Duke Student Government presidential candidates disagree on the role student advocacy plays in the office.
At the DSG presidential town hall debate Sunday, presidential candidates Stefani Jones and Patrick Oathout, both juniors, contrasted their qualifications, record and platforms as they debated their approach to different University issues.
Jones, DSG vice president of equity and outreach, said one of the most important roles of the DSG president is as an advocate for the interests of students, but Oathout, DSG executive vice president, said that the president needed a more comprehensive set of experiences beyond advocacy.
“I am the person with the most experience to work on things and get things done,” Jones said. “It is the way that I approach issues on campus that makes me unique.”
She added that through her work as a student advocate, she has built “great relationships” with administrators and student leaders.
Jones noted that she was one of the leaders of the push to repeal the statute of limitations on the sexual misconduct policy.
Oathout said a president whose only goal is to be a student advocate would build an adversarial relationship with administrators. He noted that in addition to being an advocate for students, it was important for the next president to understand DSG and draw from diverse experiences.
“I am someone that has solutions and who is willing to implement them as well,” Oathout said.
He added that he does not pander to particular interests and bash the ideas of others.
Both candidates said that they would address the student amnesty and alcohol policies. Oathout said that he wanted to adopt an “open-door” alcohol policy similar to policies implemented at Stanford and Yale universities. With this policy, students would not be penalized for drinking in their rooms without causing a disturbance or engaging in unsafe behavior.
Jones said the “open-door” policy would not fix the problems with the drinking culture on campus because the policy would not encompass drinking games or hard alcohol. She added that, as president, she would work with administrators to compromise on a policy.
Although both candidates agreed that increasing the number of off-campus parties would be detrimental to overall student well being, Oathout said that he was the only candidate that was proposing concrete solutions.
Jones said that rather than creating resolutions to some of the campus’ most complex issues on her own, she wanted to work with student groups and administrators to form policies tailored to Duke instead of mimicking policies from other campuses.
“Duke has a very different drinking culture than a university like Stanford,” she said, adding that solutions that work at other universities might not be the best solutions at Duke.
Oathout said his platform includes specific goals with concrete deadlines. He added that he has lost four elections at Duke, and even if he loses another, he will still work to complete his goals by their set deadlines, as a DSG senator or in another capacity.
“There is nothing that I want to do more than serve the student body through DSG,” Oathout said.
As a member of the LGBT community, Oathout said he has faced discrimination and wants to encourage diversity among students but implement group dynamics training to limit discrimination on campus.
Jones said that she has already began group dynamics training as part of bias incident training, a program to train student leaders to recognize and prevent discrimination on campus. She added that voters should choose the candidate with the track record in resolving concerns on campus rather than a candidate that cares about major issues.
In one pointed criticism, Oathout said Jones “embarrassed” DSG when she did not do enough research and verify facts before introducing a Senate resolution supporting more space for the LGBT center. The resolution angered Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, Oathout added.
Jones responded that she spoke with Moneta through the negotiations process, which was productive.
She added that her platform was very similar to Oathout’s, but she aimed to work more directly with students and administrators rather than focusing on internal DSG administrative roles. Jones noted that one of her strengths was speaking on behalf of students.
Oathout said his policy proposals are very different from Jones’ platform, with more specific deadlines.
“I am going to get things done in office,” Oathout said.
EVP contenders debate policies
The executive vice president candidates, Nikolai Doytchinov and Tre’ Scott, both sophomores, said student policies and procedures will be a major focus of their efforts if elected.
“The student conduct system needs a radical overhaul,” said Doytchinov, currently vice president for academic affairs. “We need to make it easier for victims to report a rape, and we need to make it easier for victims to get help.”
Scott, currently vice president for services, added that the student conduct system needs to handle individual student issues as unique to each student rather than just case numbers.
Both candidates said their experiences as vice presidents have prepared them well for the role of executive vice president, who runs weekly DSG meetings. Doytchinov said he has had the opportunity to collaborate with many senior administrators, noting that his “really detailed” platform highlights his important internal experience, and Scott said he has been exposed to many different issues and groups in his work with campus services.
Scott said if elected executive vice president, he would focus on unity within the Senate and ensure that senators collaborate on projects that span different areas.
“The Senate should come together as one group and not as 65 different people that come together on Wednesdays,” he added.
Senior Nicole Kyle, special projects editor for The Chronicle, moderated the debates.