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In its weekly meeting on April 15, the Undergraduate Student Government discussed the the inclusion of questions surrounding criminal history on the undergraduate application, increasing student access to USG, and policies to decrease the negative stigma surrounding gap years and mental health.

First, Parker Kushima ’19 from Princeton Health Advisors proposed a project called Princeton Connect, which will encourage student bonding through arts and crafts sessions. The project will culminate in the display of a final quilt, as well as a presentation where students can volunteer to share their stories. 

“There is the problem [that, on campus] you are not able to reach out to people that you wouldn’t normally meet,” Kushima said.

Next, Matthew Ramirez ’19, Nivida Thomas ’20, Hyojin Lee ’20, Andy Zheng ’20, and Wendy Ho ’21 were approved as new members of the USG Diversity and Equity Committee. 

USG also approved the $2,000 budget request for the 25th Annual Black Women’s Appreciation Dinner held by the Order of Black Male Excellence, as well as the request for $5,950 for the Movies Committee outdoor movie screening on May 8. 

However, more controversy arose when the Community and Campus Affairs asked for a budget of $10,000, in comparison to $1,500 for the previous year’s event, for the Day of Action. 

At the University, the Day of Action event is a campus-wide day of town hall sessions and focused teach-ins that are devoted to engagement with political, economic, environmental, and social challenges. The event was inspired by a similar call to action at MIT on March 4, 1969, which asked for scientists to reflect on the creation of destructive technologies. Previously, the CCA depended on local town organizations for funding, but it now hopes USG will help institutionalize the day as an annual tradition. 

The Day of Action will be held during a weekend in October, instead of March 6, in order to capitalize on civic engagement before the midterm election.

In addition, the Admissions Opportunity Campaign asked for USG to advocate for the University to eliminate questions about criminal histories in their undergraduate application.

“Asking about criminal history is a proxy [for] asking about race and socioeconomic access,” said Michaela Daniel ’21, a representative from the campaign.

According to the campaign, since those who have criminal records are primarily poor people of color, questions about criminal history enable discrimination and undermine efforts for applicants to compete equally. Furthermore, representatives from the campaign explained, the university’s graduate school application does not ask about criminal history, nor does the transfer application for the undergraduate system. Although the presentation by Admissions Opportunity Campaign was not on USG agenda until the day of the meeting, it generated the most discussion.

In order to increase senator accessibility, Kade McCorvy ’20 proposed, first, the establishment of an email address and listserv for sitting USG senators to increase direct communication between senators and constituents and, second, weekly Sunday coffee chats between USG and the student body.

Lastly, Josh Gardner ’20 from the Mental Health Initiative requested USG’s assistance in finding students who have taken gap years due to mental health reasons and are willing to share their stories in order to decrease the negative stigma surrounding Counseling and Psychological Services, mental health, and gap years. Gardner also encouraged increased publicity of the new policy that gap semesters, instead of gap years, are now allowed for students whose majors are more flexible.

Other administrative items that were discussed included the confirmation of Andrew Li ’19 and former USG Vice President Daniel Qian ’19 as the new Student Groups Recognition Committee co-chairs, as well as the recognition that the consequences of a more condensed exam period, as a result of the calendar reform, ought to be examined in more detail.

The spring election commences tomorrow, April 16 and officers will be elected by Friday, April 20. USG will meet with the Dean of College Jill Dolan to discuss the new dining plan this Thursday. 

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