Duke student gov to blow emergency fund on 'diversity immersion retreat'

The Duke University Student Government (DSG) on Wednesday allocated more than half its “emergency fund” to bail-out a “diversity immersion retreat” to be put on by the school’s Center for Race Relations.

The legislation allocates $2,254 of the $5,000 emergency fund for the retreat titled “Common Ground,” which the school’s blog describes as a “student-led diversity immersion retreat program dedicated to exploring human relations in personal and profound ways.”

A flyer for an earlier iteration of the retreat, held on October 21, describes it as “free” and a place to “discuss race, gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic status.”

The funding emergency for the Feb. 28 - March 3 retreat apparently arose from a “miscommunication” with the college’s Center for Multicultural Affairs, according to a Jan. 31 article in The Duke Chronicle.

Funding for these types of programs generally comes out of DSG’s $70,000 surplus, junior Marcus Benning, a senator for Durham and regional affairs, told the Chronicle. But that takes at least a week -- a delay that could postpone, limit, or rush planning for the camp.

Benning, however, argued that the lack of funding for the diversity camp did not justify use of the student’ government’s emergency fund.

“An emergency on their part doesn’t have to create an emergency for us,” he said.

DSG Executive Vice President Patrick Oathout, however, told the Chronicle that in his view the retreat is too important to risk such a fate.

“I went to Common Ground, and it really did profoundly change my life in many ways,” he said.

Outhout was not available for comment from Campus Reform in time for publication.

One commentator on the Chronicle article, who identified himself simply as “curious,” seemed critical of the level of emergency for a retreat that invites just two-percent of Duke’s student body.

”Will the money given to Common Ground go to buying more t-shirts and hoodies?” he asked.