard Riddell, senior vice president and university secretary, in an email. The proposal would shrink the number of committees from nine to four and create four task forces recommended by Price. One of these task forces—Next Generation Living and Learning Experience—will focus on shaping the future of the Duke residential experience.
“This board task force will be an ad-hoc for a period of a year,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. “[It will be] a body that will work with the University to help develop the plans for the next iteration of residential life on campus.”
Since the Board has not yet approved the new task forces, the exact composition of trustees, faculty, administrators and students is unknown, Riddell wrote. However, Price has proposed that three undergraduates and two graduate or professional students serve on the Living and Learning Experience task force.
In an email asking for student applications, Riddell reminded students that they would serve as “fiduciaries of the university rather than representatives of the student body.”
Senior Matthew King echoed that sentiment, noting that the trustees are looking for students with open minds rather than rigid points of view. King served on the Board undergraduate education committee and helped found Duke Students for Housing Reform.
“A trustee is supposed to take a long view, examine what's best for the University as a whole, step out of their particular position and experience on campus and think about what would be best for all Duke students," King said.
King indicated that he was somewhat surprised by the two-to-three ratio of graduate to undergraduate students since the issue at hand is the undergraduate residential experience. Nevertheless, he said he was fine with the number of undergraduates.
He added that supporters of housing reform should be “cautiously optimistic” about the effectiveness of the new task force. He explained that there have been prior task forces whose recommendations were not heeded since it's up to Price and the Board to act on the task forces’ report.
However, King noted that undergraduates must still be active in relaying their perspectives because faculty, alumni and trustees do not totally understand the current undergraduate experience.
"What we need to be doing as undergraduate students, as this task force is deliberating about the future of our housing model, is to interact with it,” King said. “We need to be sharing our stories. We need to be writing about our experiences.”
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Jake Satisky is a Trinity senior and the digital strategy director for Volume 116. He was the Editor-in-Chief for Volume 115 of The Chronicle.