Duke Student Government senators heard a presentation about recent changes made to the undergraduate experience and recognized Students Supporting Israel again during their Wednesday meeting.
On Nov. 15, DSG President Christina Wang, a senior, vetoed Students Supporting Israel’s recognition following an incident in which the group posted a screenshot of a student’s tweet criticizing the organization on its Instagram page. The fifty senators present at DSG’s Nov. 17 session voted 37 to 3 to uphold the veto, with ten senators abstaining. The vote allowed for the organization to reapply through SOFC if it wished.
Before the Student Organization Finance Committee’s presentation of SSI to the senators, junior and president pro tempore Devan Desai reaffirmed that senators should treat the application as new.
“Any questions that you have, as with all other groups that we go through with SOFC, just make sure that it’s about the application—the mission value—and not based off the circumstances of last time,” Desai said.
Senators approved the recognition unanimously, with some abstaining.
Also during the meeting, Gary Bennett, vice provost of undergraduate education, spoke to senators about the progress made in the past year to improve student life. He discussed changes academic advising to allow students to meet with counselors over the summer, the development of programs such as Sophomore Spark and the Duke Population Health Sciences BRIDGE program and an overview of summer study abroad programs.
After Bennett opened the floor for questions, senators inquired about topics ranging from the recent Asian American and Diaspora Studies minor to changes to the Thompson Writing Program.
The vice provost spoke to the influence of student activism in pushing academic programs in different, more diverse directions.
“Our job is to make sure that we're undergirding all of our academic programs and making sure that they can be as successful and attractive to students as possible,” Bennett said. “The new minor is a really great example of how it really works, which is that student activism [is] directed to faculty [and] faculty are the people who create majors and minors.”
Bennett commented on the importance of mental health on campus. Pointing to the steady uptick in depression, anxiety and stress at universities at the same time campuses have been distributing mental health resources, he remarked that the data “strongly suggests that we have a public health problem.”
“A public health challenge requires thinking about how to intervene at multiple levels, thinking about policies, programs, practices, what happens in the community, what happens in the classroom, what happens outside the classroom,” Bennett said. “So that's where we're going to be playing survey. And what we really, really need is somebody to help us to interpret it from a lived experience perspective.”
Commenting that student demands would be most effective when directed to specific faculty and departments, Bennett also offered to speak to any student who wished to direct their demands to faculty in a “coordinated way or systematic way.”
“The sort of political energy will be lost if you direct that at the university level, because that's actually not where it happens,” Bennett said.
In other business
Senators allocated $22,385 for the Asian Student Association’s “Resisting, Recovering, Remembering” panel, $3,642.38 for the Duke Chinese Dance Troupe’s showcase and $2,000.00 for the Reformed University Fellowship’s Et Religio Symposium.
Senators also allotted $250 from the DSG General Account for the cost of the Me You RDU website and other promotional materials for the program, which matches students for transportation to the RDU airport.
Desai and DSG Executive Vice President Ramya Ginjupalli, a senior, led a second reading of the Affiliate and Senate By-laws. The pair also led a first reading of the University Committee By-law.
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Audrey Wang is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.