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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC, Duke student government officers share policy ideas

Although UNC and Duke might be intense rivals on the basketball court, the student governments from both schools have been collaborating and sharing policy ideas.

Representatives from each student government have met twice this year. They discussed structural approaches to student governance last fall and campus-specific policies last month.

Patrick Oathout, a senator on the athletics, services and the environment committee in Duke’s student government, said he initiated these meetings by corresponding with officers in the executive branch of UNC’s student government via email.

“I realized it was extremely important to have a relationship with your counterpart peer,” Oathout said. “We would be missing an opportunity if we didn’t work with our neighbors down the street.”

UNC Student Body President Mary Cooper described the meetings as an opportunity to discuss best practices and their feasibility on either campus.

“It’s just a chance to get to know each other, to see if there are ways for us to collaborate and share ideas of what works well,” she said.

At the second meeting between the schools, Oathout discovered UNC’s Fix My Campus, Fix My Room and Fix My Town programs, which allow students to report problems and submit input to student representatives and University staff.

Oathout then worked with two other Duke students, Michael Habashi and Brett Dinner, to develop their own Fix My Campus initiative at Duke. Rather than adopt UNC’s model of sending responses to a representative, they created a computer program to gather responses and place them on a timeline.

Student governments across the UNC system also work together in various ways. UNC’s student government attends monthly meetings with the UNC-system Association of Student Governments, which is funded by a $1 annual student fee.

T.J. Eaves, student body president at Western Carolina University, said the process of sharing ideas reaps benefits.

“People have great ideas,” Eaves said. “It’s just nice to, I guess, steal them — willingly, of course.”

Duke might be viewed as UNC’s polar opposite in every way, but Oathout said the student governments at both institutions engage in a healthy rivalry.

“In borrowing policy ideas from each other we kind of want to do them better than the other school, he said. “But the competition leads to better projects in the long run. It’s very friendly competition.”

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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