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Res life thrusts Nurkin into spotlight

This is the third story in a five-part series profiling various student leaders this year.

When he ran for Quad Council as a sophomore at the urging of his fraternity brothers, Andrew Nurkin had no idea that Campus Council, elected by quad representatives, would soon represent the primary voice of the students on residential policy.

Now that Campus Council has the ear of the administration and more influence than ever before, Nurkin, a senior and the organization's president, has been thrust into the limelight--despite having no student government experience before running for Quad Council two years ago.

A native of Atlanta, Ga., Nurkin is a member of Sigma Chi fraternity and has worked extensively with Project BUILD, a community service and orientation program. As an English major, he says that much of his spare time this year will be spent writing his thesis.

Those who work closely with him say he is well suited for the job. "I think Andrew is a very polished, very mature leader," Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said. "He has a good sense of the needs on campus."

Campus Council gained influence last year when Moneta arrived on campus in August 2001 and began looking to the group as the voice of the students on residential life policy. Previously a programming organization foremost, Campus Council began passing resolutions like those recommending a residential smoking ban and preserving seniority in the housing lottery.

Nurkin believes these are heady times for Campus Council. "Since Duke is such a residential place, the residence halls are really where the character of the place is shaped," he said.

Among the issues confronting residential life, one of the most important to Nurkin is reinstating seniority in the housing lottery process. "I hope [the lottery] will change," he said. "I think it needs changing. There are some real traditions about the Duke residential system that should be preserved; one of them is seniority."

He envisions Campus Council as the organization that has the capacity to affect residential life the most positively. "It has administrative support, support from the division of student affairs... plus the benefit of the [residential coordinators, resident advisers, graduate assistants] and the quad councils," he said.

Although the administration began to seek advice on residential issues from Campus Council last year, Duke Student Government continued to pass its own resolutions, some of which contradicted Campus Council's.

"There just wasn't any communication," Nurkin said. "Campus Council admittedly didn't notify DSG it was increasing its role.... Also, DSG didn't talk to Campus Council about its projects."

The two organizations' struggle for influence culminated in a DSG referendum asking whether Campus Council should hold direct elections. Currently, Campus Council executives are elected indirectly, via Quad Councils.

Some Campus Council officials, including Nurkin, disagreed with that move. "While I respect that DSG is representative of the entire student body, I don't think student groups have the right or the obligation to question each other," Nurkin said.

There are currently no plans to amend the election procedures.

As president, Nurkin is determined to avoid the conflicts that plagued Campus Council and DSG last year. He met with Duke Student Government president Joshua Jean-Baptiste several times this summer, calling him a "good friend."

"We've had a couple meetings," Jean-Baptiste said. "I find him to be a very sharp individual."

Whether Nurkin avoids political and personal conflicts, he still must contend with mixed student opinion about Campus Council. "The conflict last year helped us in some sense in that it drew attention to what we're trying to do, but I don't think it made us some of the most popular people on campus," he said.

In the long run, the continued confidence of the administration will be the key indicator of Campus Council's influence, and Moneta remains committed to the council. "Some students, especially in DSG, may have some suspicions about it, but I've been impressed with Campus Council since I've arrived," he said.

Nurkin, too, believes that Campus Council's newfound influence is not a temporary fix. "We're not going anywhere," he said.

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