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Panel talks policy with small crowd

Though turnout was small, Mayor Bill Bell engaged representatives from three local political parties in an intimate discussion Tuesday evening about issues relevant to college students.

The Community Student Center hosted the town hall meeting in White Lecture Hall to a turnout of about a dozen people, including students and local residents. The hour-long conversation began with questions from Bell on crime, financial support and economic policies concerning college costs.

"I think a lot of times we don't get the perspectives or the views of each political party like this, where they are all together," said Lindsay Mamula, CSC student outreach specialist. "This was geared more toward students because it had topics that were more enriching for the student population."

Bell moderated the conversation between Ted Benson, former chair of the Durham Democratic Party, Sean Haugh, chairman of the Durham County Libertarian Party and Theresa El-Amin, co-chair of the Triangle Area Green Party. A Republican representative was scheduled to participate but left before the meeting began due to a miscommunication. Phail Wynn, Duke's vice president for Durham and regional affairs, introduced the mayor.

Mamula said that although the turnout was less than expected, those who came- benefitted from hearing several different political parties discuss relevant policy issues. She added that the lack of a Republican voice may have had a negative impact on the conversation.

"Obviously, from a holistic approach, it would have been a much more enriching conversation [if the Republican representative had stayed]," she said.

The Duke-Durham relationship was also a prominent topic discussed by the panelists.

"Duke is such a powerful entity," El-Amin said. "Anywhere you get your health care in Durham, you are getting it from Duke. And because of that, we are in the position where we can have a town-gown, or university-community, relationship that is just not possible in other communities."

El-Amin added, however, that this relationship can be strained when the Duke and Durham communities clash.

"I am very concerned with [students'] relationship with the neighborhood when they live off campus," she said, referencing off-campus parties hosted by students that sometimes disrupt neighborhoods surrounding the campus. "It's a two-way street between the Durham community and Duke students."

Benson-responding to a question about students' relationship with the Durham Police Department-- posed by sophomore Andrew Brown, Duke Student Government's vice president for Durham and regional affairs-said students can improve upon the relationship by establishing ties with the department.

"The only time you meet [DPD] is when you're doing something you shouldn't be doing, or when they show up and you're at a loss and you're angry," Benson said. "I encourage Duke students to come up with an excuse to positively interact with the police. In all my interactions with the city and county police, I have been impressed by their professionalism, by their sensitivity and by their tremendous interest to try and help. And I'll tell you something--I see that with Duke students, too."

For the past 12 years, the CSC has hosted town hall meetings on campus during election season so that students can become involved in local politics, Mamula noted.

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