Over the last several decades, Princeton has become a more diverse place, matriculating a student body that includes women, students from diverse cultural backgrounds and students with a wide array of socioeconomic experiences. As Princeton has diversified its student body, it has made steps to become more inclusive. The University strives to be a welcoming community for all students and to provide all students with the resources that will help them succeed, regardless of their background, interests and needs. To this end, several centers that provide resources to specific groups of students have been created, including the Women’s Center, the International Center and, most recently, the LGBT Center. However, one growing voice in the student body has not been represented: first-generation college students. The Editorial Board believes more could be done to support first-generation students on campus and advocates for the creation of a First Generation Center.
Last spring, 13.8 percent of students offered admission to the University would be the first in their families to attend college. It is a testament to the efforts of our Offices of Admission and Financial Aid that more students from first-generation and low-income backgrounds have the opportunity to attend Princeton. However, this is not enough. First-generation students often face unique challenges when arriving at college. Beyond this, unlike many of their peers, they may not have the same access to advice and support from their families, simply because their parents cannot relate to their college experience. This can put first-generation students at a disadvantage in making important decisions such as selecting courses, searching for summer internships and seeking post-graduation opportunities.
Creating a center for first-generation students would allow the University to organize many pertinent resources in one easily accessible location. The Center would provide opportunities for students to meet and share their experiences with other students from similar backgrounds, providing a support network for their time at and after Princeton. It would also provide resources and advising that would help first-generation students. This could include academic support and advising as well as assistance in searches for jobs and internships, with which many students receive informal help from their parents and families.
The Board believes that the ideal location for the center would be Frist Campus Center — the location of the Women’s Center and the LGBT Center. Being in such a neutral and central location, helps to eliminate concerns that such a center would have the isolating effect of the old “Third World Center.” Because students go to Frist frequently, they would have exposure and easy access to the Center.
Creating a center would also bring more awareness to the challenges faced by first-generation students. A center would help increase the dialogue surrounding class and socioeconomic background on campus. In addition, it would bring more understanding of the issue to campus leaders such as residential college advisers. During training, RCAs listen to presentations from various groups and centers on campus, including the Fields Center, the Women’s Center and the LGBT Center. Each group explains their mission and the resources they can provide to students. If there was a centralized resource for first-generation students, RCAs could learn more about the challenges that first-generation students face, how to support them and what resources are available to them.
Princeton is no longer the homogeneous community it was only decades ago. While the University has played a commendable role in making that possible, it is important that the University uses its resources to support the needs of all members of a diverse student body. Creating a First Generation Center for students who are the first in their family to attend college or are from low-income backgrounds is an important step toward a more inclusive and supportive Princeton.
Zach Horton '15 and James Haynes '18 dissent.
TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinionsseparately from the regular staff and editors of the ‘Prince.’ The Board answers only to its chair, the opinion editor and the editor-in-chief.