Undergraduate Student Government presidential candidate Ella Cheng ’16 wants to expand student outreach and communications and shift the USG’s focus from programming to policymaking.
“I’m one of the few members on USG that actually has a critical and reflective eye on USG, and I’ve seen that we’ve had a lot of successes, but we’ve also had a lot of shortcomings,” Cheng said. “I feel like since the time I’ve entered USG, I still get the same amount of ‘What does USG do?’ and ‘Does USG actually do anything at all?’ —those types of comments —that I did before.”
Cheng, who currently serves as University Student Life Committee chair, cited her record of execution when talking about her commitment to restructuring USG in order to encourage student feedback and promote transparency.
Cheng is also a former staff writer for The Daily Princetonian.
“The issue I noticed with a lot of USG candidates running is that we always have a bunch of good ideas, but no one really talks about how to make those ideas happen,” Cheng said. “I’m one of the USG members who has really thought about execution —who has a record of execution to back up all the projects that I think we should be doing and the ideas that I have.”
Some of the projects she executed, she noted, included trying to revive the campus pub and providing grocery services for students on an independent meal plan. She also noted that she has led over 20 projects that involved committees of at least 13 people.
Cheng explained that one of her priorities is pivoting from programming-based to policy-based projects.Programming refers to shorter-term initiatives focused around student life, such as Restaurant Week, while policymaking focuses on longer-term goals, such as financial aid.
“I saw that we still had a lot of potential that still needed to be tapped into, and we really needed to also focus on more long-term policy-oriented projects that would affect more students than our projects currently do,” Cheng said.
Cheng noted, for example, that she wants to continue USG’s current work in establishing a Low Income Activities Fund, explaining that activities such as the Pace Center's Breakout trips promise to be fully subsidized for low-income students but are not always able to raise the necessary funds. As part of the fund, she said, USG would provide full funding to students with financial needs.
Cheng said she plans to expand USG’s communication with students, explaining that there is currently not much transparency about the status of USG projects. She wants to post regular project updates on the USG website.
Furthermore, she said, she intends to overhaul the USG communications system.
“No one visits our website, we only have 1,300 people on our Facebook page and we don’t have an active Twitter either," Cheng said. "I want to make sure that we have a website that is engaging.”
Cheng said that she wants to create infographics about policies such as sexual misconduct and mental health in order to more concisely and creatively inform students of policy changes and important timelines.
She said she wants to increase the number of eating club nights that are PUID-accessible, improve the quality of common spaces in residential areas, make late meal available for upperclassmen and help campus groups advocate for funding.
Lastly, Cheng said she disagrees with the current timeline for USG projects, in which USG decides all its projects for the upcoming year in February after elections without any obligation to reach out to students for their opinions.
“I think we should instead be really reaching out to students throughout the year besides just the election cycle to make sure that we’re on point with the projects that we’re doing and that we’re actually executing them well and being held accountable to them,” Cheng said.
Deana Davoudiasl ’16, a former Class of 2015 senator who worked with Cheng on the USG summer storage initiative in 2013, endorsed her abilities as a leader.
“[Ella] is always two steps ahead of the game. She has great leadership skills, is highly, highly, highly organized and truthfully wants to make change for USG,” Davoudiasl said. “She has run the USLC, which has essentially been a mini-USG, and she has already demonstrated her capabilities by pushing and executing projects.”
U-Councilor Jacob Cannon ’17 also endorsed Cheng as a hardworking and caring leader.
“I think she’s someone who cares about this campus and the people on it, and she’s not there to seek recognition; she’s there to make the campus a better place for those on it,” Cannon said.
Outside of her work on USG, Cheng serves as International Relations Council vice president and is director of communications and web development for Princeton Business Volunteers. In her free time, she enjoys watching cartoons and has a secret passion for dance and choreography.
Cheng is a Wilson School major from New York.