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The last major academic hurdle that many Princeton seniors must clear to graduate is completing their senior thesis. The senior thesis consists of original research and a significant written component and serves as the culminating experience of a student’s time at Princeton. Despite the important nature of the senior thesis, the thesis binding process has significant flaws. The Board recommends that each department implement two changes to improve the thesis submission process: set the deadline for binding of the thesis after the due date of the thesis itself and subsidize the cost of binding for students on financial aid.
President Eisgruber recently stated, “We at Princeton believe that it is a fundamental advantage for a university to be able to tolerate even offensive kinds of speech and to respond to bad arguments when they are made with more speech rather than with disciplinary actions.” His statement was made to defend freedom of expression, up to the point of protecting the right of student groups to commemorate Osama bin Laden, and this Board believes that such freedom extends to other offensive ideas and arguments.
In recent years, the unfortunate prevalence of sexual assault on campus has become a political issue of national importance. President Barack Obama has launched a campaign to raise awareness and the U.S. Senate is considering a bill to tackle the issue. Despite this, college sexual assault is ultimately a campus issue that the University administration and community have a responsibility to mitigate. As part of University efforts to curb sexual assault and related issues, such as stalking and harassment, graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to fill out the We Speak survey on sexual misconduct.
In the next few weeks, sophomores enrolled in the A.B. program will be declaring their majors within one of the 35 academic departments offered by the University. In light of this rapidly approaching deadline, the Board recommends the following improvements to the declaration of majors and certificate programs: 1) the University should update its certificates webpage to include a more comprehensive and inclusive list of all programs offered, as it is currently missing some programs, 2) individual departments should create and advertise open houses and information sessions for their respective certificate programs, and 3) the Office of the Dean of the College should update its website for choosing majors to make it more comprehensive and user-friendly than is its current format.
The General Education Task Force was established in the fall of 2015 to review the University's undergraduate curriculum and to make recommendations about distribution requirements, independent work and other aspects of academics at Princeton. The academic calendar determines how these components fit together. A new survey which asks students for feedback regarding potential changes to the academic calendarhas been created by the Task Force in conjunction with the Dean of the College, the USG Academics Committee and members of the Graduate Student Government. The survey explores the following three proposals: 1) moving the fall term exams before winter recess, 2) expanding the teaching semester from 12 to 13 weeks and 3) increasing intersession from 1 to 2 weeks. These are important issues about which the Board has written before; consequently, we call on all students to participate in the brief survey.
Last Friday, New Jersey Gov. and ex officio University Trustee Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump in his bid for the Republican nomination and the White House. This Board believes that this action runs contrary to both democratic and University values and calls on Christie to renege on his endorsement and remove any affiliation to Trump and his campaign.
It is currently a common practice for instructors not to return Dean’s Date papers or final exams with feedback — or at all. The Board sees no reason why these essays and tests should be treated any differently from those scheduled throughout the course of the semester. In fact, we believe that the habit of ignoring these final assignments both costs students some of their best learning opportunities and sends a message of grading-over-teaching that corrodes Princeton’s educational environment. The Board believes that the University should encourage course instructors to make marked-up Dean’s Date papers or final exams available by the date on which overall course grades are posted online.
Recently, the University announced its intention to accept a small number of transfer students, starting as early as 2018, as part of a broader strategic planning framework intended to underscore Princeton’s commitment to continued leadership in education, inclusivity and diversity. Princeton has not offered admission to transfer students since 1990. In the past, President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 had hinted at the possibility of reversing the University’s transfer policy, arguing that such a move might afford students from community colleges and diverse economic backgrounds the opportunity to flourish at Princeton. The Editorial Board commends the University’s Board of Trustees for its decision.
Princeton offers its undergraduate students a wide array of summer opportunities, from the International Internship Program (IIP) to Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS). Included in students’ access to summer opportunities is the ability to study abroad during the summer for course credit through the Office of International Programs. However, for students on financial aid who wish to study abroad, the number of summer study abroad programs funded by the University remains low. Furthermore, when compared to the summer study abroad options offered by peer institutions such as Harvard, Princeton offers comparatively fewer and less flexible options. The Board encourages the Office of International Programs to extend financial aid coverage to all of Princeton’s seventeen summer study abroad programs. Additionally, the Board calls on OIP to explore the possibility of adding additional summer programs that give students more flexibility in regards to location and duration.
Since the beginning of the academic year, the Princeton community has engaged in lively debate surrounding the name of the Wilson School, Princeton’s school of public and international affairs. Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879, is a former president of the University, who went on to become Governor of New Jersey and the 28th President of the United States. He instituted long-lasting changes on campus, including the creation of additionalacademic departments and the precept system. However, he also left behind a troubling legacy on race relations, such as re-segregating the United States Civil Service; he also had a history of making racist statements. The Board commends students who have expressed their concerns on both sides of the issue. We recognize, however, that in the end, the Trustees of the University must decide whether to change the way the University honors Wilson’s legacy. In order for this decision to properly represent the diverse viewpoints of the Princeton community, the Board urges students to engage in discourse with the trustees and the administration through all available channels.
