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The Daily Tar Heel

Congress Forum Aims to Boost Dialogue

Planners say the forum -- the first organized by Congress members in recent years -- is designed to keep students aware of and involved with campus issues.

Carey Richter, student affairs committee chairwoman for Congress, said she and Speaker Tony Larson drafted a resolution to form the committee that will plan the event.

The resolution passed in Congress last week.

Richter said the forum will take place sometime before the end of the semester.

She said she envisions the Fall Forum as a chance for Student Congress members to inform the student body of what Congress does.

It will also facilitate open discussion about issues on campus and alert Congress to students' concerns.

The Fall Forum is being planned by a committee of eight students, five of whom are Congress representatives -- including the two co-chairmen, Alak Shah and Margaret Thomas.

Student Body President Jen Daum will name two additional representatives from the executive branch, and Branson Page, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, also will appoint a graduate student representative.

"Hopefully, student attendance will be very high," Richter said.

The committee will now start working to determine what issues are important to students by conducting research and handing out surveys.

Because Student Congress appropriates money to student groups, it's important to know what programs students think are important, Richter said.

Thomas said the committee also will contact some campus organizations to determine discussion topics that interest these groups.

Committee members hope to invite administrators, faculty and other University community members who will be able to respond to those particular student concerns.

Thomas said the main goal of the Fall Forum is to gather student input on ongoing issues -- one of which she said she hopes will be safety -- and to put students in contact with people who can help resolve them.

Danielle DeSimone, a committee member representing Student Congress, said the Fall Forum should give Congress members an idea of what really matters to students.

DeSimone said she hopes the Fall Forum will help Student Congress focus on specific student concerns well after event. "As representatives of Congress, we are representatives of our constituencies," she said. "Congress isn't really clear on what students want us to do."

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