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Kornbluth discusses financial aid, DKU at DSG meeting Wednesday

Provost Sally Kornbluth addressed the recent financial aid controversy among other topics at Wednesday's Duke Student Government meeting.

Kornbluth said she welcomes students' opinions and would try to prioritize their recommendations with other administrative considerations. In the wake of President Vincent Price’s decision to maintain the current model of student health insurance after proposed changes were sent to some students, Kornbluth asserted that future budgets will solidify Duke’s commitment to remain a need-blind institution while not hindering the University’s capacity to improve.

“Given the fact that financial aid is an ever-growing slice of the budget, we are seeking to balance Duke’s accessibility with the mission of finding and recruiting the best professors,” she said. “It wasn’t the thing we were most easily able to cut but rather the area in which reform was most necessary.”

Kornbluth told the Senate members they could reach out to her anytime. 

“Any time you want to come by my office, just let me know,” she said. “I think much of the misunderstanding derives from the lack of open dialogue.”

Building a bridge with Duke Kunshan University

Having just met with the Board of Trustees at Duke Kunshan University, Kornbluth expressed great optimism for the school’s future. In its first year, DKU enrolled 251 first-years, most of whom are either Chinese or American. 

“There have been plenty of connections between DKU and Duke,” Kornbluth said. “Duke is an incredibly decentralized place, and there are even things I hear about and am surprised by, but I feel knowledgeable about the day-to-day life at DKU.” 

When DKU students come to the Durham campus, Kornbluth said she wanted to incorporate DKU Blue Devils into the greater Duke community seamlessly so that they do not feel excluded.

“In terms of both housing and dining, DKU students should feel as much a part of this campus as anyone else," she said.

Sophomore Steven Herrera, DSG senator of services and sustainability, asked how Duke’s proposed reduction in fossil fuel usage would affect the development of DKU, as China’s policies on pollution and climate change differ from the those of the United States.

"No matter what happens in either the United States or mainland China, Duke will do everything to fulfill its mission,” Kornbluth answered. 

Robotics club officially chartered

First-year Shrey Majmudar, DSG senator of academic affairs, presented on behalf of a new extracurricular opportunity called FIRST Robotics, which allows students ranging from elementary school to high school to engage in hands-on technology. Majmudar was seeking to charter the group so that Duke could host tournaments someday while teaching North Carolina children about the intricacies of robotics.  

“There are over 500,000 students in FIRST Robotics in over 60 countries,” Majmudar said. “The whole role of alumni would be to volunteer across North Carolina, whether that means starting teams and mentoring them.”

Majmudar had already reached out to the necessary partner organizations, including both the North Carolina-area branch of the non-profit and similarly minded research universities such as Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

He cited numbers from Duke’s admissions department showing that more than 150 undergraduates indicated that they had joined a FIRST Robotics group before college, illustrating the popularity of the program. But Majmudar added that students with no relevant experiences in high school are more than welcome to join as well. 

“The main reason that we’re applying for funds is to take high school students to championships alongside our alumni," Majmudar said. "In this way, we could also strengthen and spread the Duke brand."

The Senate passed this effort to charter FIRST Robotics unanimously.

In other business

The Senate approved a second reading of minority group-related caucuses within its body. Some have criticized the Senate for not regarding all voices on campus, so senators explained that this initiative seeks to remedy those sentiments. This second reading included amendments that permit all senators to join any caucus. 

The Duke Platform Tennis Association also received an official charter. This group partners with a local country club so that Duke students can use those courts. Although DPTA did not register as a known entity with many senators, its board executives delivered an official constitution and a list of numerous members, which cemented its legitimacy in the eyes of the Senate. 

Although DPTA passed, it was not without controversy. Some DSG senators criticized the potential membership fees, which could deter students from joining, and others questioned its continued legacy on campus beyond this year. 

The Senate awarded $2,000 to aKDPhi for the hosting of Wong Fu Productions, a comedic entertainment group from YouTube. Senior Ben Hubsch, chair of the Student Organization Finance Committee, pointed out that the cost seemed to be high, adding that aKDPhi had asked for contributions from a plethora of other sources, such as AMES and fraternities. The event will include a question-and-answer session with the actors and a film screening. 

Finally, ASA Hotspot and the Catholic Center received $2,800 and $1,760, respectively. 

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