At its meeting two weeks ago, Duke Student Government Senate heatedly debated the generosity of their funding decisions.
This time, its Wednesday meeting was less fiery, as the assembly easily passed a previously-controversial piece of funding legislation.
The funding in question was for a talk by Paige Hochschild, an associate professor of theology at Mount St. Mary's University, entitled “Christology and Lord of the Rings.” The Duke Catholic Center had requested $1,710 in Student Organization Finance Committee funding for the event.
The Senate tabled the legislation at its last meeting after senators cited concerns that the Catholic Center had asked for too much money in the past. The debate expanded into a larger conversation about SOFC funding, with some senators arguing that the Senate was too lenient when it came to deciding which groups to fund.
This week the funding passed without debate, and only one senator voted against it.
The Catholic Center withdrew its funding request for another event, a lecture by Michael Pakaluk, professor of ethics at the Catholic University of America, called “Only the Vision of God Can Make Someone Happy.” At the last meeting, junior Manish Kumar, senator for academic affairs, argued that the the lecture’s title could be “triggering” for LGBTQ+ students.
“Given the two weeks that we’ve had since the tabling, we’ve looked more into some of the writings from [Pakaluk’s] past,” said senior Michelle Krogius, the Catholic Center’s former president. “We believe that we want to take time internally to reconsider our April speaker.”
The Senate approved several other SOFC funding requests at the meeting. Funding for other groups included $6,040 for the Duke East Asia Nexus’s participation in the Duke-UNC China Leadership Summit, $2,000 for the Community Empowerment Fund’s National Summit on Homelessness and Poverty, $4,266.50 for Duke Chinese Dance’s 13th Annual Showcase, $2,359 for the Duke Splash Main Event and $4,800 for the International Association's Springternational festival.
SOFC Chairman Ben Hubsch, a senior, delivered a report on the Committee’s finances. He said that SOFC is on track with its funding and has slightly more money left than projected at this point in the year.
Among the 324 chartered on-campus organizations, 159 have so far asked for funding. Each group makes on average 2.3 requests in a year.
Hubsch admitted that the Committee does not have a way to make sure that organizations give back extra funding at the end of the year.
“In theory, it’s been a system of good faith in the past,” he said.
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However, he said that SOFC is working on getting access to groups’ bank accounts in order to audit them.
Senate updates DSG Constitution
The Senate also ratified a revised version of the Duke Student Government Constitution. The revised version clarifies the list of Senate members, changes the position of Senate President Pro Tempore to that of Senate Speaker and creates a group of Senate Staff who “aid the Senate Speaker in the orderly administration of the Senate and its business.”
The updated document also changes the list of positions that the President is required to appoint to his or her cabinet. In the past, the required positions were a Chief of Staff, Executive Secretary, Treasurer, Attorney General and Head Line Monitor and “any additional positions as prescribed by By-Law.” The new list includes a Chief of Staff, Treasurer, SOFC Chair, one or two Head Line Monitors, Communications Director, Research Director and positions required by the By-Law.
The Senate amended the new document to remove the Engineering Student Government Liaison from the list of required positions. The President may still appoint someone to this position in the future but will not be required to do so.
Steve Hassey, senior and DSG chief of staff, suggested the change.
“I genuinely think that there are better avenues for increasing engagement with Pratt than this position in the cabinet,” Hassey said. “It shouldn’t be something that we’re mandating for our next president.”
Finally, the revised Constitution updates the procedure for filling a vacancy in the office of President or replacing a President-Elect who is unable to assume the office. The Executive Vice President will fill a vacancy, and the Senate Speaker will do so if the EVP cannot. A President-Elect will be replaced by the Executive Vice-President-Elect or Senate Speaker-Elect.
In other business
The Senate appointed student representatives to the faculty Arts and Sciences Council's committees.
First-year Shrey Majmudar will serve on the Courses Committee; first-year Catherine McMillan on the Curriculum Committee; first-years Jackson Kennedy and Vignesh Alagappan on the Program II Committee; first-year Dina Qiryaqoz on the Global Education; first-year Meghna Mahadevan on the Undergraduate Teaching Committee and the Academic Standards and Honors Committee; and junior Saheel Chodavadia on the Faculty-Student Interactions Committee.
The Senate approved the creation of four new caucuses: the Latinx Caucus, the SLG Reform Caucus, the Asian-American Caucus and the International Students’ Caucus.
The Senate approved the funding of three $10 Amazon gift cards for DSG Research Unit. DSGRU will give the gift cards away to students who participate in surveys, in order to incentivize participation.