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After updated vote counts and settled petitions, Tommy Hessel will be next DSG president

After roughly two weeks of delayed results, junior Tommy Hessel will be the next Duke Student Government president. 

Hessel defeated junior Valeria Silombria 963 votes to 870, DSG Attorney General John Markis, a sophomore and senior news reporter for The Chronicle, wrote in an email. The results were delayed after the vote—which took place March 5-6—while Markis and then the DSG Judiciary ruled on two cases related to the campaign. 

Hessel wrote in an email that he is excited to take over as president. 

“There are lots of changes and conversations I hope to pursue going into the 2020-2021 school year,” he wrote. “I will leverage my past experience and what I have learned during this election process to not only push for more meaningful project work but to also elevate voices within the student body.”

He wrote that the current “trying times” had shown him how much Duke students care for each other, which makes him want to “work harder for such a caring student body.”

“I hope to continue bringing together students, resources, and administrators to improve every student's Duke experience,” he wrote. “It will not be easy, but this year and our recent community responses have shown that Dukies are more than ready to face any challenges.”

Hessel also congratulated Silombria on her run and wrote that he looks forward to working with her over the next year.

In his campaign, Hessel emphasized fostering a collaborative campus environment and helping more students access on-campus resources. He told The Chronicle before the election that he wants to hold monthly roundtable events with student groups to “democratize” Duke, create peer advocate advisers for sexual assault and open up physical spaces for student groups. 

Silombria did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.


Junior Tommy Hessel is one of two candidates running for Duke Student Government President this year. For more information about him and the election, visit DukeChronicle.com. Video by Bre Bradham and Ashwin Kulshrestha Edited by Bre Bradham


The Chronicle originally announced on March 6 that Silombria had won the election. However, Markis told The Chronicle later that day that University Center Activities and Events had failed to account for some of the votes, and Hessel was the winner in the updated tally.

However, the final release of the results was delayed because Silombria filed two petitions with Markis alleging that Hessel had violated DSG election rules and regulations. 

The first petition argued that a member of Hessel’s campaign violated rules on electronic communications when she posted a pro-Hessel message in a Gamma Phi Beta sorority GroupMe chat. However, Markis found that she had not violated the rules, noting that Silombria was citing proposed rules rejected by the DSG Senate instead of the actual election rules and regulations.

“There is no mention of GroupMe messages or social media platforms in the version in effect,” Markis wrote in his ruling on the first petition, a copy of which he provided to The Chronicle. 

He noted in the document that an incorrect version of the rules had been included in a DSG Google Drive folder, though he wrote that he “is not aware of how this error occurred and did not post the document on Google Drive.”

The second petition argued that a member of Hessel’s campaign team violated election rules by displaying a pro-Hessel graphic on her phone to another member of the team while campaigning for him while polls were open. According to the petition ruling, this violated rules and regulations prohibiting individuals from soliciting votes for a candidate while offering a device that could be used to vote during the election period.

Markis concurred and ordered that 31 votes be deducted from Hessel’s total—30 because the phone counted as an “offending poster or banner” and another because the campaign member had “unlawfully contacted” one student by showing her the phone. 

The DSG Judiciary ruled on both petitions, Markis wrote in an email, after they were appealed. In the first case, they ruled in favor of Markis, upholding his conclusion that Hessel’s campaign had not broken any rules. They ruled in favor of Hessel in the second case, undoing Markis’ vote reduction. The final vote tally thus remained unchanged at 963-870.

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