At a meeting of the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) on Monday, March 25, the council heard from a broad range of speakers, including the heads of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), McCarter Theater, and Undergraduate Student Government (USG).
Continuing a pattern of questioning from multiple previous CPUC meetings, students raised the issue of “Ban the Box,” a movement pushed on campus by Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR), during a Q&A that kicked off the meeting.
Ban the Box is an ex-offender rights campaign, aimed at persuading higher education institutions and employers to remove the application question that asks whether the applicant has a criminal record.
President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 reiterated that the University values its “holistic approach” to admission for all of its students, which gives Admissions access to a wide variety of information that allows for evaluation of a given student in the context of his entire life.
The most tense moment of the Q&A came when Micah Herskind ’19, the former president of SPEAR, pushed Eisgruber on what he sees as the University’s continued valuing of information “from a system we know is racist and classist.”
Eisgruber responded that, while he “appreciates there is a disagreement,” he has already responded to this and similar questions previously and will not repeat his responses, directing Herskind to CPUC minutes and articles from The Daily Princetonian.
“The Daily Princetonian has actually reported accurately on these meetings,” Eisgruber said.
After the meeting, Herskind expressed his frustration in an interview with the ‘Prince.’
“The fact that the president of Princeton University won’t say the criminal justice system is racist … shows Princeton is a part of the problem as much as it likes to think it’s a part of the solution,” he said.
He and the other eight members of SPEAR present at the meeting had walked out at the conclusion of the Q&A.
After the Q&A, Sir Steve Cowley, who is the director of the PPPL, spoke about the PPPL’s future in working with the U.S. Strategic Plan for Burning Plasma Research to develop energy through nuclear fusion capabilities.
He first discussed the history of the PPPL, starting with Lyman Spitzer, a visionary in the field, who was the head of astrophysics at the University when Crowley first came to the University as a graduate student in 1951. He then traced the trajectory of the lab’s work with nuclear fusion through the latter 20th century.
Now, in accordance with a statement released by the National Academy of Sciences in December 2018, the PPPL will play a key role in the U.S.’s goal of constructing a “pilot plant,” a machine Crowley simplified as “something that produces more energy than it consumes.”
At the meeting, Michael Rosenberg, managing director of the McCarter Theater, spoke about the unique positioning of the theater on the University campus and the potential power therein, saying he considers the space “a real world lab right here on your campus.”
“Our future lies at the intersection of really great scholar[ship] with really great art,” he reiterated multiple times throughout the presentation.
According to Rosenberg, McCarter is one of the greatest arts organizations in New Jersey and hosts over 130,000 attendees annually.
Rosenberg noted that McCarter has unveiled next year’s program, which will include many additions. This upcoming year, McCarter will be hosting The New Yorker’s radio hour and welcoming The Moth, a storytelling performance group, to the McCarter stage for the first time.
The theater also plans to soon include a cabaret space, which student groups would be able to reserve for free time in collaboration with theater staff.
In her address to the council, USG President Zarnab Virk ’20 outlined for the council the role of the USG as a liaison between undergraduate students and the administration.
She spoke about the main priorities of the USG for the coming year, including increasing resources for independent students, adjusting the social calendar to the impending calendar change in 2020, and easing student access to transportation, perhaps through a program that would give free credit on ride-sharing apps.
This month’s CPUC meeting was held on March 25 at 4:30 p.m. in Betts Auditorium in the Architecture Building.