As Duke Student Government president, junior Liv McKinney would prioritize making life at Duke accessible for all students.
McKinney's platform to improve accessibility is two-fold—financial and physical. She hopes to implement more campus resources that can increase financial literacy and support students on financial aid, and will also focus on making campus buildings meet accessibility standards.
“It is so clear in so many of Duke’s policies that the University was not designed for all students, and I think we have the power to change that,” she said.
The issue is personal for McKinney. As a student on financial aid, McKinney recalled recently receiving an email from the University, summarizing her loans and stating the amount that she would owe Duke each month upon graduation.
“The email gave me no resources and no one to reach out to, and I was like, ‘This ruined my day,’” McKinney said.
She hopes to establish a formal support network—through financial aid counselors or the Office of Student Loans and Personal Finance—that helps students find credit and create a budget plan for after graduation.
McKinney also plans to create a comprehensive guide to help first-years navigate the hidden costs of attending Duke.
“There [are] a ton of hidden costs with attending [Duke], from books to laundry to even summer storage,” she said. “We really need to bring these costs to light, be transparent about how much it really costs to go to school here and have resources in place to either make these costs affordable for students or support them if they struggle.”
Renovating buildings to meet accessibility standards is another important issue in McKinney’s campaign. McKinney said that Duke Facilities Management should either expand its existing budget to account for accessibility guidelines or create a separate budget dedicated to installing automatic openers and ramps, expanding door widths and building more bathrooms.
McKinney hopes to create an online form for students with disabilities to communicate their accessibility needs, either directly to Facilities Management or through DSG.
McKinney, who currently serves as the vice president of the services and sustainability committee, said her greatest accomplishment thus far is increasing the number of food points in the first-year meal plan to about 800.
“I think I have really spent all of my time in DSG trying to make student lives easier,” McKinney said. “I think I have created the most tangible project work that has impacted a lot of student lives.”
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Junior Elizabeth Edel said that McKinney's best quality is her ability to "follow through."
“There are a lot of people who have been amazing advocates for issues, but I think Liv has been really successfully with following through and fixing those issues,” Edel said.
Edel cited the new first-year meal plan as an example. McKinney first attempted to reform the meal plan by petitioning for a “food point bank,” which the administration rejected. But the initial failure did not dissuade McKinney, Edel said.
“She took a hit on that, and she came back. She used surveys and hard facts to basically annoy administrators into making a change,” Edel said. “After years of people trying to change food point allocation, she was able to follow through and get it done.”
McKinney noted there are many avenues to bringing about change on campus, but explained that she is running for DSG president because she has the experience and knowledge to harness the organization’s full potential and create broad, far-reaching change.
“I know that as an organization, we can work with student groups to magnify and uplift student voices, to the point where we are able to change this University so it is meant for all students,” McKinney said. “And I do believe that I am the best person for the job.”