DSG’s Durham Community Affairs Committee proposes projects and establishes accountability mechanisms for progress

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The Duke Student Government’s Durham Community Affairs Committee met almost Saturday afternoon to discuss project proposals for the coming year.

Three Senators began by submitting a proposed website called “Ppping the Duke Bubble”. The project team included junior Rhea Tejwani and early years Mick Tobin and Chloe Decker.

Tejwani described the site as a “one-stop-shop” where Duke students can easily access information regarding Durham restaurants, service opportunities, community events and history. Senators who work on the website hope the initiative will inspire students to explore life off campus.

Tejwani laid out plans to improve the aesthetic appearance of the site, create a more user-friendly interface, and ensure all posts were as up-to-date as possible amid the ever-changing COVID-19 regulations.

Next, Decker and First Year Senators Kulsoom Rizavi and Emma Zubak presented their vision for a DCA “PLUNCH” program. Similar to Duke’s FLUNCH program, PLUNCH would allow students to invite a local politician or community leader over for a meal.

Rizavi highlighted the potential of the PLUNCH project to create safe spaces by connecting students with members of marginalized communities they may not have access to on campus. The initiative would involve cooperation with several academic organizations, including the Duke Partnership for Service, the Office of Undergraduate Education and various multicultural groups on campus.

Next, first-year Senator Jazper Lu presented his vision for a more accessible public transport system. After describing the lack of efficient public transportation as a physical barrier to integrating students into the Durham community, he proposed a shuttle system that would operate on Saturdays and during special events, such as holiday festivals. .

Lu specifically mentioned stimulus programs such as the Bull City Connector, a free bus that ran between East Campus and downtown Durham from 2010 to 2019, and a Duke-Durham Lyft commute program. The first would require an investment of $ 350,000 from the university, Lu said.

After Lu’s presentation, Alex Leo-Guerra, a junior, discussed his hopes to connect Duke and Durham by encouraging students to support local restaurants. He believes this initiative could help foster a sense of connection between business owners and the student body.

Together with junior Drew Flanagan, chair of the student organizations finance committee, Leo-Guerra presented his initiative to expand the food outlets system to nearby restaurants. Students would pay using their DukeCards – just like they do at Brodhead Center vendors – and economically support businesses that have now withstood eighteen months of pandemic-related restrictions.

Tobin and first-year Senator Carson Carranza outlined their plans to institute a Duke Day of Service. By reaching out to local voluntary organizations and creating sign-up sheets and online promotions, they hope to recruit large numbers of students to engage with Durham productively.

Tobin had no doubts about the students’ motivation to get involved. “I haven’t really met a Duke student who doesn’t care about the community,” he said.

Finally, Carranza presented his plan to connect Duke students with Reach Out and Read, a nonprofit organization linked to the School of Medicine. Although Durham Public Schools are currently closed to volunteers due to the pandemic, Carranza plans to start a book drive after the winter break.

DCA Vice President Swetha Rajagopal, a junior, facilitated the meeting via Zoom. She concluded the meeting with a reminder of the accountability measures in place for senators.

DCA members should submit their project proposals with an internal accountability worksheet. They should also be in constant communication with the Accountability Ombudsman, Zac Johnson. Weekly Committee meetings serve as a checkpoint to ensure that Senators are progressing with their projects.

Editor’s Note: Jazper Lu is a contributing reporter for The Chronicle. Alex Leo-Guerra is a Recess reporter contributing to The Chronicle. They were not involved in the writing, editing or publishing of this story.


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