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Earlier this month, almost 40 percent of Princeton undergraduates voted in an Undergraduate Student Government-sponsored referendum to “call on the faculty and administration to provide for a three-week winter recess during the 2015-16 academic year and future academic years.” Predictably, it passed, with over 96 percent of students voting in favor. This highlights an important issue with the way the University determines the start and end dates of winter recess: however, it also presents an opportunity to look at possible changes to Princeton’s academic calendar as a whole. Over the past three years, the Editorial Board has repeatedly called for various changes to the academic calendar, including making Thanksgiving break a full week and moving finals before winter recess. In light of the USG referendum and long-time student complaints about the University’s academic calendar, we believe that the University should always make winter recess at least three weeks long, and we renew our call for finals to be moved before winter break.
Last semester, the unsigned editorials featured on this page have discussed issues such as the construction of a campus pub, increasing the number of beginner-level precepts offered in introduction courses and encouraging activism at the University. 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.
From supporting a gender binary to inconvenient bathroom codes, Princeton’s bathroom system has long been criticized by students. In comparison to some of our peer institutions, the University fails to provide inclusive facilities for students who do not necessarily identify as a certain gender. In addition to issues of gender inclusivity, many students have found issue with codes on female bathrooms. In order to address these issues, the Editorial Board believes the University should increase the number of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus.
This week, hundreds of sophomores participated in the annual spring Bicker process at the six selective eating clubs. One of the major problems plaguing Bicker is a lack of oversight, which creates difficulties for Bickerees who seek recourse when Bicker activities unduly harm or offend them. The Editorial Board accepts that eating clubs are institutions independent of the University and encourages each eating club to establish or strengthen internal accountability mechanisms. Without any system of accountability, Bicker clubs and their officers cannot take active measures to correct practices that make Bicker unnecessarily unpleasant for potential members.
The University’s focus on undergraduate education as well as its small-town setting set it apart from its peer institutions. In the spirit of promoting this undergraduate-focused experience, the University urges students and faculty alike to engage in fruitful dialogue outside the classroom and to build lifelong academic and professional relationships. At this year’s Opening Exercises, University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 described the University as small enough that students should get to know their professors on a more personal level. Eisgruber is correct in noting that the same undergraduate focus that motivated students to enroll at the University has drawn faculty members to teach at this institution as well. Likewise, many who choose to reside in Princeton are likely drawn to the University’s contribution to the town. However, there still is more that can be done to break down the barrier that students feel between themselves and their extremely well-versed, well-educated and well-known professors, and those living beyond the FitzRandolph Gate.
As the esteemed Editorial Board of perhaps the most acclaimed college newspaper in the country, we represent the true voice of Princeton’s students. This year, it was clear what our peers wanted: Will Gansa ’17for Government Club. But we disagreed. Not because our egos were bruised when Will Gansa declined to speak with us. Nay, it was because we believe there is a higher calling for Gansa. Thus, the Editorial Board wholeheartedly and unreservedly endorses Gansa for University Club President.
Student responses to the Michael Brown and Eric Garner grand jury decisions have challenged the characterization of the University as a community that shies away from activism. The Nov. 25protest on Prospect Avenue and the Dec. 4“die-in,” along with other student-led events, have brought students of all backgrounds into a discussion on the ways in which race affects students’ experiences at the University and how the University can create a safer and more supportive environment. While policy recommendations from the Council of the Princeton University Community have yet to be released, the effects of student activism have already been felt. Topics regarding diversity, inclusion and equity have entered into both precept debates and dining hall discussions, as students more than ever have taken it upon themselves to critically evaluate the behavior in which they engage and the norms they perpetuate, inadvertently or otherwise. The Board believes the discourse surrounding pressing social issues should continue and commends the students who, through their activism, have inspired a respectful and open campus-wide discussion.
