Duke’s Student Organization Finance Committee presented its spring semester report to Duke Student Government senators at Wednesday night’s meeting.
SOFC is currently undergoing a shift in its “culture, vision and spirit,” taking on the role of not just a funding body, but rather “a center of activity and involvement on campus,” according to SOFC Chair Drew Flanagan, a sophomore.
“It’s typically been a one-way conversation,” Flanagan said of communication between SOFC and student groups. “When I came into the chair role this fall, one thing we were really excited to see was a deviation from this and making us seem more of a partner organization, rather than a group that is mysterious, unknown, and really unhelpful or uncommunicative.”
The committee has placed a greater emphasis on directing groups to resources, held drop-in sessions and office hours, tailored SOFC’s weekly emails to provide one for just officers of student groups and one for all undergraduates, and provided student groups with guides, such as for returning funds or using DukeGroups.
Recruitment Lead Hadrian Gonzalez Castellanos, a sophomore, added that SOFC has aimed to reach groups traditionally unrepresented in the committee through their recruitment process for first-year analysts.
The SOFC will also add an external representative from the Cultural Engagement Fund, to “represent perspectives in groups on campus that we commonly work with,” Flanagan said.
To ensure that the next chair is well-supported to carry on SOFC’s new role, Flanagan plans to advocate for a chair stipend over the next few months.
“We think that in order for SOFC to really be encompassing of our community, even from an equity perspective, it’s hard to get a chair who has to give 10 or 20 hours a week and not get any sort of stipend or compensation for that, where other positions on campus do,” he said. “Especially when they’re not only providing an advocacy role, just like centers, but also services on behalf of the University.”
Last semester, SOFC received requests from 27 new groups and approved 23, according to Flanagan. Last summer, SOFC took over the responsibility of vetting and refining the visions of new groups from Duke LAUNCH.
The three main areas where student groups requested money last semester were for speaker compensations, catering—such as student group CommuniTEA mailing tea bags to their members—and “other,” which mainly consisted of groups’ technological needs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is all to say that things are quiet on campus, but on screens and on Zoom, things are still active, just in different ways than the past,” Flanagan said.
SOFC also worked with the University Center Activities and Events to allow student groups to hold in-person events, which began Feb. 1.
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Flanagan said that there has been difficulty in providing groups—some who were approved in the spring and summer of last year—with access to their bank accounts and financial onboarding process. He cited reassignments of employees in UCAE’s Business and Finance Office to contact tracing duties and UCAE’s shift to remote work as causes for the delay, but said that the approval process is currently being improved.
In other business
Junior Natalia Nunez, president of the DSG affiliate Fix My Campus, spoke to senators about Fix My Campus’ past and present projects, and their plans for further collaboration with DSG. She said that FMC is currently working on increasing outdoor seating, installing awnings for weather protections outside of dorms and adding nutritional information to menus on campus.
The Senate approved student groups Duke Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, which promotes the love of space through educational outreach; Hear at Duke, a club committed to gathering podcasts from all over campus; Duke FinTech Club, which explores the innovation and application of financial technology; and the Ciceronian Society, a forum for discussion of diverse perspectives on political philosophy, economics and policies, specifically centrist, libertarian and conservative thought, according to their SOFC application.
Three new senators were confirmed. First-years Isaiah Hamilton and Navya Belavadi will serve on the Equity and Outreach Committee and sophomore Natalie Wong will be on the Campus Life Committee.
The Senate approved revised election by-laws after a second reading of the new version.
Milla Surjadi is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.