Follow us on Instagram
Try our daily mini crossword
Play our latest news quiz
Download our new app on iOS/Android!

Diversity deficiency

When the three most recent USG presidents posed together for a picture at a party in Tower Club last fall, they contentedly joked about the scene being captured on film — a multi-ethnic Mount Rushmore for 1990s Princeton.

David Ascher '99 is Jewish and a member of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. Spencer Merriweather '00 is African-American and hails from Mobile, Ala. And PJ Kim '01, who is Korean, was the occasion's center of attention, having been minted an American citizen just that morning.


But, these days, those USG members who treasure diversity in student government can only look at that picture with a worried sense of nostalgia. With the election this spring of an all-male U-Council — eight out of 10 of whom are white — the USG senate is looking far more homogenous than it did during the Merriweather administration.

And some USG members fear that this diversity deficiency may be undermining their organization's legitimacy with students and administrators.

"I was absolutely shocked by the results of the U-Council elections. It is surprising that the U-Council is all male," said a "very upset" U-Council chair Teddy Nemeroff '01.

Yet diversity can be measured in a variety of ways. USG officers are quick to point out that students from every eating club except Colonial participate in the senate. "The leadership of the USG is more diverse than almost all other groups on campus," Kim said. "A majority of [the executive committee] are women or minorities — eight out of 14 people."

But while the photograph taken at Kim's citizenship celebration shows a lineage of USG presidents rich in racial diversity, the fact remains that all 16 of next year's senators and U-Councilors are men.

USG student groups liaison Aime Scott '01 blamed voters partially for the gender imbalance. "It's not that there weren't women running," she said. "They just weren't voted [for] . . . Women, when they are asked to choose a leader, tend to choose men over women."


Indeed, the five women who ran for U-Council this month all lost. In total, 20 students sought U-Council seats this spring.

USG social chair Carolyn Chao '01 had a different take on the male dominance of the USG. "I think that has a lot to do with who runs," she said. "I ran against two guys. It's not like only guys get elected."

Patricia Garcia-Monet '92 — a Hispanic former USG president who is one of three women to ever serve in that role — agreed with Scott and Chao that there are not enough women running for office and not enough voters turning out to support them. "I think there used to be more women than there is now," she said.

Kim said he was "unconcerned" about the all-male nature of next year's U-Council because women will hold eight of 15 class officer positions. "There is really no rhyme or reason of how people distribute themselves" among the class officer positions and other USG posts, he explained.

Get the best of ‘the Prince’ delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe now »

Former U-Councilor Melissa Briggs '02, who is African-American, theorized that the USG's gender and racial gap developed because women and minorities are choosing to participate in other activities.

Merriweather also said he was "concerned" and "worried" about the USG's composition. "It is going to be tough for the USG to have credibility on a lot of issues on campus when there are 12 men sitting on the U-Council," he said.

Nevertheless, Merriweather said he is confident that USG members — aware of their organization's diversity deficiency — would make a concerted effort to deal with the concerns of minorities and women. "There have been instances where the whitest of white males — Teddy Nemeroff or Lee Vartan ['00] in particular — have been the greatest champions for the plight of women and minorities on this campus," he added.

But Kim said he believes more women and minorities would run for office if they knew they could have a real effect on the undergraduate experience through the USG. Regardless of whether more women demonstrate an interest in student government, Merriweather said women would not be drowned out in the din of the overwhelmingly male USG.