Unprecedented increases in Dean's Date budget elicit mixed response from USG senators| Dec 12, 2017
Dean’s Date is typically filled with deadlines, giveaways, food, and entertainment — a costly event that was already allocated a hefty $14,000 in funding last year. This year, the Undergraduate Student Government has approved an additional $25,000 to host a concert during the Dean’s Date celebration.
On Sunday, Dec. 10, USG held its . Social Committee Chair Lavinia Liang ’18 presented a petition requesting increased funding for Dean’s Date celebrations. After a seven-minute discussion, the majority of USG voted in favor of the additional funding and approved the request.
This semester, Dean’s Date will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 16. In addition to the usual celebration that occurs in McCosh Courtyard from 5-7 p.m., USG will now plan to host an “up-and-coming pop DJ” in Dillon Gym from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. of that night.
In the official petition, Liang credited the 2013 Dean’s Date celebration, which included a concert, as inspiration for this year’s celebration’s logistics. She described the plan as an effort to “decrease high-risk drinking and provide a fun and safe alternative for students to celebrate their night.” The petition estimates the amended total cost of the Dean’s Date celebration to be $43,275.
“We’re only spending what we have left over,” she explained, referring to the USG surplus funds from previous years.
“Dean’s Date is a great place to spend this money to benefit as many students as possible,” Liang said. “[The Social Committee] wanted to show people and let people know that there are other ways to have fun and other things that USG provides beyond Lawnparties in terms of arts and entertainment.”
Although the petition passed, USG members who opposed it expressed concern regarding the celebration’s cost efficiency and opportunity costs.
“One of the biggest problems that I have with this event is that we are also hearing that we don’t have enough money to bring someone big to our Lawnparties,” said U-Councilor Samuel Vilchez Santiago ’19. “But here we are spending about $44,000 on an event that we’re not even sure is going to have a lot of turnout.”
Vilchez Santiago noted that because Dean’s Date occurs at the end of reading period, students have finals beginning the next day, Jan. 17. He also pointed out that even if students do not immediately take finals, Dean’s Date is still “a big night out.”
“We should be spending USG revenue on something that will actually impact as many students as possible,” said Vilchez Santiago. “Is this an event that could do so? Potentially, but it’s something that we’re not simply sure of, and we’re basically taking a bet on this type of event.”
U-Councilor Diego Negron-Reichard ’18, who voted for the additional funding, admitted that other budgeting plans may have been possible, but praised Liang for coming up with a practical and well-received plan.
“USG has a big problem in that it has available resources, and it is not spending these resources,” Negron-Reichard said. “Perhaps there are better ways to spend $25,000, but the Senate has been unable to produce any new project to match Lavinia’s request.” He added that there is a “certain political appetite to bring out big projects,” which has been a long-standing “problem within USG.”
Negron-Reichard also emphasized that the budget “does not waste any money,” as any unused funds are to be “immediately deposited back into the USG general funds.”
Treasurer Alison Shim ’19 confirmed that the increased funding was not detrimental to USG’s annual budget.
“Obviously, the $25,000 allocation would decrease the surplus we have historically experienced,” said Shim. “However, the money we allocate at the start of the school year is the budget for the Fall and Spring semester so whatever is not spent in this semester is what I start with in allocating the Spring semester.”
Vilchez Santiago also noted a mathematical error in the petition’s funding breakdown. Although Liang estimated the total funding to equal $44,000, Vilchez Santiago pointed out that in the breakdown given by the meeting notes, “if you actually add up the numbers, it’s $57,000.” According to the petition, $54,000 would come from USG, and an additional $3,000 would be funded by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students’ Alcohol Initiative Committee.
Liang defended her committee’s choice to increase Dean’s Date celebration funding.
“It’s been a big initiative for my committee this year,” Liang said. “We believe that it would be a more holistic and continuous experience for students, especially the night after papers and night before finals.”
Class senator Soraya Morales Nunez ’18 abstained from voting. She emphasized the need for caution in planning Dean’s Date celebrations.
“The budget proposed for the Celebration this year was based off a 2013 Dean's Date operation budget,” wrote Morales Nunez in an email. “Given that there is no precedent for such an event on Dean's Date during my time at Princeton, and given the amount that was requested, I was wary of how successful the event would be in terms of student turnout.” Morales Nunez also stated that she believes that Liang “has done a fantastic job as Social Committee Chair” and she “will make this upcoming Dean's Date a fun one for everyone.”
In response to concern from Senate members who opposed the petition due to lack of precedent, Liang added, “I don’t believe that this is sufficient reasoning against running this event. In fact, trying new things really embodies the open-minded ideals that I’ve found USG to embody.”
U-Councilor Chairs Pooja Patel ’18 and Miranda Rosen ’18 and U-Councilor Ethan Marcus ’18 did not respond to request for comment by the time of publication. Class of 2018 Senator Eli Schechner ’18 declined to comment.