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Budding politicians find voice in USG

Whether you plan to be president of the United States or a flamboyant publishing czar, Princeton can provide the leadership training necessary for both. At least it did for people like James Madison 1771 and Malcolm Forbes '41.

The ideal of "Princeton in the nation's service" was originally worded by Woodrow Wilson 1879 — who served as president of both the United States and the University — and has since been followed by the formidable likes of George Shultz '42, Paul Volcker '49, James Baker '52, Ralph Nader '55, Bill Bradley '65 and Steve Forbes '70 as a figure in public service.


So what's the secret to starting your own political career at Princeton, or padding your resume for later in life? It might lie somewhere in the midst of the many government-oriented groups on campus.


The Undergraduate Student Government is under the leadership of president Joe Kochan '02. His term will continue throughout the fall of 2001.

The USG consists of four main committees: academics, social, community and campus affairs and undergraduate life. The chairs of these committees, along with the president, vice president and treasurer, are elected by the entire student body.

The primary decision-making body is called the USG assembly. It is made up of the executive committee of the USG, three delegates from each class and 10 undergraduate members of the U-Council.

The USG executive committee includes the president, vice president, treasurer and the heads of the four main committees.

Elections for freshman class officers take place in October. To run for any of the offices — president, vice president, secretary-treasurer or USG delegate — candidates must submit a petition with 25 signatures of students in their class year.


The candidates compete in a primary, from which the three who garner the most votes advance to a runoff election.

USG executive officer elections are held at the end of the fall semester, and elections for the following year's class officers take place in the spring.

Battle of the bands

One of the USG's responsibilities is to find a band for the fall and spring concerts. In the past, the USG has been able to obtain fairly popular music groups, such as Ben Folds Five and Indigo Girls, who performed last year, and Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and G-Love & Special Sauce, who performed this year.

Student Course Guide

One USG project that receives widespread support is the Student Course Guide, an online collection of student appraisals and criticisms of University courses. Many students find the guide to be an invaluable resource when it comes time to pick courses.

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In addition to formal reviews garnered by the students who put together the guide, students may post anonymous critiques of courses on the Student Course Guide website. This opportunity allows students searching for classes the chance to hear from more than just one reviewer.


A second prominent organization with student participation is the Council of the Princeton University Community, better known as the U-Council. Elections for the 10 undergraduate U-Council delegates take place in the spring.

The U-Council consists of approximately 50 students, faculty members and administrators who meet with the trustees and advise the University president on campus matters.

For those hoping to avoid the politics of elections but still wanting to serve their classmates, each class has numerous steering committees that act in an advisory capacity to the officers.

In addition, there are appointed positions on each residential college's council for students who want to help plan college activities ranging from rock concerts to trips to Broadway plays.

Honor Committee

Some of the most important appointed positions are the three posts on the Honor Committee, which also includes past and present class presidents.

The undergraduate who has served as class president during his or her sophomore year becomes the committee's chair during his or her senior year.

Members of the Honor Committee are expected to put their responsibility for upholding and protecting the Honor Code above all other commitments they might have as students at the University.


If you are interested in politics beyond the class and University level, the American Whig-Cliosophic Society might be a good place to become involved.

The society is the oldest college political, literary and debating society in the United States.

It boasts two U.S. presidents, two vice presidents, numerous Supreme Court justices and more than 275 past and present members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate among its alumni.

Whig-Clio sponsors a number of programs and activities. The oldest of these is the Princeton Senate, which holds weekly debates among members over current political issues.

The debate team consistently places in the top few in the nation in regional or national competitions.

Whig-Clio also brings prominent speakers to campus each year and sponsors the nation's largest Model Congress, held in Washington, D.C., each year. Princeton's debate team is also a part of Whig-Clio.

The campus also boasts student Democrat and Republican organizations. During last year's primaries, members volunteered for several candidates, including Steve Forbes '70 and Bill Bradley '65.