At its second meeting of the year, Duke Student Government Senate passed legislation to help students pay attention to local politics—without paying out of their pockets.

Senate unanimously approved a budgetary statute that will allocate $500 for 25 Uber Event Round Trip passes for students to attend an upcoming Durham mayoral election forum. The event—to be held Sept. 14 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at City Hall—will allow attendees to meet the mayoral candidates and learn more about their platforms. 

“It’s important to be invested in the place in which you live, and a lot of Duke students come to Duke and can spend [their] four years within the bubble and not really understand the city,” said senior Taylor Panzer, ad-hoc senator for Durham and regional affairs, who presented the statute. 

The event will feature potentially four candidates. Panzer said that the transportation funding is essential for Duke students to be able to both affordably access the event and be immersed in Durham. 

Although voter turnout may have been low for Duke students in past local elections, Panzer added that she sees the upcoming election as an opportunity for change.

Durham will have a new mayor after the election because Mayor Bill Bell is not seeking re-election. Panzer said the opportunity to choose from three completely new candidates has made the race "really exciting" and is sparking conversation about what Durham's future looks like.

“Knowing the political landscape in which you live for four years is really important,” Panzer explained. 

Junior Jackson Dellinger, senate president pro tempore, spoke as a long-time Durham resident when discussing his love for local politics

“As we consider ourselves as citizens of Durham, in a moral sense, we are going to question what our stance is on issues discussed in the campaign, such as gentrification and affordable housing," he said. 

Sponsors of the forum include DSG, the Sanford School of Public Policy, North Carolina Central University and InterNeighborhood Council. INC will be funding the rights to broadcast the forum, and Sanford and the Center for Political Leadership, Innovation and Public Service  will provide free child care and translation services into Spanish. 

In other business:

Junior Sean Bissell, vice president for academic affairs, announced that the Academic Affairs Committee successfully shortened course evaluations and enabled professors to personalize their evaluations by adding their own questions. The Committee’s research indicated that the reform will increase response rates, improving the accuracy of student reviews.