Members of the Undergraduate Student Government discussed strategies for increasing the representation of women in USG and strengthening communication between officers and students in the weekly Senate meeting Sunday.
Discussion revolved around both the lack of women running for elected positions in USG and the low number of female members currently in USG. Senator Danny Johnson '15 said that the problem is less gender-specific than it is an issue of getting people to run in general. Johnson is a senior writer for The Daily Princetonian.
“Getting as many people to run as possible would improve the political atmosphere,” he said.
The Daily Princetonian ran an article exploring the issue of gender at the USG last week. The article showed that only 37 percent of the USG senate is female.
Others, including U-Council member Mallory Banks '16 and chief election manager Amara Nnaeto '17 remained on the topic of gender inequality in the Senate, with several members agreeing that hearing about personal experiences of women officers would be helpful for potential female candidates.
U-Coucillor Dallas Nan '16 suggested hosting dinners with USG officers targeted at interested students as a way to build confidence for campaigns. He said that he believes there is already a good amount of diversity in USG, and members should sign up to facilitate dinners for candidates with similar backgrounds.
U-Council member Sol Taubin '16 suggested a similar method of interaction, specifically the use of joint leadership forums among different student groups on campus.
This proposal received general approval, but U-Council member Mallory Banks ’16 raised a concern about stereotyping candidates in the process.
“You don’t want to reduce people down to just gender, just race. We have to do this very tastefully,” Banks said. She also said that there should not be any pressure on women to run just because they are women.
Chief election manager Amara Nnaeto '17 suggested increasing the communication between students interested in campaigning and current officers so that students interested in campaigning would be more cognizant of what their desired position entails. In response to a concern of Kishan Bhatt '17 that these leadership efforts could help incumbents, USG president Shawon Jackson ’15 said that officers who are seniors should generally be leading such discussions and workshops because they would not be competing for USG positions in the future. He added, however, that younger USG members may facilitate leadership conversations if they have a truly thorough knowledge of their position, and can convey their role to others well.
At the conclusion of the discussion, the USG agreed that generally increasing the pool of candidates would be an important goal, especially to candidates who had no previous student government experience.
“Whatever idea we decide to do, we really need to push that we want new faces, we want new people,” Senator Mariana Bagneris ’15 said. “Those who had no experience in high school, those might be the most effective people.”
Taubin raised the point that candidates with no experience would likely be very hesitant about running, especially against opponents who were already involved in USG. She explained that they might think they do not have enough legitimacy on their platform.
However, she noted that a potential solution to the problem of inexperience would be to show significant USG involvement on campus. Showing up to the Senate several times or attending multiple leadership forums would both demonstrate interest on a candidate’s part and give the candidate an idea of how USG works, Taubin said.
Further issues addressed in the meeting were potential student get-togethers over fall and Thanksgiving breaks, as well as an update to the Student Events Calendar.