News & Notes: Eisgruber, Lempert discuss town-gown interests in public meeting| Nov 15, 2016
University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, and members of the Princeton Council met to discuss town-gown interests in the fourth annual public meeting between the town and the University.
According to Eisgruber, the University and the town share several commitments including civil liberties, civil exchange, respect for all people, and the importance of education.
The University and the town were recently involved in a lawsuit over properties the University owned that were tax-exempt under the University’s nonprofit status. The University’s voluntary tax contributions and tax payments to the town were discussed at the meeting, according to a University press release. These included a $2.97 million voluntary payment to the town, $9.12 million in property taxes, and other contributions such as 65 affordable housing units available to town members and “ongoing contributions to municipal police, fire and emergency services, including $500,000 toward the construction of a new headquarters for the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad.”
The group discussed socioeconomic diversity at the University, with council members showing approval of the University’s efforts. Twenty-one percent of the University’s incoming class is eligible to receive federal Pell Grants for low-income students. Twelve years ago, this number was around 7 percent.
“[University students I met over the summer] were the first ones in their families to go to college. They shared how their families had no money and how [attending Princeton] is one of the greatest opportunities they have ever received,” Lance Liverman, a Council member, said to the University’s Office of Communications.
However, most of the discussion focused on three main areas — entrepreneurship, the University’s 2026 Campus Plan, and police practices.
Eisgruber said that he was open to exploring ideas to encourage University alumni to base their entrepreneurial ventures in office or research space in town and to allow the University’s entrepreneurial education activities to focus on the community’s needs.
“[I would] appreciate the town’s support of the basic proposition that these entrepreneurship ventures, and this work to develop an innovation ecosystem around us, is something that is consistent not only with the town’s aspirations but with the basic nonprofit mission of Princeton as a research university,” Eisgruber added at the meeting.
The University’s 2026 Campus Plan is based on two planning horizons — a 10 year horizon for near-term growth, and a 30 year horizon for a “broader strategy” of campus development.
When residents of Springdale Road asked about plans for the Springdale Golf Course Land, Eisgruber said the the University was exploring several possible uses of the land to further the University’s educational and research mission.
“In terms of longer-term options, there are possibilities the University has to keep in mind. But I don’t expect to move on the golf course during my time as president,” he added.
In terms of police matters, Eisgruber raised questions about town police practices regarding handcuffing people served warrants for unpaid parking tickets, in an allusion to University Professor Imani Perry’s arrest earlier this year.
Eisgruber said that people’s differing interpretations of their encounters with the police add “complexities [to] the story [even] when we have a good person in Professor Perry and a good town and a good police force.”
He added that he empathized with Perry, and also respected Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter and the rest of the town police force. Eisgruber also agreed to help pay for the cost of body cameras for town police officers if the town thought the cameras were desirable.
“We have to work through tough issues, and, as we have acknowledged in the past, there will be frictions between our University and our town. But [we work] from a common core of values where the University has to be willing to help the town and the town has to be willing to help the University. We did grow up together and we will continue to grow together,” Eisgruber said to the Office of Communications.
The meeting took place at the Monument Hall on Nov. 9.