In reaction to recent events, Tiger Inn underwent an internal dialogue and survey to determine how the environment of the eating club could be improved, and particularly how it could be made more welcoming to female members. The Editorial Board is glad to see renewed conversation about the culture of the Street, not only within the TI community, but also on the pages of The Daily Princetonian and national media, as well as at dinner tables and in classrooms. Nevertheless, the Board believes that this conversation should be expanded to all eating clubs. A great place for each of the clubs to start is by conducting internal surveys and dialogues about their own Bicker, pickups and initiations traditions. In general, steps ought to be taken to sustain this conversation, which has, in the past, often dissipated before it could produce any sustained effort towards cultural reform.
On Friday, nearly 2000 students voted to make Ella Cheng the next president of the Undergraduate Student Government. We, as an Editorial Board, endorsed Cheng and are pleased to congratulate her on her success in the election. We wish her the best of luck over the coming year. However, in addition to Cheng’s victory, we think this year’s elections have started conversations that are important to continue. The three presidential campaigns have asked us to consider how to promote women’s leadership, USG's role on campus and the role of humor in our campus culture. For this, the Board would like to thank the three candidates that ran.
The computer science department recently announced that this spring's introductory computer science course, COS 126, will offer two precepts for novice students with little or no computer science background. Instead of the usual 50-minute precept length, these beginner precepts will be 80 minutes long, "giving time to complete precept exercises and answer basic questions." The Editorial Board strongly endorses this innovation and recommends that this precept model be implemented on a broader scale across University departments, specifically in introductory-level courses with non-evaluative precepts.
It is high time that the campus pub of old be restored. From 1973 through 1983, what is now Chancellor Green Caféwas a popular place for Princeton faculty and students to go for a pint after class. Of course, back in those good old days, the drinking age in New Jersey was 18 rather than 21, and there wasn’t the inconvenient upperclassman-underclassman divide there is today. It is no coincidence that the campus pub was closed in 1984, the same year that New Jersey upped the legal imbibing age. Yet closing the pub was a mistake, and today there seems to be no disagreement: Princetonians—students, faculty and administrators —hope for the return of the campus pub.
The Undergraduate Student Government will be holding general elections from Monday Nov. 24 to Wednesday Nov. 26. Our student government is a resource with great potential, but USG can only have an effective presence on campus if we as students take the time to select the representatives who will earnestly engage with the needs of the community and work effectively to follow through on the tasks undertaken on behalf of the student body. This year there are three candidates for president: Ella Cheng ’16, William Gansa ’17, and Molly Stoneman ’16; and two for vice president: Aleksandra Czulak ’17 and Dallas Nan ’16. Every year, this Board endorses one candidate for the office of president and one for vice president. This year, we endorse Cheng for president and Czulak for vice president.
Over the last several decades, Princeton has become a more diverse place, matriculating a student body that includes women, students from diverse cultural backgrounds and students with a wide array of socioeconomic experiences. As Princeton has diversified its student body, it has made steps to become more inclusive. The University strives to be a welcoming community for all students and to provide all students with the resources that will help them succeed, regardless of their background, interests and needs. To this end, several centers that provide resources to specific groups of students have been created, including the Women’s Center, the International Center and, most recently, the LGBT Center. However, one growing voice in the student body has not been represented: first-generation college students. The Editorial Board believes more could be done to support first-generation students on campus and advocates for the creation of a First Generation Center.
Over the past few weeks, members of the freshman class experienced their first set of midterm exams. As a rite of passage in the Princeton experience, freshmen are often disappointed with their first set of midterm grades. This disappointment is perhaps most palpable for students aiming to concentrate in engineering or the hard sciences, who are compelled to take physics, chemistry, mathematics and computer science courses as prerequisites. While the challenge that some students taking these courses inevitably face is appropriate, other students may find themselves in courses for which they do not have the proper prior preparation. Though, in some cases, students may be able to alter their schedules by dropping to a lower level of the same class, some students have no other option besides remaining in their sections. The Board believes that this problem could be solved with broader placement testing as well as advising that takes into account the results of this testing.
