Junior Rence Nemeh has withdrawn from the Duke Student Government race for presidency.
Nemeh said, in an email to The Chronicle, that he had always planned on withdrawing from the race prior to the start of voting, calling the campaign a “political performance art piece.” As such, Nemeh's name did not appear on the ballot today. Nemeh's withdrawal leaves Sophomore Lavanya Sunder and Junior Will Giles as the remaining DSG presidential candidates.
"This was not just a joke. It was a political performance art piece using parody digital content as a medium," he wrote. "I was making a series of comments on campus leadership and leadership in general."
In his email to The Chronicle, Nemeh said his campaign was intended to draw attention to the "narrow social constructs" Duke students have on what leadership is supposed to look like.
Additionally, the campaign was intended to show the benefits of including comedy in politics, Nemeh said.
"Simply mocking DSG is not a bad thing—humor is natural," he wrote. "That is why you have sitting Presidents mock themselves at the White House Correspondence Dinner and appear on SNL. Further, they are able to take the joke in their own hands and control it. That is a true, dynamic leader."
This is the second candidate to drop from the race, following junior Nikolai Doytchinov’s withdrawal for personal reasons.
In a subsequent phone interview, Nemeh said he chose to withdraw from the race on the day of the election because he wanted the reaction to build up and be “as potent as possible."“Performance art requires real reaction. I needed to see and experience that in real time,” Nemeh said.
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“Throughout the entire process, I used the meetings in a different way than the other candidates.” he said.
He used the space as a way to listen and communicate his ideas about campus issues and talk about the 40 Percent Plan, an amendment to allow students allocate that portion of their activities fee.
“Just because I am not on the ballot does not mean I am not gonna use what I learned to make big changes on campus,” Nemeh added.
Nemeh noted that he will continue to remain involved in many aspects of University life through organizations like DukeAFRICA, Duke University Union and the International Association.
“I will continue doing what I do and collaborate with all these groups,” he said.
Members of the community have said they appreciate his effort to produce performance art, Nemeh said.
“People were so happy to see that this wasn’t just a joke. It was not just trying to make fun of the process," he said. "There were messages to be communicated about leadership on campus in general."
Many students told him they would write him on their ballots, Nemeh noted. This support showed that people understood the meaning behind his campaign, Nemeh added.