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'Third part of this trifecta': DSG supports reusable to-go containers as Dining ramps up sustainability efforts

Duke Student Government Senate passed more than $8,000 of funding at its Wednesday meeting, but the real sticking point was about support for a 25-cent fee.

The Senate approved a resolution supporting the implementation of a 25-cent “responsible dining fee” for each use of a disposable to-go container at certain food vendors on campus. 

The fee and reusable container system—which will be implemented by Duke Dining—builds on a pilot program that distributes reusable to-go containers to students, who can later return the containers at the Brodhead Center. 

The program is expected to be launched for the full undergraduate student body next semester.

Introducing the fee aims to encourage students to use the reusable containers that will be available for free, said junior Liv McKinney, vice president of services and sustainability, who introduced the resolution along with senior John Desan, director of environmental affairs.

“There is currently no incentive to actually use the reusable containers because the disposable ones are still there,” she said.  

This summer, Duke banned disposable plastic and transitioned to recyclable and compostable materials for all vendors, Desan said. School authorities are also fully committed to investing in the reusable-container program. 

"The responsible dining fee is kind of the third part of this trifecta of sustainable-dining projects for this year," Desan said.  

Under the policy, 35 percent of the proceeds from the fee will go to campus vendors to finance their purchase of items such as compostable utensils, which can cost more than the traditional plastic variety. 

The remaining 65 percent will be invested in further sustainable-dining infrastructure projects. Students are able to submit ideas for how the money should be spent.

Sophomore Jia Jia Shen, senator for equity and outreach, raised several concerns about the resolution, including the financial stress that such a fee would impose on students. 

“You can pretend food scarcity isn’t a thing on this campus, but it really is,” Shen said, arguing that the fee would be a burden on some undergraduates who already struggle to pay for food. 

Shen also worried the policy will not be effective in the long run. The fee will not affect the long-term behavior of students, she argued.

“These changes don’t actually stay—as soon as the monetary incentive is removed, people revert back to their old habits, and personal values don’t change at all,” she said. 

After about 40 minutes of debate, the resolution passed in a unanimous voice vote.

The Senate also passed a resolution supporting the renaming of East Campus’s Carr Building. 

The building, home to the Duke history department, has been the center of recent controversy over the legacy of its namesake, industrialist Julian Carr. The history department filed a request to rename the building late last month, and a protest supporting the removing Carr's name took place in front of the building early September. 

The resolution states that the Senate is “fully aware that Julian Carr, for whom the building at 1356 Campus Drive on East Campus is named, was a virulent white supremacist with a clear, demonstrated history of racial violence and abetting white supremacy.” It resolves that “the Duke Student Government calls for the building…to be renamed promptly.”

Sophomore Jake Sheridan, senator for Durham and regional affairs and a contributing reporter for The Chronicle, presented the resolution. He noted that the resolution is not a guarantee that the name will be changed. 

“All this resolution [to] increase the pressure on the administration to rename the Carr building,” he said. 

The resolution passed by unanimous consent.

In Other Business

Tom Szigethy, associate dean of students and director of DuWell, spoke to the Senate about Student Health’s current initiatives to improve health on campus. He urged students to drink in moderation in order to help prevent sexual assault. 

“[For] anybody [to] get enjoyment out of alcohol, it’s usually at much lower levels of alcohol than you see people drinking,” Szigethy said.

The Senate also passed a statute provisionally forgiving the debt of the Black Women’s Union and approving the use of funds to purchase a $50 gift card to incentivize participation in 1GLI Cultural Inquiry.

The Senate approved Student Organization Financing Committee-recommended funding for for the Duke Chinese Student Association’s Duke China U.S. Summit, at $5,561, as well as a $2,500 funding request for Duke Undergraduate Machine Learning’s Duke Datathon.


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