Brown engages students in VP post

Two vice presidents are working to strengthen the University's ties with the Durham community-except one of them doesn't get paid.

Like his University counterpart, sophomore Andrew Brown, Duke Student Government vice president for Durham and regional affairs, is trying to define his new post. Phail Wynn was instated as the University's vice president for Durham and regional affairs in January.

"The greatest honor I've had in my short tenure at Duke is that DSG created a vice president for Durham and regional affairs.... I am the paid version of Andrew Brown," said Wynn, drawing some laughter from those attending Wednesday's presentation on the University's employee giving campaign, "Doing Good in the Neighborhood." "They have a very insightful and very visionary person in Andrew Brown serving in that role."

A Sept. 2007 amendment to the DSG constitution divided the responsibilities of the vice president for community interaction into Brown's position and a vice president for the Intercommunity Council-a position currently held by senior Amanda Tong.

Brown said his new role allows him to focus more on issues surrounding Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill without being responsible for the ICC or the Young Trustee nominating process, which the former position required.

He listed his top priorities as safety, transportation and information with the ultimate goal of encouraging undergraduates to enjoy the overlooked features of Durham.

Brown added that Wynn has focused mostly on community service since he has been at the University.

"My focus has been more on undergraduate involvement and getting people more out into Durham. That's definitely one thing I've been pushing [Wynn] to consider more," Brown said.

He added that he is working with Wynn, the Office of Student Activities and Facilities and Steve Nowicki, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, to create a Web site with information about restaurants, movies, plays and concerts that will keep students updated on events going on in the community.

Another goal is to synchronize the DukeCard with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's One Card for concerts and other events held on both campuses, Brown said. The system would reserve a certain number of student tickets for students from both schools.

Brown's position is valuable because it involves community engagement on a student level, Wynn said.

Students do interact with the community, Wynn said, adding that many of them live in the city's neighborhoods.

"It's also important-and Andrew understands this-that the Duke students that live off campus understand their role as good neighbors-i.e. party houses," he said.

Wynn told The Chronicle in July that he felt the Durham community had moved past the aftermath of the lacrosse case, but Brown said he was hesitant to make a similar statement.

"There are clearly lingering effects, especially in the minds of a lot of students and in the community. At the same time most of the more immediate impacts have really begun to die down," he said. "It's still fresh in a lot of people's minds but it is not the same day-to-day burden."

Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield was among the first city officials Brown contacted about his new position. Bonfield said he and Brown discussed some of the city's issues that involved Duke students, adding that he was glad DSG made the effort to strengthen the relationships between students and the city.

"We have tried to do that at the University leadership level but it's a very different context when the students are involved," Bonfield said. "We had a good start of opening up a very positive dialogue."

Brown said Durham officials have been very responsive to his position so far.

"I've been very pleased," he said. "There is a difference between being nice and responsive at first, and then actually following through on the changes, so I'm going to continue to push for these things to happen for the rest of the year and we will see what happens."


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