My name is Tommy Hessel and I’m from Dallas, Texas. Here at Duke, I’m a computer science major and I’ve served on the DSG Campus Life committee for the past three years––my first two as a senator, and this year as Vice President. I am excited to be running for DSG President and working with you to leave Duke a better place than we found it.
In the past three years, I’ve been able to make small but meaningful changes to make Duke more accessible and equitable, such as establishing a photo database of first-year dorm rooms, expanding living-learning communities on West Campus, and assisting with the creation of DukeHub 2.0. However, my time in DSG would be incomplete if Duke isn’t pushed to think critically about the way it communicates with, represents, and serves its student body. Next year, I will focus on democratizing Duke, supporting all students beginning the day they are accepted, and working to ensure that Duke is a sustainable steward of its resources.
I invite you all to read through my platform and policy proposals and am excited to hear your suggestions, questions, and feedback. I can’t wait to meet y’all over the next few weeks and hear from you about how we can work together to build a more equitable Duke.
DSG can be isolated from the rest of campus. As your DSG President, I will institute a President’s Roundtable designed to bring together a wide variety of student voices from every corner of the university. The initiative will facilitate campus conversations between student leaders, groups, and administrators. With this direct line of communication between important stakeholders, we can all begin to make Duke a more equitable place for everyone.
Our campaign is committed to ensuring that students feel supported all the way from O-Week to graduation. This includes creating intentional, institutional programming to build a stronger community on West Campus like the creation of a sophomore pre-semester program or Fall Break trip. I will also work to create a fall semester junior class event meant to connect juniors who have stayed on campus instead of going abroad. I will work to make sure our commitment to community across all years is as serious as we claim it to be.
With over 300 student organizations on campus, DSG and Duke can be more supportive of organizations independent from existing SOFC funds. As the Vice President of Campus Life, I have been working on a project that will allow students and student groups to fund their ideas and programming using the Duke network of students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni. I will continue my history of bringing relevant stakeholders together to support student groups.
About 48% of undergraduate women and 14% of undergraduate men have experienced sexual assault as Duke students. These percentages are appalling. This past year, I worked closely with a senator in my committee, Omar Benallal, to build a framework for a Peer Sexual Assault Advisor program where trained peers offer support for those affected. As your DSG President, I will continue my commitment to this program while seeking to create new avenues for Duke students to be supportive of their peers in similarly difficult situations.
Our campaign is committed to strengthening community on campus so that everyone can make Duke their home. As your DSG President, I will work to institute an independent programming fund that would give independent students greater access to plan events and rent on-campus venues. I will explore creative ways for students to better interact with the amazing faculty on campus. Both of these initiatives are oriented towards strengthening the community so many people need on campus.
One of the reasons I was able to quickly find my communities here was because Duke has dedicated lots of space and resources for people like me. However, that is not the case for many minority student groups on campus. The work of groups like Duke L1FE, Native American Student Alliance, and SWIRL have paved the way for vocalizing the need for dedicated student spaces for community building and activism. Everyone deserves their space on campus and I will fight to make sure students feel like they have a place they can call home.
I often hear complaints that DSG is disconnected from the students they represent, and I agree. As DSG President, I will formalize a program I have instituted in my own committee: that all project work goes through at least two relevant student groups during its initial stages. Additionally, I will work with senators to create a new platform to increase project transparency and solicit more streamlined feedback. DSG needs to change. Together, we can work to make it the governing body we need for a better Duke.
As your DSG President, I will urge members of Duke’s administration to hold more regular office hours where students can directly voice their concerns to the people who make the university’s most important decisions. Additionally, I will invite administrators to the President’s Roundtable to give students direct access to administrators that have control over their specific concerns. We are committed to increasing student access to those with institutional power.
My past two years on the Campus Sustainability Committee committee have shown me that Duke understands the importance of sustainability. However, there is still a lot of room to go to make Duke a more sustainable place. As your DSG President, I would push DSG and Duke administration to increase its buy-in for existing environmental programs. Looking beyond our campus, I will support senators in their efforts to encourage Duke and Durham.