Rivals state their cases in debate

The three Duke Student Government presidential candidates—juniors Will Passo (left), Gregory Morrison (center) and Mike Lefevre (right)—face off in the pre-election debate in the Great Hall Wednesday night. The candidates outlined their individual platforms and took questions from the 50 students in attendance.
The three Duke Student Government presidential candidates—juniors Will Passo (left), Gregory Morrison (center) and Mike Lefevre (right)—face off in the pre-election debate in the Great Hall Wednesday night. The candidates outlined their individual platforms and took questions from the 50 students in attendance.

Students were given some food for thought Wednesday night when the three candidates for Duke Student Government president faced off in a pre-election debate in the Great Hall.

DSG Chief of Staff Mike Lefevre, DSG Executive Vice President Gregory Morisson and DSG Vice President for Durham and Regional Affairs Will Passo, all juniors, shared their views and platforms with a crowd of about 50 students. In addition, almost 70 viewers tuned in to The Chronicle’s online live-streaming of the debate. The event, hosted by The Chronicle and DSG, was moderated by senior Michael Blake, chair of The Chronicle’s independent editorial board.

The debate began with opening statements from the candidates, followed by group questions, individual questions and finally closing statements.

The candidates agreed on general concerns such as continuing to improve student influence on administrative decisions, but each candidate had a distinct platform and specific goals.

Morrison, who emphasized his five-year plan for DSG, stressed the importance of having a leader concerned with the future of the University. He noted that in achieving long-term change, the quality of representation that students have matters deeply.

“Any DSG president that does his job without long-term goals in mind is not doing his job,” Morrison said. “I’m going to know where I’m going to go, and I’m going to start walking.”

Morrison also addressed his plan to draft a 10-year review of Curriculum 2000 and his intent to eliminate Duke Dining Service’s budget deficit through a strategic plan for Dining.

Passo was primarily concerned with bridging the gap between the old Duke and his vision of a new Duke. In achieving this goal, he focused on the importance of viewing DSG as a lobbying organization rather than as a programming body or an aid to the administration. He noted that his plan, characterized by a focus on campus culture issues like lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, racial and minority concerns, would be carried out through long-term advocacy coupled with short term changes.

“I can take big issues and pinpoint specific things that I can accomplish tangibly,” Passo said.

 He added that he was the only candidate who emphasized Central Campus, which houses many independent and minority students.

Lefevre introduced his platform by expressing his desire to change the way students view DSG and the way DSG views itself. He commended students for their active voices this year on issues such as the merger of the International House and Multicultural Center, adding that the administration should let the student body address such concerns.

Lefevre also emphasized that he has more experience than the other candidates, having served for three years on DSG and two years on its executive board.

“A platform is just a piece of paper,” Lefevre said, stressing the role experience should play in considering which candidate will be able to follow through on their ideas. “I have that experience.”

Other concerns brought up during the debate included the reform of the Young Trustee selection process, which all three candidates agreed could improve in the future.

Freshman Gautam Joseph attended the debate and said he enjoyed it. However, he felt that he could have learned more if the audience had been more engaged in the debate.

“I thought it was pretty impressing,” Joseph said. “But it was largely a presentation of the platforms they were already running on as opposed to the audience testing them on particular points or policies they were trying to implement.”

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