On Sept. 20, the Undergraduate Student Government’s University Student Life Committee and the Princeton Hidden Minority Council hosted a winter coat giveaway at Campus Club. The USLC had collected between 50 and 60 coats to distribute during the giveaway; however, according to USLC chair Kathy Chow ’17, at least 100 students arrived at Campus Club between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to claim coats. Students reported arriving at Campus Club when the event was scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. to find no coats left for collection. The Editorial Board applauds the organizations and individuals who organized the event for their good intentions and notable effort; however, in light of logistical challenges and demand which outstripped supply, the Board recommends improvements to future winter gear collection and distribution drives. Accordingly, the Board also calls on the University community to contribute to future winter gear collection efforts.
The primary challenge associated with this year’s drive was the lack of supply given the immense demand for coats. An interest form with a mandatory completion requirement to claim a coat would be a good metric to measure demand; however, USG simply gathered coats before the event with no clear estimate of student demand. Now that USG has a more comprehensive notion of demand, it is clear that need among students is such that any subsequent distribution drive should be much larger. To increase the supply of coats, USG should more actively and effectively publicize coat collection initiatives. Chow reported that the coats distributed at this year’s drive were collected last spring; for many, though, it was ambiguous that coats collected during last year’s end-of-year clothing drive would stay within the Princeton community this winter. The Board believes that USG should dedicate additional resources towards emphasizing to students that coats collected will benefit other Princetonians because this creates a unique incentive to donate. USG should take advantage of email listservs, social media, and other platforms to better publicize the drive to the student body. Eating club involvement can be productive as well, especially due to the abundance of unclaimed coats left in club coatrooms during the winter months. Finally, donations should be solicited from students, faculty, and staff alike.
Due to the evident need for coats in the community, the Board believes that a need also exists for other cold weather gear. Accordingly, the Board urges USG to better publicize the need for boots, scarves, gloves, and mittens, in addition to coats. Like coats, these items can be donated by students, faculty and staff; however, the residential colleges are in a unique position to satisfy demand as well. Specifically, residential colleges should consider giving away pragmatic clothing that can be worn as layers to keep students warm during colder months. This year, the Mathey College fall giveaway was a windbreaker-style rain jacket. On stormy days, campus is dotted with students wearing these jackets to stay dry. Other residential colleges should follow suit to alleviate the burden on students to outfit themselves for East Coast weather.
Expansion of the drive to include boots, scarves and other cold weather gear will exacerbate logistical problems unless pragmatic distribution policies are implemented. Following Chow’s recommendations offered at Sunday’s USG meeting, the Board urges the organizers of a future event to seal the room in which gear is located well before the start of the event. Students should be allowed to access the gear in a more organized manner, perhaps by allowing waves of five to 10 students to enter the room on a first-come, first-serve basis. Because it will be impossible to implement these policies before USG has collected sufficient coats for another distribution night, the Board commends Chow and the USLC for attempting to meet short-term demand with an email solicitation and waitlist system.
In conclusion, the Board is strongly in favor of the continuation and expansion of a winter gear drive; however, logistical improvements to distribution procedures are necessary for the drive to fairly and efficiently provide students with coats.
The Editorial Board is an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor and the Editor-in-Chief.