Passo seeks to create a ‘new Duke’ for students

Duke Student Government presidential candidate Will Passo, a junior, is campaigning on the theme of a “new Duke.”
Duke Student Government presidential candidate Will Passo, a junior, is campaigning on the theme of a “new Duke.”

Duke has seen significant change in the last 20 years, but for Duke Student Government presidential candidate Will Passo, the “new Duke” has not yet come to fruition.

For Passo, that new Duke will include more civic engagement activities in Durham, an increased awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues and continued Student Organization Finance Committee reform to make receiving funding easier for student groups.

“You can point to things like DukeEngage, the campus in China, the creation of the new Sanford School [of Public Policy] and you can really point to how Duke has asserted itself on the national stage and asserted itself on the international stage,” said Passo, a junior and current DSG vice president for Durham and regional affairs. “But I think until we make core changes with student life and the undergraduate experience, then elements of old Duke are still going to linger.”

He added that he will support need-blind admissions for international students and re-evaluate curricular programs like Curriculum 2000.

“Duke as an institution can do a lot, but we are going to do a lot on the ground, in Durham, at the student level, to change how this institution functions,” Passo said.

Freshman Elena Botella, who chaired Durham Fights Hunger weekend and worked with Passo on the event, said the candidate would fight for issues that the administration has not addressed well.

“While he has a clear vision, he is a really selfless person,” Botella said. “He is really concerned about the future of Duke rather than being interested in his own politics. It is important that you have somebody who represents student interests and is articulate. He is a fighter and really willing to put himself out there on the line to make student life better.”

Passo cited his vice presidential position as an experience that will prepare him for presidency, noting that as vice president for Durham and regional affairs, he has been able to tackle policy issues while balancing the relationship between Duke students and Durham residents.

“I think I can bind that policy knowledge that you have to have with the personal skills,” he said.

Passo said he has been meeting with Trinity Heights residents since August to strengthen relationships between students and locals.

“We took a situation that basically exploded early in my Duke career and we didn’t fix off-campus relations forever, but I think that building relationships and really just grassroots efforts did change a lot,” Passo said.

Passo has also worked with the community by serving as an intern at the Nasher Museum of Art’s education department in Fall 2008.

Juline Chevalier, curator of education at the Nasher, said Passo’s passion and interest for government and getting students involved was apparent when she worked with him.

“He is extremely hard-working, extremely organized, extremely dedicated and creative,” Chevalier said. “He went the extra mile to further research something or work on a product a little more than necessary or expected.”

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