The Swain Train is leaving the station. The Chronicle’s Maggie Spini sat down with incoming Duke Student Government President Alex Swain, a senior, to talk about what she wants to accomplish this year, what DSG does and what’s left on her Duke bucket list.
The Chronicle: Has what you want to focus on changed at all since you won the election in April? What issues this year do you think will be most defining?
Alex Swain: The most difficult issues are always the ones that surprise you, like when there’s a big policy change that kind of slid under the radar. For the upcoming year I have a good idea of what we’re going to be working on. Right now we’re working on student tailgate. We’re also working to change the statute of limitations in instances of sexual violence or sexual assault. We’re also working on changes to the house model and gender-neutral housing. It’ll be interesting to see how the campus culture is going to change under the house model. We’re always going to be keeping an eye on how the house model is turning out, what students like about it and what they don’t like about it and try to make changes based on that.
TC: How would you explain what DSG does to new students, or to students who are apathetic about DSG?
AS: DSG is the student advocacy body. We’re a liaison between the undergraduate population and the Duke administration. In terms of the relationship of freshmen to DSG, we could be an advice body or freshmen can run for Senate elections and get involved with DSG and represent their class and the interests of freshmen. I didn’t do that, but it’s a good opportunity to get involved. You learn a lot about how Duke works by getting involved with DSG. If you have any concerns about anything on campus, any policy changes, or any big changes on campus, DSG is the body to go to express your concerns. We can advocate on your behalf. We also coordinate service events and stuff like that.
TC: Will the role of DSG change with you as president?
AS: I want DSG to be more of a student voice. Oftentimes we assume we’re this representative body and we know everything that students want, but that’s not always the case. I want to put our advocacy more at the forefront of students’ minds and be more active in gauging student interest.
TC: What’s your proudest moment in DSG so far?
AS: Winning the election was pretty cool. Also working to get an on-campus voting site was a good moment. And, even though we didn’t defeat Amendment One, working with a group of students to rally against that and getting people out to vote, no matter how they voted.
TC: What are fun things you recommend to do or see around Duke or Durham?
AS: I’m from Durham, and I like my city. There are a lot of cool restaurants to go to downtown. Always check out the new exhibits at the Nasher—the Nasher always has the coolest parties on Thursday nights. Other things downtown: there’s often free live music at Brightleaf or American Tobacco Campus. Durham is a really artsy city so there’s lots to do—you can check it out on the Durham events calendar online. There are also a lot of good opportunities to get involved and engaged civically in the community. You can do service projects like work at Urban Ministries or work at Duke Hospital. Just take advantage of a lot of the opportunities you have.
TC: Is there anything you know going into senior year that you wish you’d known freshman year?
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AS: I’m pretty satisfied with Duke so far. I think something to keep in mind is to enjoy the experience. Don’t get so stressed out that you forget you’re at an amazing university surrounded by amazing people. Just enjoy the experience and live in the moment. I would also tell people to not get too stressed about the future, but I need to take my own advice on that one.
TC: Is there anything that you’re particularly excited about for senior year? Things you still have to cross off your Duke bucket list?
AS: I want to go to a lot more sporting events, besides the big sports like basketball and football. We have so many amazing athletes, but I haven’t been to that many tennis matches or track meets. And I kind of want to—I know this is really unrealistic—do rowing. Maybe I’ll go to a little clinic or something. Also, I play the violin, so I want to do more of that. I’m only taking three classes next semester so hopefully I’ll get more time to play the violin and maybe be in a chamber ensemble or something. I was in the symphony my freshman year.