We write amid the ongoing sit-in outside Nassau Hall, initiated by courageous and committed undergraduate students. As graduate student organizers at Princeton, their cause is one that we support unequivocally. Princeton Graduate Students United (PGSU) stands in solidarity with those taking action against the University’s negligence on matters of sexual abuse, lack of transparency in general, and surrounding Title IX proceedings specifically.
We agree that the University protects those who commit sexual misconduct while punishing survivors for speaking out. Achieving change at Princeton requires, as those protesting Title IX have shown us in the past days, a dramatic reframing of the way we talk about institutional resources and the creation of a culture of open, systematic critique and collective action. This is precisely why we have been intent on organizing a union of graduate workers.
On Wednesday, the administration’s condescending, bureaucratic non-responses to students’ concerns made clear that “student input” is simply background noise to “how these important issues are handled by the University.” Students have spent days outside, protesting for a cause that directly impacts their lives. This dismissal reflects the administration’s imperious self-image. Let us un-warp their mirror: The “University” is not a tax-advantaged hedge fund with a side business in issuing diplomas and greening its lawns. It serves at the pleasure of its human base of students, teachers, researchers, or workers. The needs of this constituency are its only imperatives.
These students’ vital calls for reform point to a systemic, catastrophic failure of budgetary and ethical priority at this institution. Princeton spends lavishly on buildings and administrative compensation while profiting from the provision of basic student services, like dining and housing. For decades, Princeton’s endowment has grown fat while it aggressively hikes tuition at rates far outpacing inflation. Meanwhile, health services, financial aid, and other forms of support are inexplicably derelicted, as we recently protested against. Mental health resources, for instance, involve long wait times and often inaccessible co-pays for students dealing with trauma. In 2016, a multimillion dollar settlement providing support for low-income housing was disgorged from the University after the University was sued by local homeowners over its profiteering.
At the beginning of this year, Princeton’s administration spammed every campus mailbox with a self-published, hardcover diatribe about “free speech,” then turned around and fined a student nearly three thousand dollars this week for an act of written protest. Financial retribution against a sexual assault survivor is an insidious attack on student life. It flies in the face of the university’s false pieties about “free speech,” displaying its mercenary understanding of social and economic justice.
Princeton’s systemic impunity, lack of transparency, and unaccountability to its students are not acceptable. We reiterate our full support of the students demanding Title IX reform and condemn administrative attempts to dismiss and silence them.