Midterms week is an inherently stressful time when students are required to study for comprehensive tests, learn new material in class and complete papers and problem sets. At the conclusion of midterms week, students are given a week-long break to relax, recuperate and pursue out-of-classroom experiences that supplement their time at Princeton. Unfortunately, the lack of University policies surrounding the administration of take-home exams detracts from the fairness of the examination process and adds stress to the week. Further, the lack of University policies regulating work assigned during fall break dilutes the break’s purpose and is unfair to students attempting to pursue extracurricular, academic and personal opportunities.
For many University students, on-campus housing and fire safety policies are pervasive. While safety is the stated rationale for all policies, some policies in place — for example, the University’s current microwave and door-hanging restrictions — are both overly strict and ambiguous as to their specific purposes. The Editorial Board recommends that the housing and fire safety committees either reevaluate these policies, or provide specific rationales for these policies to students.
The University offers many dining options for students, ranging from meal plans for underclassmen to options such as eating clubs for upperclassmen. Dining is essential to community building, as it gives students the opportunity to interact with others outside of their classes and residential colleges. It is for this reason that the University provides some dining hall swipes for upperclassmen and that eating clubs offer meal exchange programs. Burdensome restrictions, however, make these options inconvenient to use, and more can be done to increase the flexibility of dining options for all students. By making dining more flexible, students will be given more opportunities to interact with others outside of their set dining plans. For this reason, the Editorial Board believes that the University should replace Late Meal swipes with a system of flex dollars, a form of cash credit that can be used at on-campus dining locations. Furthermore, the Board encourages eating clubs to adopt an electronic system for meal swipes.
Among Princeton’s general education requirements is foreign language proficiency, which, according to Office of the Dean of the College, encourages students to “become literate in another culture and gain another perspective on the world.” Though the A.B. minimum requirement calls for the completion of a beginner’s language track (three or four courses up to the 107/108 level) or the demonstration of proficiency via Advanced Placement, SAT Subject or departmental placement tests, many students go beyond the minimum requirement by pursuing additional languages at Princeton. These ambitious students, however, face significant disincentives to their budding polyglotism: students cannot take most beginner’s language courses on a pass/D/fail basis, and the University does not give credit for taking a 101-level language class without the subsequent 102-level course. These two barriers counter the intellectual spirit of Princeton. All students should be able to receive credit for 101-level language classes, and, as the Board has previously advocated, students who have already completed their language requirement should be able to take introductory level language courses on a P/D/F basis.
No liberal arts education is complete without a solid grounding in the Western intellectual tradition. In the past, students were assured a rigorous foundation in the humanities via a core curriculum; today, with the core curriculum replaced by malleable distribution requirements, students who yearn to drink deeply from the Pierian Spring must cobble together their own curriculum. Fortunately for such Princetonians, each year the University offers HUM 216-217 and HUM 218-219: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, commonly known as the Humanities Sequence. Unfortunately, this renowned course comes with an application and an enrollment cap. We humbly propose the application and enrollment procedure be reformed in hopes of expanding the program.
Last Monday, University faculty members voted to revoke the policy of grade deflation implemented in 2004 and to move towards a grading system based not on numerical targets, but on standards determined by each individual department. As administrators and individual departments work to develop new guidelines for monitoring the general distribution of grades, the University community has an opportunity to reflect upon the priorities of its grading practices and to address the culture that surrounds grades on campus. In speaking to Monday’s faculty meeting, Dean of the College Valerie Smith recognized that “meaningful [grading] standards should be course- and discipline-specific.” In order for grades to be meaningful in the way that Dean Smith envisions, students should be able to privately view the breakdown of grades in courses they have completed and, additionally, the University should publish the general distribution of grades by course level (e.g., 200-level, 300-level) in each department.