The first issue is how college council members are chosen. Currently, the staffs of most of the residential colleges appoint the council members. We believe this system should be replaced, across the colleges, by an electoral system, with students electing each member. Such a system would be an improvement over the current system for several reasons. First, in giving students a say in their council leadership, students will feel a greater connection to the council and thus be more likely to participate in the college events. Second, students are more likely than college administrators to know which students would best serve their interests as leaders of the residential colleges, especially if these elections occur after first semester of freshman year. Furthermore, each council should have at least one upperclassman representative, even if it is a two-year college. This student would give upperclassmen a voice and provide insight into how to better engage upperclassmen within the college.
Another issue is that upperclassmen often feel disengaged from their residential colleges. While both two-year and four-year colleges make attempts to involve upperclassmen, they are not always successful. Each college needs to make a greater effort to involve upperclassmen. Events that involve upperclassmen should focus not only on bringing upperclassmen to the college (such as for a College Night dinner or upperclassman study break), but also on connecting students from different class years. Upperclassmen should still receive residential college gear and be invited on college trips with the underclassmen.
Upperclassman study breaks are also problematic. Because these study breaks often feature wine and beer, upperclassmen who are under 21 are unable to attend these events depending on the residential college. Residential colleges with this policy, like Butler, should institute a wristband system so that younger upperclassmen can still attend.
Finally, the system for awarding seniors their diplomas should be revised. Currently, seniors living in a different residential college their junior or senior years must go to that college to receive their diplomas. This is problematic for those students who have a strong connection to their original college, where they made many of their earliest and strongest Princeton friendships. Seniors should be allowed to receive their diploma from the residential college that they belonged to their freshman and sophomore years, if they so choose.
There is little question that the residential college system has changed Princeton for the better — but this does not mean that it is perfect. There are several improvements that should be made to make the system better. Along with better engaging upperclassmen, standardization should occur across the colleges in regard to their policies and funding. With a new president arriving next year, it is the perfect time to start thinking about how we can improve this system that is integral to the Princeton experience.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/22/31594/