Many Princetonians, mainly sophomores, spent the first week of this semester concerned primarily not with finalizing their course schedule or buying books, but rather with the process of joining an eating club. We acknowledge the Interclub Council (ICC) and the Class of 2018 officers for their efforts to make this process more transparent by, for example, releasing a graphic explaining the various upperclass dining options and their costs. However, there remain areas for improvements to make this process clearer and less stressful for students. The Board recommends three reforms: 1) include as part of eating club registration on the ICC website a step requiring students to acknowledge and accept the spring dues for their clubs of choice, 2) like in years past, release the numbers of first-round sign-ins, and 3) encourage sign-in clubs to defer their initiations until the week after bicker.
Princeton University prides itself on its undergraduate focus and especially on the incredible availability of its world-renowned faculty to work with undergraduate students. With a student-faculty ratio of 6:1, students have a remarkable proximity to some of the most outstanding minds in today's academic disciplines. All University professors engage in teaching as well as research, and students interact with their instructors in various class formats such as precepts, seminars and lectures, but oftentimes the most valuable interactions come from outside of the classroom. Professors are not just technical experts; they are also individuals with tremendous experience in academic life and passions for intellectual pursuits. Students seeking out professors beyond the lecture hall can expand their knowledge of class material, discover new interests, bear witness to relevant wisdom about finding a career path and receive advice for navigating University life. While University professors already hold office hours for facilitating student-professor interactions outside of class, the Editorial Board proposes better promotion of that system as well as popularizing programs that support meals between students and professors.
Last semester, the unsigned editorials featured on this page have discussed issues such as anonymizing exam grading, expanding co-op options and improving career services. The Daily Princetonian Editorial Board, a group of 15 undergraduates, was collectively responsible for writing these pieces. The members of the Board are not the editors of the various sections of the ‘Prince.’ Instead, they constitute an independent group of undergraduate students charged with determining the position of the newspaper as a whole. Today, instead of taking a stance on an issue, we would like to explain the editorial process and invite interested freshmen, sophomores and juniors to apply to join the Board.
Princeton’s Office of Disability Services provides resources and opportunities to help students with disabilities overcome significant obstacles and works to ensure that all qualified students can attend Princeton regardless of physical or psychological disability. As reported this week, Princeton has seen an 80 percent increase in the number of students registered with ODS between 2011 and 2015. As more students with disabilities enter Princeton, there remain several steps that the broader University community can take to further its commitment to students with disabilities. Specifically, this Board has two key recommendations in support of Deaf students on campus: allowing American Sign Language to satisfy the foreign language requirement and pursuing further options for the study of ASL or ASL-related topics.
Following reading and final examination period, the most pressing event for the University’s sophomore class is making the decision of where to dine as upperclassmen. We are all familiar with the various options for upperclassmen dining: eating clubs, co-ops, residential college dining hall meal plans and independent dining. With nearly 70 percent of upperclassmen claiming membership in one of the 11 clubs on Prospect, there is a significant amount of social pressure placed upon underclassmen to join an eating club during sophomore year. The Board understands this social pressure and encourages the University’s Office of Financial Aid to increase the upperclassmen dining allowance, which is currently set at $2110, to a higher figure in order to prevent financial constraints from impeding students’ access to eating clubs. The Board similarly encourages a smaller increase in the dining allowance for students in their fourth semester at the University.
Nothing further exemplifies the University’s decline in prestige than the recent Class Day speakers, such as Al Gore, Brooke Shields ’87 and Jon Stewart. These people are total losers. They are all talk and no action. For too long, Princeton’s Class Day has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Princeton invites Class Day speakers, they do not invite the best. They do not invite people like you. They invite people who have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us.
As the last week of the fall semester wanes and students return home for the duration of winter recess, we would all do well to remember how truly fortunate of a position we enjoy. We attend a world-class university. As a consequence, we are frequently afforded academic and social opportunities, of which many others may only dream. And while we are diverse in our backgrounds, traditions and troubles, there is an undeniably lucky, wonderful and exciting quality that characterizes all of our admission to and experience of the University. The Board encourages students to express their gratitude for the opportunities available at the University to those who make them possible, including University staff, professors and teaching assistants.
Currently, the Undergraduate Student Government is considering a series of changes to the rules governing student referenda. Among the proposed changes is the creation of a $500 cap on campaign expenditures by groups supporting or opposing a referendum. Following the Divestment Referendum last spring, the Editorial Board argued that USG should reform referendum spending by requiring the disclosure of donations and expenditures by student groups involved in a referendum campaign. The Board believes that the current USG proposal is misguided, and we again urge the USG to require student groups involved in referendum campaigns to disclose donation amounts and expenditures.
As the Office of the Dean of the College states, “Princeton University is committed to fairness and transparency in assessment of students’ work and grading practices.” With this admirable goal in mind, the Board believes that the University could take more steps to ensure fairness in grading student work and to improve the overall academic experience. First, the Board urges the University to adopt anonymized grading for exams, while maintaining regular grading practices for papers and written work. Second, we recommend that professors and preceptors utilize multiple criteria, in addition to talking in precept, to assess participation for students less inclined to speak up.
The University’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning provides undergraduate students with multiple opportunities to find academic assistance outside the classroom. Among these opportunities is the Center’s free study hall and individual peer tutoring program, staffed by fellow students who are well-versed in a given subject. While the Editorial Board commends the McGraw Center for providing tutoring services, we encourage the McGraw Center to improve coordination between course staff and McGraw tutors.