The Undergraduate Student Government discussed the Princeton Private Prison Divestment movement in their weekly meeting on April 2.
Princeton Private Prison Divest representatives Daniel Teehan ’17 and Eliot Callon ’20 presented an update regarding PPPD’s current status. The group recently delivered a divestment proposal to the Council of the Princeton University Community’s Resource Committee that was rejected. This was later followed by a PPPD-led walkout during the CPUC meeting last week, during which President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 noted that the University is not invested in private prisons.
Teehan stated that the proposal was crafted to meet the demands of the Resources Committee, including sustained campus support for the issue and a demonstrated conflict with University values. This included a campus-wide referendum, in which 89 percent of undergraduate and 85 percent of graduate students voted in favor of divestment. The Resources Committee nonetheless reached a consensus that it was planning to reject the proposal and failed to provide a reason with the rejection. According to Teehan, the walkout during the CPUC meeting was a reaction to this decision.
“We led a walkout during the meeting so we could engage with the issue in a way that was truer to our values, and reject the legitimacy of the Resources Committee and the way the University, by extension, had been handling the issue so far,” said Teehan.
Teehan and Callon then opened the floor for questions from the USG Senate.
U-Councilor Olivia Grah ’19 questioned PPPD's decision to conduct the walkout before the question and answer session, in which the Resources Committee did provide reasons for the proposal's rejection. Grah stated that the session would have been an opportunity to engage with the Resources Committee in an environment where they would have been held accountable.
“Were [the committee] to engage in tactics of obstruction..., that would be broadly visible to everyone else attending the meeting,” explained Grah.
Callon replied that the PPPD members had watched the recording of the question and answer session and that they did not consider the reasons given as legitimate reasons to reject the proposal. Callon also upheld the reasoning behind the walkout itself, restating the PPPD's refusal to interact with the Resources Committee. According to Callon, this refusal is the result of over a year of working with the committee, which “very clearly has not engaged themselves fully with our proposal or with anything we say to them in our meetings.”
Class of 2018 Senator Eli Schechner ’18 inquired as to what the PPPD's next steps will be following their rejection of the legitimacy of the Resources Committee.
Teehan explained that action was still necessary to be able to change the way the administration interacts with student movements. Adding to this, he noted that the Resources Committee had originally disallowed a rejected proposal to be submitted again in the same academic year, but due to campus support for the divestment issue, the Committee had since indicated that the policy was to be changed.
Social Committee Chair Lavinia Liang ’18 presented an update on current committee projects. The projects include the Artist of the Year Competition (formerly known as Battle of the Bands). The competition will accept audio submissions of any genre until Friday, April 7. Voting will open for the entire undergraduate body from April 10 - April 14, and the winner will be announced April 17. The Social Committee will also be hosting Coachella on the Lawn, an outdoor showing of the Coachella music festival on April 21 in a location that is to be determined. Liang also mentioned that the Lawnparties reveal will occur sometime next week.