University President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 led the monthly meeting for the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) on Monday, Feb. 14. Eisgruber expounded on his annual State of the University Letter and took questions from members of the Council, faculty, and student body.
While Eisgruber presented on the University’s long-term initiatives such as campus expansion, some student audience members took the opportunity of the in-person meeting to pose questions with regard to short-term concerns they had for leadership in Nassau Hall.
Princeton Committee on Palestine
Eric Periman ’23, president of the Princeton Committee on Palestine, asked about the University endowment’s investments surrounding the occupation in Israel-Palestine.
“How can we know who is benefiting and who is being hurt by investments? Specifically, we know that as of 2002, the University has $100 million invested in Palestine that were connected in aiding to and violating Palestinian human rights,” he claimed.
In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Periman clarified that his question was he was in reference to a previous divestment campaign around Palestinian human rights dating back to 2002.
In response, Eisgruber said at the meeting that decisions at the University are not based on referendums but rather involve a “deliberative process and community-based process that involves this particular council, along with the Board of Trustees.”
“That process allows for concerns to be brought forward and examined to see if they conform to the central and relevant values of the University,” Eisgruber said.
In an email to the ‘Prince,’ when asked to comment on Periman’s figure of “$100 million,” Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss reiterated the University’s policy to not comment on the “specific holdings of [the] endowment.”
Gender inclusive restroom access
Another student, Max Peel ’25, called into question what the University is doing to ensure that non-binary students are afforded adequate accommodations by Campus Housing, especially with regard to bathroom access.
“In reference to Vice President [for Campus Life W. Rochelle] Calhoun talking about the need for making all students on campus feel safe and welcome in the Princeton community, what are the plans for ensuring that non-binary and trans students, like myself, feel affirmed in their gender in terms of bathroom access, and what is the University doing to ensure that every building on campus has gender-neutral restrooms?” they said.
Eisgruber deferred Peel’s question to Calhoun, who said that “we have an overarching plan to ensure the new spaces [in residential colleges] have gender-inclusive restrooms. We have done a lot of work, actually, with specific architects who have expertise here.”
Eisgruber also responded to questions posed by Council members. One student, Riley Martinez ’23, who serves as U-Council Chair for the Undergraduate Student Government, expressed concerns about transparency following the University’s decision to withhold admissions statistics from the public.
“How does that [decision] fit into your vision or the purported values of equity?” Martinez asked.
Eisgruber responded by saying that, in terms of providing information on matriculated students, the University is actually more transparent than peer institutions. In addition, he cited two primary reasons for withholding certain information.
“[The data] was often misleading rather than illuminating,” he said, adding that people tend to “over-read” the statistics.
“People would try to draw inferences, often wrongly, about what this meant for how the decision-making procedure works,” he said. “So with regard to our aspirations for equity and inclusion, we will continue to release the data that matters.”
COVID-19 concerns for faculty and staff with children
Reena Goldthree, an assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies, stated that she “wanted to hear a bit about if there are any plans to increase the University’s support for faculty and staff with young children.”
Eisgruber responded that the pandemic brought on heavy burdens to all University staff, especially those with children, as there was little ability to get around the barriers of childcare. In keeping with his mission to loosen restrictions, he referenced creative solutions from other universities.
“I recognize the hardship and hope that we’re not confronted with any kind of subsequent occurrence of something that none of us had seen before with regard to the question of the subsidies and how we provide support,” Eisgruber said.
The contents of Eisgruber’s presentation, which was given to the audience prior to audience questions, showed the long-term visions of the University — juxtaposing the short-term queries of spectators and the members of the Council.
He discussed the University’s COVID-19 policy moving forward, stating, “We need to start a transition to a post-restriction world, even though we are very unlikely to reach a post-COVID world. So in other words, the world that we’re going to be going forward is a world where I expect there will still be a number of significant restrictions and regulations from the University.”
Some of these regulations include the vaccine mandate and discouraging symptomatic students and faculty from engaging in in-person instruction, to name a few.
Eisgruber then added that despite these continued restrictions, in the near future, there will also be discussion about how to prudently loosen restrictions.
“But we’re going to have to look for ways to loosen the restrictions that require everybody right now to be wearing a mask in a setting like this one,” Eisgruber said. “So as we look forward right now to this future that’s built around a recognition that COVID is with us, and that we have vaccines that have enabled us to deal more safely with the disease, our teams … are looking about how to prudently loosen those restrictions.”
Capital Plan — University expansion
Eisgruber next addressed the future construction projects and the expansion of the University — both physically and population-wise.
The construction of the two new residential colleges south of Poe Field will increase the population of the student body by 10 percent, allowing Dean of Admissions Karen Richardson ’93 to “say yes [to] 125” more applicants every application cycle, Eisgruber said at the meeting.
Eisgruber pointed to the sustainability of future campus construction with the Lake Campus across Lake Carnegie — the future site for graduate housing and athletic facilities — utilizing “geothermal exchange facilities that will make this an extraordinarily sustainable campus project.”
In addition, there is work being done in the current campus site to transition from steam-based heating facilities to a chilled water-based heating system that will have “major benefits from a sustainability perspective.”
Eisgruber then showcased a video that highlights the construction of a new engineering neighborhood that will reside on Ivy Lane behind Prospect Street. According to Eisgruber, it will be located closer to the rest of the disciplines here at the University, and the new facilities “will allow us to have an engineering school that is worthy of the 21st century, and we need to continue to be a great liberal arts university in the 21st century.”
The meeting ran from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Frist Multipurpose Room. The first 30 minutes were devoted to Eisgruber’s presentation on his address. The final hour was used to address questions from the Council and other spectators.
Aidan Iacobucci is a Staff News Writer for the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at email@example.com or @aidaniaco on Instagram.