The past two Executive Committees of the Graduate Student Government have published statements highlighting the central issue of integrating Princeton’s graduate students into the University campus. Graduate students are critical to Princeton’s teaching and research mission, but our effectiveness depends on our integration into the campus landscape. We, the outgoing GSG Executive Committee, would like to highlight the progress we have made on integration and provide our recommendations for the University.
Integration of graduate students can only happen through commitment of resources and deliberate planning, considering the great diversity of students whom we wish to represent. With the help of the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life, we have successfully increased the amount of resources the University dedicates to the graduate student community by increasing funding for the GSG Events Board by 20 percent and providing free tickets for graduate students to sporting events, as is done for undergraduates. We have increased the energy and focus that the University’s professional development offices dedicate to graduate students by co-organizing the Developing Yourself workshop and the HireTigers Grad Student Meetup. We have also developed programming that better serves the diverse needs of graduate students through our work with The Office of Diversity and Inclusion in organizing conversation groups and family-friendly events like the Summer Cookout in July, as well as co-organizing the Mental Health Week in February. Finally, we have worked to keep graduate students engaged and informed with national and campus issues by supporting the Day of Action, writing our Unionization Report, expanding the democratic process in our elections through integrating referenda, and by giving graduate students a direct choice in who represents them on the CPUC. We hope all of these changes will have positive reverberations throughout the coming academic years that will strengthen the graduate student community.
Though we have made much progress, the University must address major challenges ahead if it is to produce a robust graduate student community. Central among these is the shortfall of on-campus housing. On-campus housing amplifies the capability of graduate students to contribute to the University by placing them in proximity to the undergraduates they mentor and teach, as well as the research labs and libraries in which they work. Critically, it also places graduate students in proximity to each other, creating the community of scholars that has been essential to Princeton’s intellectual excellence. This year the GSG launched the Graduate Housing Project, a survey of all graduate students evaluating student satisfaction with on-campus housing. Over half of all graduate students responded, which speaks for the importance of this issue in graduate student life, and their responses revealed quantitative and qualitative shortcomings by the University.
Quantitatively, 91.5 percent of all respondents indicated a desire to live on-campus, which contrasts strongly with the University’s policy of only housing 70 percent of regularly enrolled graduate students. The difference between these numbers implies (based on housing stock and the Graduate School’s size) that there is demand for several hundred more bed-spaces on campus than currently available. Qualitatively, Princeton’s housing stock does not fulfill the needs of all its graduate students and their varied life stages, as students who have families or pets are not looking to recreate their undergrad dorm experience. Expanding and diversifying housing stock is required to accommodate the number and diversity of students who wish to live on campus. We strongly encourage the administration to consider these unequivocal data, as well as new housing developments at peer institutions such as Stanford’s Escondido Village, when developing its strategic objectives.
A second concern for graduate students is the need for a shared and identifiable space to call our own. Providing a social space for students from all fields of study would not only foster a cross-departmental scholarly community essential for world-class interdisciplinary research, but it would also facilitate the development of a University-wide identity for graduate students. The Graduate College may originally have served such a purpose, but as the University has grown and graduate students have dispersed to several housing complexes, to date relatively few non-residents of the College undertake the 20-minute walk to reach its premises from central campus except to attend major social events. Our February Graduate Student Center pilot in Green Hall provides a hint at what an on-campus shared space could do for graduate community. Little more than one room with a total budget of around $2,000 for snacks, drinks, and food drew over 300 attendees in the 16 evenings of operation. This preliminary trial – limited in both scope and resources – at the very least suggests that the University should consider operating and funding a more robust experiment of this nature in the near future.
The focus of the GSG continues to be the creation of a campus-wide graduate student community, which we consider essential for student productivity, enjoyment, and developing engaged alumni. Together with the University’s administration, we will continue to strive for a world-class graduate student experience.
The GSG Executive Board
Mircea Davidescu - President
Akshay Mehra - Vice President
José Ferreira - Secretary
Max Hirschberger - Treasurer
Jonathan Balkind - Communications Director
Brad O'Brien - Special Events Officer
Daniel Vitek - Academic Affairs Officer
Mattias Fitzpatrick - Social Officer
Hendia Edmund - Health and Life Officer
Genna Gliner - Facilities Officer