DSG candidates speak at presidential debate about aspirations for role

Juniors Teddy Hur, Heather Raslan and Emily Yagoda spoke about the experiences and changes they would bring if elected as Duke Student Government president at a debate Thursday evening. 

DSG and Duke University Union hosted the open forum, which was moderated by DSG Attorney General Annie Cui, a senior. 

The structure of the debate consisted of two main sessions. The first session featured questions sourced from a survey sent to all students and selected by the DSG Board of Elections prior to the debate, while the second session consisted of selected questions from the audience. 

Why they’re running

Each candidate gave a general outline for their campaign in their opening statements.

Raslan, who helped develop the Blue Devil Bridges program and improve Blue Devil Buddies as DSG’s current vice president of academic affairs, hopes to prioritize student mentorship and be a resource for all students, drawing from her involvement in the Duke Arab Student Organization, Greek life, academic clubs and volunteering organizations. 

Hur introduced his diverse involvements in many different organizations such as Greek life and DukeLIFE, citing the need to build bridges across seemingly unrelated student communities. His experience as a low-income, first-generation student in Greek life opened his eyes to the disconnect found amongst various pockets of students. 

Yagoda aims to advocate for the Pratt School of Engineering, recalling an instance where limited Engineering Student Government funding resulted in turning away a fellow student from an event. She hopes to integrate her experience as an ESG member with the broader Duke community to increase the scope of student collaboration.  

Candidates’ platforms

Candidates discussed their involvements on campus that have informed their perspective on student groups and their future visions for DSG, including how they hope to move diversity and inclusivity efforts forward in DSG. 

Yagoda mentioned the overall lack of representation in DSG for several of her main involvements in Pratt and athletics. She highlighted her vision based on three main pillars — connect, empower and transform — in an overarching effort to “hear and amplify student voices and bring the community together.” 

On the other hand, Raslan argued that it is also important to “[bring] together the groups that [they are] not part of.”

“It’s easy for me to go and sit in a room and represent the spaces that I already belong to … I think that partnership is not just about showing up,” Raslan said. “But it’s being in a space and thinking about who should be a part of this conversation, and who isn't, and inviting those people to come and speak.”

Hur says that his Duke experience is “defined by contrast” through his involvement in both DukeLIFE and Greek life, and he hopes to help other student organizations “[build] their own communities” if elected. He envisions DSG as a space where “different worlds [collide]” as students from different organizations work to create “a sense of unity.” 

Yagoda discussed her work to help add the DEI position to ESG this year and her experience in leading conversations for what the position would look like. 

“Let’s not just listen to the diverse groups on campus, let’s empower them so that their voices matter and that the students they represent come,” Yagoda said. 

Raslan aims to ensure that all students feel supported and safe in having a voice on campus and emphasizes that it is not DSG's responsibility to take a stance for what is right and wrong, adding that she believes all Duke students agree that “we all deserve to be heard and feel safe,” even if they have different opinions on issues. 

Likewise, Hur emphasized the “ability to have a civil discourse.” He believes that the DSG president should be a figurehead that is able to facilitate disagreements. 

Yagoda proposes the idea of inviting leaders and students with diverse perspectives regarding the issue to a larger conversation such that “everybody can be informed on the issue.”

For improving social culture divisions on and off-campus, the candidates shared significant concerns for safety and lack of inclusivity of off-campus events and highlighted the great potential of QuadEX and Central Campus for expanding space to host events. 

Hur proposed moving unsafe off-campus events to Central Campus with general efforts to take “gradual steps towards bringing things back on campus.”

“Just because we have groups that are unaffiliated, it doesn’t mean that those students don’t get to feel supported by Duke and have opportunities to enjoy themselves on Duke’s campus,” Raslan said. 

Yagoda proposed revitalizing old traditions like spring and fall festivals and the potential for collaboration of off-campus events with Duke EMS to improve safety and help “students better connect and help each other.” 

Raslan noted that there are “limitations to what can be done” and proposed increased collaboration with on campus organizations like SHAPE and the Student Wellness Center. 

Candidates shared their visions and advocacy for DSG engagement with the Durham community. 

Hur’s experience coaching local youth basketball in Durham through Coach2Inspire opened his eyes to the Durham community, and he hopes to engage in work “bridging the gap” between Duke and Durham. 

Raslan discussed key takeaways from hearing from Durham mayor Leonardo Williams at his talk with DSG senators Wednesday evening. 

“[Williams] made the point that even when students propose an idea that they think is good, there are consequences that it can have on the Durham community that we’re not aware of,” Raslan said. “And so it’s not only about interacting, but it’s about interacting very intentionally and also hearing what they want from us, not just thinking about what we want from our interaction with them.”

Yagoda emphasized the importance of flipped partnerships and resources for volunteer opportunities to give back. From athletes giving back in either sports clinics to Duke students meeting with local high school students, Yagoda proposes the idea of “[bringing] ourselves, our ideas, our attitudes, and our knowledge back to the Durham community.”

Amy Guan | Senior Editor

Amy Guan is a Pratt senior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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