If elected Duke Student Government president, Robert Sprung hopes to elevate student voices and create long-lasting change on campus that impacts all spheres of student life, especially those pertaining to equality, social infrastructure and student living.
Sprung, a junior, is a computer science major and is minoring in Chinese and economics. He is Crowell’s co-president, president of the Duke International Relations Association and the programming chair of the Alexander Hamilton Society.
Unlike most candidates, Sprung is not currently a member of DSG. From Greenwich, Conn., Sprung said he has seen firsthand the power of elected representation.
“From seeing [Greenwich’s town council] as a child, I’ve always been interested in this stuff,” Sprung said. “When I came to Duke, I knew I wanted to be engaged, I wanted to be involved.”
“A big frustration I've always had is I feel like [administration] kind of sweeps through and changes massive portions of the student experience,” Sprung said. “Every year, it seems like there's a new program policy, whether it was QuadEx my junior year, whether it was the Thompson Writing Center being gutted, whether it's curriculum reform, which is coming up really soon — student voices always seem to never really carry any weight on campus.”
Sprung’s platform consists of four main pillars: QuadEx, DSG transparency, equity and reinvigorating social infrastructure on campus.
Now in his second year of living in Crowell and serving as co-president of its Quad Council, Sprung works with his team to bring social chairs onto the council to build a community through events and an active social media presence. Due to this, Crowell has been able to host events such as watch parties, providing dinner every other week or month in order to compensate for food point disparities and collaborating with other Quads to host a “dormal” (a Quad semi-formal) at the Nasher Museum.
Beyond this, Sprung has been a student voice of the Brick to Stone committee, a group working on celebrating the move freshmen make annually from the bricks of East Campus to the stone of West Campus.
“My biggest accomplishment with Crowell is really innovating and pioneering the path for what the Quad Council might be in the future,” Sprung said.
An important stand for Sprung is revamping QuadEx policies. According to Sprung, QuadEx lacks an accessible alcohol policy, with one social host being required for every 25 people at a party.
“It's a real big bottleneck on holding big, large events with alcohol,” Sprung said, having run into issues with the policy while working on hosting events such as the ‘dormal’.
Sprung also plans to advocate for smaller communities for students to meet each other besides Living Learning Communities, since they require students to take specific courses. “There has to be some type of smaller level association than a quad in your respective dorm,” Sprung said. “You can’t go to 450 people and find something directly in common with them.”
Sprung’s campaign platform also calls for DSG transparency. Since he is not currently a member of DSG, he feels “it’s valuable to have someone looking from the outside in. I feel like I’m representative of the average student and I carry their perspective in that regard.”
If elected, he hopes to have regularly scheduled office hours where students can talk to the president about relevant issues. He also hopes to update the DSG website which “is outdated,” according to Sprung. Moreover, he hopes to make the weekly DSG Senate meeting accessible to the broader student population.
Sprung also plans to find spaces on campus to host social events, the core tenet of this being Central Campus, which is not currently in use by Duke. Because Sprung was a part of selective living group Cooper House, he feels strongly about the push of SLGs off-campus.
“It’s crazy that now administration thinks a better solution is to throw all the selective groups off campus that host events, and then have them throw [parties] in a barn in rural North Carolina, and that's a better solution than somehow having a safe space on campus. That is not harm reduction. That is not in any way student-facing,” Sprung said. “You shouldn't face a situation where if your phone dies in a barn in North Carolina, because you want to have a fun social experience, that you're going to literally have to walk 10 miles home or sleep in a bush.”
Sprung also hopes to advocate for affinity spaces in the Bryan Center, which have been replaced by the Career Center and moved to the second floor.
Sprung said that “the answer [to change] is not to give up. The answer is to go to the students, do town halls, write op-eds in The Chronicle. Get the voice and perspective out there.”
“Not to be cliche, but I love Duke. And I put so many hours of free labor into administrative work and other things to try and make the school a better place,” Sprung said. “I guess this is just the next step. I want to make sure that the issues that I really feel are critical to the success and health of future students in the school are being put in place.”
Nicholas Chrapliwy, Trinity ‘22 and Quad Identity Team director, spoke to Sprung’s ability to be an effective president.
“Since the very beginning, he has demonstrated an unparalleled grasp of the Duke landscape and how this institution measures up to our peers in the wider world of higher education. He’s one of the rare undergraduates capable of looking at Duke from a ten thousand foot view while also seeing it up close as a student himself,” Chrapliwy wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “No other student at Duke combines so much breadth of institutional knowledge with the leadership abilities to create real change in the way we do things.”
Junior Ray Lennon, who met Sprung in his first week at Duke when they sat next to each other in Marketplace, wrote, “I’ve witnessed him serve as a leader personally, academically and in his countless extracurricular involvements.”
“Even among the peers I’ve met at Duke, Robert stands alone as the most driven and passionate. Anyone who has met him can attest to his relentless commitment to his Duke communities and his enthusiasm for campus events,” he added.
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