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DSG Senate approves changes to election rules, funds TEDxDuke after debates

Duke Student Government's Senate met on Jan. 22.
Duke Student Government's Senate met on Jan. 22.

In a debate-filled meeting Wednesday night, the Duke Student Government Senate amended their election rules and procedures and passed an unusual amendment to a piece of funding legislation.

The Senate approved changes to Sections 1 and 6 of a statute of DSG’s election rules and procedures, officially setting the dates of the upcoming Young Trustee election to Feb. 11 through Feb. 12 and barring supporters of a candidate from allowing other students to use their electronic devices for election purposes, in addition to more wording changes. Candidates themselves were already prohibited from doing this. 

Attorney General John Markis, a sophomore and a senior news reporter for The Chronicle, initially presented a broader set of changes which would have restricted the kinds of electronic communications that candidates and their supporters could use to solicit support. However, controversy over these restrictions caused the Senate to eventually only change two sections of the statute.

Electronic communications “should be seen as the same as if you were presenting in your class and you said, ‘Oh, vote for my friend, whoever,’” said Senator Matthew Ralph, a sophomore, in a speech arguing against the proposed changes, noting that “so much of our lives are online.” 

The change, to Section 5 of the rules and procedures, would have removed language permitting students to send campaign correspondence to any GroupMe, Facebook or “similar messaging platforms.”

The debate was disorderly, with several senators asking President Pro Tempore Aly Diaz questions about Senate procedure. The Senate initially held a vote on the changes as they were, which failed.

“Can we amend?” DSG President Liv McKinney broke in as that vote was ongoing.

The Senate then passed a new version of the statute, which only included the changes to Sections 1 and 6.

A funding fight

The Student Organization Finance Committee approved $8,250 in funding for TEDxDuke—which includes $2,000 in extra funding that was opposed by SOFC Chair Devin Mahoney during the meeting.

In initial legislation presented to the Senate, SOFC approved $6,250 in funding and rejected a request of $2,000 for filming. However, sophomore Annie Hirsch and junior Jenny Zheng, representatives of TEDxDuke, informed the Senate that the group needed the funding in order to hire a videographer who could meet TEDx’s requirements for filming and editing.

Mahoney, a junior, opposed the funding on the grounds that SOFC is a subsidizing body and is not supposed to fund every item that student groups request—even if a national organization requires it.

“We don’t fund unnecessary line items to making the event happen to make sure that we can fund as many events on campus as possible,” Mahoney explained to The Chronicle after the vote. 

However, she also told the Senate that they should “genuinely consider” the TEDx representatives’ argument when deciding whether to change the funding amount.

Senator Jannis Stoeter, a junior, proposed an amendment to add $2,000 for filming to the SOFC legislation because TEDx’s requirements made the funding necessary.

“If we want this group to exist, we need to give this group the $2,000 today,” he said. 

However, Senator Shreyas Hallur, a first-year, argued that the Senate should only fund part of the request.

“We’re setting a precedent here,” he said, noting that other groups could make similar requests if they failed to secure event funding far enough in advance.

The Senate approved the amendment in a divided voice vote.

After the meeting, Stoeter told The Chronicle that he doesn’t think the vote should set a precedent for other groups in need of funding.

“It was done for TEDx to comply with the larger organization that requires them to have videography present for them to hold the event,” he said of the funding amendment. 

In other business

The Senate also approved $5,409 in funding for the Chinese Student Association’s Duke China-U.S. Summit, for a total of $13,659 in SOFC funding. The body approved the charter of Team One Love at Duke, which aims to “empower Duke students to take action in the movement to end intimate partner violence.”

The Senate approved a budgetary statute to provide $200 to the Duke Prison Education Project’s spring letter-writing campaign.

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