Corrected referendum results show greater discontent
The new results show that 45 percent of undergraduates approve or strongly approve of “the way top-level administrators ... have been running Princeton,” as opposed to the 68 percent initially reported. While the earlier results had shown that 986 students “strongly approve” of administrators’ actions, the corrected data shows that only 89 students strongly approve.
The correct data is more consistent with student responses to the same questions last spring. That survey found that 43.6 percent of the nearly 1,900 students who participated approved or strongly approved of top University administrators’ actions.
The original results also stated that 51 percent of students linked administrators’ “major decisions” to “an improvement in the overall quality of student life at Princeton.” The corrected data shows, however, that 34 percent of students believe this to be the case, compared to 21 percent last year.
Similarly, 22 percent of respondents said they felt administrators listened to student input when “creating substantial campus policies,” as opposed to the 75 percent previously reported. Last year, 18 percent of respondents said they thought the administration listened to student concerns.
Kyle Smith ’09, who first submitted the referendum last spring, questioned the accuracy of the initial results when they were released two weeks ago. A subsequent investigation revealed that an error in ballot formatting had resulted in the incorrect tabulation of student responses.
The verified results for both years show a marked difference in underclassmen’s perception of the administration compared to those of juniors and seniors. Responses to the three questions indicate that students become more critical of University administrators during their four years on campus.
“As people move through Princeton, there is a similar dynamic of increasing disapproval of the administration,” Smith said, noting that if the data for each respective class is compared to the data it submitted last year, the approval rate of the administration steadily drops.
“I am, of course, disappointed at the new results of the referendum. I much preferred the previous results!” President Tilghman said in an e-mail, referring to the data released on May 1.
“I certainly feel we get a great deal of student input from many quarters — from meetings with the USG and [the Graduate Student Government], the Priorities Committee, the Undergraduate Student Life Committee, the residential college councils, the presidents of the ICC, Varsity Student Athletic Advisory Council — just to name a few,” she said. “In those venues student opinion is both heard and important to the deliberations. I am sure we could do more.”
Smith acknowledged that the University seems to be doing more to increase student input compared to past years, adding that this might be the reason for the slight increase in the number of students who said they believe the administration listens to student opinions compared to last year.
“I have seen the administration trying to solicit more student input on campus policy over the past year,” Smith said, citing groups such as the Alcohol Coalition Committee. He added, however, that if students don’t feel like they are being listened to, they are less likely to participate in such groups and less likely to voice their input, which creates a “downward spiral.”
Election software reform
USG information technology chairman Michael Yaroshefsky ’12 said in an e-mail that the USG and the Office of Information Technology have plans to develop a new elections system.
“Many of the complications that have plagued past elections could have been prevented had there been a robust elections management system in place,” he said. “The recently discovered errors with past elections have made it clear that developing a new elections system isn’t just prudent; it is imperative.”
Yaroshefsky estimated the project would cost between $7,500 and $15,000 and take one to two months to develop, adding that the expected 10-year lifetime of the system would cover 30 scheduled elections.
“This works out to be between $250 and $500 per election, which is about the cost of a study break,” he said, adding that it would be “ideal” to have the new system in place for the Class of 2013 elections next fall.