Though the Undergraduate Student Government (USG)’s election handbook devotes 6,195 words to legislating contested elections and only 43 on uncontested ones, a majority of this year’s USG candidates are running unopposed.
Five of the nine positions up for election during the winter cycle feature a singular candidate. Treasurer, Campus and Community Affairs (CCA) Chair, Social Chair, and Class of 2022 Senator all stood uncontested from the campaign’s outset, while one of the two candidates for Academics Chair was disqualified during voting for campaign violations. This spread closely mirrors a pattern from last year’s winter elections, where six candidates ran without opposition.
Those running in uncontested races have no obligation to campaign or appeal for votes from the student body. Nevertheless, incoming Treasurer-elect Rachel Hazan ’21 hopes to leverage her current position as Co-Chair of Projects Board — the USG committee that provides funding to student groups — to act as a diligent and judicious official.
“I have an understanding of how money works and is transferred; I know the financial processes behind the scenes,” Hazan said. “My experiences on Projects Board has given me an experience on how money is allocated within Student Government and around the University as a whole.”
Hazan isn’t alone in her previous experience with USG. Save for Christal Ng ’22, all the candidates have prior experience in USG. For example, Class of 2022 Senator-elect Turquoise Brewington ’22 is a member of the Student Groups Recognition Committee.
Social Chair-elect Sophie Torres ’21 has served on the Social Committee since her first year, even completing graphic design work for the organization as a prefrosh.
“[My platform is] just … that I have experience, pretty much,” Torres said. “Honestly, I didn’t flesh out my platform as much as I could have because I was running unopposed, which, to be honest, I was kind of surprised by.”
Brewington believes that the uncontested elections stem from the extent to which undergraduates are willing to engage with USG, though she does not see student apathy as in any way indicative of animosity.
“Personally … [with] my friend group of people who I talk to, it’s kind of just … ‘USG exists and that’s that,’” she said. “It’s not, like, ‘Oh, like I hate USG’ or something like that.”
The issue, according to Hazan, also partially stems from the inherent nature of getting involved in USG.
“I think USG can be a very daunting thing to join, especially because … the positions that are up right now are executive positions,” she said. “I wish the student body was more engaged with USG, but I’ve also come to the understanding that … a lot of [USG work] isn’t forward facing, which is why people don’t really understand the community engagement that USG has with the University.”
In the eyes of Ng, CCA Chair-elect, all that stands between USG and larger buy-in is spreading knowledge.
“I don’t think there’s … apathy … I feel like there definitely are some people who are not as involved but I think that if they actually … underst[ood] the inner workings of what is occurring around their campus … they’d be open to listening to it,” Ng said. “I don’t think we should be that cynical.”
Discussing her plans for CCA with the ‘Prince,’ Ng largely focused on her desire to “work … on initiatives like asking local and regional vendors to secure discounts for Princeton students” and “help better the student life by focusing on town-gown relations.” Both of Ng’s top-line promises closely mirror the wording of the job description provided for the Campus and Community Affairs Chair in the election handbook.
“The duty of the Campus and Community Affairs Chair is to improve student life at Princeton by focusing on ‘town and gown’ relations,” the document reads. “The CCA Chair works on initiatives such as asking local and regional vendors to secure discounts for Princeton students … ”
“CCA gives me the opportunity to connect with the student body, faculty, and administrators, and through this connection, there is a mutual understanding from both parties and this is what makes for success,” Ng wrote in her platform. “To present to you what I have to offer will be meaningless unless and until I can prove it to you.”
During a conversation with The Daily Princetonian, Ng initially indicated that she “honestly ha[s] no idea” what she wants to accomplish beyond guaranteeing discounts. Later, the candidate said she also wanted to “connect students to more performances outside of campus … maybe even outside of the Princeton town,” referencing the possibility of more free trips to New York City.
In contrast with Ng’s outward-facing job, Brewington’s position necessitates looking inward. The Wilson School concentrator hopes to use her spot in the Senate to focus on matters of diversity and inclusion.
“A big part of my platform was creating intersectionality,” Brewington said. “I want to start implementing or suggesting diversity workshops … I want to be on the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group for the Senate, and do things like creating a faculty/student coalition to kind of help empower marginalized groups in different academic settings.”
Mirroring Brewington’s innovative spirit, Torres hopes to use her tenure to grow the purview of Social Committee. Currently, the group focuses heavily on planning Lawnparties. Torres hopes to change the student body’s image of the board’s work.
“I feel like the people who do think about Social Committee, they just think Lawnparties. But I want to expand upon that [with] … fun events,” Torres said. “I think the way it was described a few years ago it was ‘focus on bringing various types of art’… to the Princeton community.”
Hazan maintains a number of plans to streamline budgeting processes and better enforce regulations. In considering her final year of work in USG, she hopes her tenure as Treasurer is looked upon with esteem.
“I want to be remembered as someone who is competent and on top of it. I don’t care about being the face of USG,” Hazan said. “I’m very happy to be behind the scenes … as someone who knowledgeably and intentionally… did her job effectively.”