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Newly elected Graduate Student Government plans to address housing, representation

Mircea Davidescu GS, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, was elected president of the Graduate Student Government, according to an election report by the GSG Election Committee.

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Students who were newly elected to GSG also include vice president Akshay Mehra GS, treasurer Max Hirschberger GS and special events officer Bradley O’Brien GS.

When Davidescu found out that he was elected president, he said he felt “elated, excited and ready to hit the ground running.” He told the ‘Prince’ he was motivated to run for president by his desire to tangibly improve the lives of graduate students at the University.

“This includes getting a graduate student space, improving professional development and finding ways to break down the barriers separating students in different departments,” he said.

He also plans to make the campus welcoming to graduate students as a place to be community members, not just as a place to work. In order to achieve this, he noted he plans to create a graduate student space.

“I am really interested in improving the professional development services [such as Career Services, Writing Center, the Keller Center and McGraw Center] for graduate students, who make up a sizable portion of the student population,” he added.

Mehra, a Ph.D. candidate in the Geosciences Department, noted that he had been stepping down as former GSG president and was very happy to have been elected vice president.

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“One of the things I was still interested in doing was continuing some of the work I had started,” he said.

As vice president, Mehra said he would have a greater opportunity to promote full representation in GSG, as there are usually three or four departments that don’t have a representative at any time.

“One of the platforms I ran on was about diversity and inclusion, but in a broader sense, this idea that we really should be sharing with all sorts of students, not just the ones who have had a great time at Princeton or those that have had a terrible time at Princeton, and getting them to have a voice in the GSG,” he said.

Mehra noted that one of his goals as vice president is to increase representation at the assembly, and to encourage unrepresented departments to send representatives to meetings.

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“We’ve made some really big strides in [housing] last year, in terms of starting to interface with the administration and really pushing this point that, ‘Look, we don’t have enough housing and this demand hasn’t been met,’” he said.

Mehra added that in the next few weeks, the GSG is planning on sending a housing survey to all graduate students in order to address this issue.

Another goal is to push for an on-campus base for graduate students, Mehra noted. He added that it is important for GSG to bring up issues to students and rely upon them to voice opinions.

“If there’s a problem, we can a) publicize it, but b) also respond in a manner that is in mind with how graduate students feel. That’s something I really want to work on this year,” Mehra said.

He said that Davidescu had run on a similar platform and also has had familiarity with the administration. Mehra said it came down to recognizing which role would allow him to be most helpful in the GSG.

“We’re trying to ensure that each administration isn’t starting from scratch every single time, so the more people who stay on, the better,” he said.

Davidescu noted that Mehra is a very motivated individual who wants to continue to be involved with GSG at the highest levels, and given the results of the presidential election, the best alternative was for him to become the vice president.

“I am very excited that he chose to stay on board and excited about the entire new [executive] board in general, many of whom are seasoned advocates for graduate students,” he said.

Hirschberger, a Ph.D. candidate in the Physics Department, said that he was thrilled to find that the graduate student body trusts him to be their treasurer. He had won by a landslide, winning 72.5 percent of the graduate student votes.

“I have only recently started attending GSG meetings, but I think by now I know Mircea, the new president, and the others well enough to be able to say that I am very much looking forward to working with them,” he said.

Hirschberger noted he worked as a student representative during his undergraduate years at Technical University Munich and enjoyed his experience.

Being a treasurer entails supporting the GSG assembly and the president, as well as taking some administrative work off their backs in order to help the GSG focus more on policy, he said.

“But there is room for shaping grad student life as well. For example, we financially support social hours and grad student groups on campus, and the treasurer [together with University administrators] gets to make decisions on how our funds are allocated,” Hirschberger said.

One of the biggest issues that graduate students continue to face is housing, he noted.

“As you may know, the University provides housing for some, but not all, graduate students,” he said.

According to Hirschberger, in recent years the University has added new housing, like the Lakeside Apartments, but they have also torn down housing, like the Butler Apartments.

“We absolutely need to lobby to increase the percentage of grad students receiving housing from the University,” he said.

O’Brien said that although he was running uncontested, he was elated to hear that he had been elected as the student events officer.

“The daunting responsibility was, undoubtedly, overwhelming, but the thrill of now being able to plan and hopefully successfully execute the already wildly successful GSG parties has left me very excited,” he said.

One of the moments of greatest exaltation for him was discovering that his opponent had dropped out, he said.

“It was like a sudden weight had lifted as I realized, barring a majority disapproval, I had essentially won,” he added.

O’Brien, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said that anyone who knows him well, or has met him in passing from great distance, knows that he loves parties. He loves not just attending parties but holding parties as well, and he has experience planning parties from his undergraduate years at Lafayette College, as well as in his personal life. The transition to GSG SEO was the obvious next step for him, he added.

“In addition, the position of GSG SEO has been held by the MAE department for the last two years, first by Mike Hepler and most recently by Liz Davison, so any inhibitions I had because of unfamiliarity with the Princeton GSG were immediately alleviated,” he said.

He added that graduate students should be prepared to do more at GSG special events than just having some drinks.

“My plans begin and end with graduate students socializing in new and profound ways, with alcohol there simply to facilitate interactions,” he said.

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