At the first Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) meeting of the year, University Provost Deborah Prentice announced a change in CPUC procedure that will require students to submit questions for University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 in advance, rather than participate in the past “open question period” policy.
The CPUC held the meeting at 4:30 p.m. in the Frist Multipurpose Room on Sept. 23. In addition to discussing this change, Prentice presented the new academic calendar for next year and shared details about the University Naming Committee. Karen Richardson ’93 introduced herself to the CPUC as the University’s new Dean of Admission.
The meeting began with a reading and unanimous vote of approval of the CPUC’s “Order of Business” for the 2019-20 year. Prentice explained that, in previous years, several of the stipulations of the CPUC’s “Order of Business” had not been followed, especially in reference to the Question and Answer period.
Section III of the Order of Business had previously stated that the 15-minute Question and Answer period exists so that council members may formally ask one another questions. Prentice noted that this was “not the way we’ve been handing the question period in anybody’s living memory,” and that the CPUC has typically conducted an open question period, allowing for both pre-submitted and on-the-spot questions from both Council members and members of the general community.
“We’ve typically done just a sort of open question period,” Prentice said. “We’ve requested that questions be submitted in advance, but we’ve taken questions that weren’t.”
Going forward, in accordance with the new Order of Business unanimously approved during the meeting, questions from community members will need to be submitted in writing in advance of the meetings. For this meeting, questions needed to have been submitted in writing to Secretary to the Council Christine Gage by Friday, Sept. 20, three days before the meeting. Prentice also noted that members of the community asking questions will be permitted to ask a supplementary follow-up question and Council members will be able to propose any follow-up questions.
“We will allow questions from members of the community, but we will prioritize questions from the Council, and we will ask that the questions be submitted in advance, so we can make sure people are prepared to answer them,” Prentice said.
The CPUC also put mechanisms in place to better distinguish Council members from non-Council members at meetings. Last year’s six CPUC meetings all took place in Betts Auditorium, where both Council members and community members sat in the same area. Instead, this meeting was held in the Frist Campus Center Multipurpose Room, with Council members seated at a U-shaped structure of tables and non-Council members in chairs off to the sides.
On the agenda for the meeting, 15 minutes were allotted for a question and answer period. However, due to a lack of pre-submitted questions, Eisgruber said that “under the rules, the question period is waned for this particular meeting.”
Later in the meeting Eisgruber thanked Prentice and the rest of the CPUC Executive Committee “for all the thought they gave to how it is that we can operate more like a Council going forward, as this body did in its original years,” adding that he “think[s] all of these changes are conducive to that.”
In total, there were 34 CPUC members present at the meeting and 35 other members of the community. Though the CPUC meeting was advertised in the USG weekly newsletter as “open to the public,” with the newsletter noting that “any interested students are encouraged to attend,” Bradley Phelps ’22, who was present at the meeting, said he thought attendance among non-CPUC-member undergraduate students was low. However, he did not see that as a problem, saying “it was a pretty bureaucratic meeting.”
“People have other stuff to do,” Phelps noted. “Unless there’s a reason for you to be there, I don’t think you would’ve gained anything you wouldn’t find through your emails or through anything else.”
After discussing the Order of Business, Prentice explained the layout of the CPUC’s committees, briefly describing their different functions. Prentice noted that the CPUC will likely hear from the Committee on Right, Rules, and Responsibilities (RRR) in the coming year.
“We expect there will be changes to ‘Rights, Rules’ this year coming out of the guidance we expect to receive from the Office of Student Rights on the matter of Title IX regulations,” she said.
Prentice also presented a list of suggested topics of discussion for future CPUC meetings, which included “sustainability,” the expected minimum wage increase in New Jersey, “Title IX Policy Updates,” a “Campus Plan Update,” and the Guyot Hall restoration project.
Later in the meeting, Prentice discussed a proposal to extend the Naming Committee’s term another three years, a proposal that the CPUC passed unanimously.
Afterwards, Richardson introduced herself to the Council as the University’s new dean of admission. After Richardson spoke, Prentice returned to the podium to discuss calendar change.
According to Prentice, classes will begin on Sept. 2 next fall, with first-year students arriving on Aug. 22. For Residential College Advisors and Community Action and Outdoor Action Leaders, this will likely mean arriving to campus in mid-August.
Fall recess will take place from Oct. 17 to Oct. 25, and final exams will take place before winter break, which will take place from Dec. 23 to Jan. 10. After winter break, Wintersession will continue until Jan. 24, and former Director of the LGBT Center Judy Jarvis will serve as Director of Wintersession. Spring recess will take place from March 6-14, and final exams will take place from May 7-13.
Prentice explained that, during Wintersession, students will be able to partake in on-campus research and other programs as well as off-campus internships if they so choose. Another CPUC member noted that the University tentatively plans on keeping all of the dining halls open during Wintersession, anticipating that many students would return to campus.
Phelps noted he is “looking forward to the new fall schedule,” but was somewhat surprised at the level of engagement some CPUC members expected students to show in Wintersession.
“They expected a huge return of people for intersession. I’m not sure how that’s going to pan out in practice. I could really see a lot of people staying in Aspen or wherever for a couple extra weeks.”
Multiple members of the Council expressed concerns about the logistics of transitioning between the old and new schedules. Their worry was that exams will not end until May 23 this spring and, with the school year beginning earlier than usual in the fall, the coming summer will be cut over a week short, presenting possible difficulties in scheduling summer internships. Others asked if the CPUC considered how the new schedule could lead to possible increases in demand for research funding during Wintersession, as well as how such the scheduling changes could affect student athletes.
University Vice President W. Rochelle Calhoun brought up the idea of creating a specific mechanism for students to submit questions and concerns like these to the working group dealing with calendar change, so as to ensure that every concern is addressed.
While acknowledging some difficulties that may come with the transition, Prentice said that she believes the calendar change will be beneficial for the University, a sentiment echoed by Eisgruber.
The next CPUC meeting is scheduled for Nov. 11.