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Candidates square-off in DSG debate [With Video]

(03/26/09 7:00am)

The four candidates for Duke Student Government president faced off in a debate Wednesday night to discuss hot-button topics for this year's DSG elections.The presidential debate drew approximately 60 students to the Great Hall as juniors Chelsea Goldstein, Kousha Navidar, Awa Nur and sophomore Mike Lefevre all jockeyed for votes and spoke to why they are the best candidate to represent the student body. "It's not so much that DSG has lost touch with its vision. It's that we propose ideas that make us look good in The Chronicle but that do not actually do anything effective," said Nur, currently DSG's chief of staff. "Sometimes the DSG president is so out of touch with campus that you're not even a Duke student anymore." The debate was moderated by junior John Harpham, chair of The Chronicle's independent Editorial Board. Candidates delivered opening and closing statements and answered five questions, as well as one candidate-specific question. Soliciting more student input and returning to a model of student government that effectively lobbies for undergraduate interests-particularly in light of the current economic climate-emerged as a recurring theme throughout the night. "There is a large population at Duke that feels like they don't have a voice in DSG, that it is insular, that it works without student input," said Navidar, currently DSG's director of student services. "I've been in DSG for two years, and I've seen how amazing it can be. We need to open that up to students." All four candidates said they would fight to keep vital student services while exercising a pragmatic approach to the office."We need to keep in mind that DSG is not going to make sweeping changes in one year. The incremental changes are what matter," said Goldstein, currently DSG's vice president for academic affairs. To that end, she pointed out the need to improve the current method of funding student groups and ensuring that DSG is fiscally responsible. Presented with a hypothetical scenario in which they had to choose between cutting Counseling and Psychological Services, admitted students' recruitment weekend or Last Day of Classes festivities, the presidential hopefuls all nixed LDOC. The candidates, however, said the key to avoiding a decline in the quality of student life was being innovative and creative in DSG's approach to the recession. "The biggest challenge we face next year is the word 'no.' It's a word that we've started to see with administrators this year," said Lefevre, currently DSG's vice president for athletics and campus services. "If we really have to choose in the face of troubled economic times, let's make sure we maintain the status quo. Let's make sure we don't undo what we've already accomplished." In addition, campus culture arose as an arena in which the candidates could differentiate themselves. Among the ideas suggested by the candidates for consideration, Nur stressed the need to allot space for sororities; Goldstein spoke of the need to address socioeconomic and racial divides in residential spaces; Navidar urged increased dialogue on campus; and Lefevre emphasized protecting students' rights. The candidates also strove to stand out from the pack by virtue of their distinct professional and personal experiences as well as their commitment to the student body.Click here to visit our brand new video section. It has videos of each candidate's opening and closing statements, as well as their answers to the eight general and one specific question asked. Also be sure to check out our top editors' analysis of the debate, embedded below for your convenience.

No city is an island

(02/17/09 9:00am)

It's in the papers everyday and broadcast over the airwaves minute-by-minute. There's no escaping it. The recession is in full force, trickling from Wall Street to Main Street, with no indication that the economic turmoil is going to let up anytime soon. But the Bull City is a place that prides itself on its grit and fortitude. While the rest of the country is bending under the downturn's formidable will, Durham residents and officials said they are more than prepared to withstand the storm-and emerge as survivors.