The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Senate convened on Sunday, Feb. 27 for a budget update, a spring elections overview, and to approve student organization events and a new USG task force.
The Viewpoint Diversity Task Force was proposed by USG Treasurer Adam Hoffman ’23, who framed the the aim of the task force as “foster[ing] an environment that celebrates each other's different perspectives and different backgrounds.”
Hoffman spoke about his motivations for creating the Task Force, including personal experiences with what he perceives as a campus culture that separates students who have similar viewpoints into isolated groups.
He explained that “the most enriching part” of his Princeton experience has been engaging with students from different backgrounds.
“[In order] to make that happen, I've had to work up against some existing structures at Princeton, and just existing culture at Princeton,” Hoffman said.
Following a question from Class of 2025 Senator Walker Penfield ’25, Hoffman said that he’s not entirely sure which institutional structures and cultural elements contribute to this issue, arguing that this is why he believes this Task Force will serve an important purpose as an agent for information-gathering. The Task Force will potentially partner with the Office of Institutional Research for help with surveying the student body, eventually producing a study and report on viewpoint diversity and echo chambers at Princeton.
“You need data to back up any sort of change,” said Hoffman.
Twelve USG members voted in favor of creating the Task Force, while four abstained and four opposed.
The vote was by far the most divisive the Senate have faced so far this year. Based on previous coverage this year, this is the first time in 2022 where any oppositional votes have been cast.
After the meeting, USG Vice President Hannah Kapoor ’23 commented that it is fitting how the outcome of the vote reflects the spirit of encouraging disagreement and skepticism that’s embodied by the stated mission of the Task Force. She noted her and Takeuchi’s excitement that a Senate member had taken the initiative to bring a new task force idea forward after most task forces for the year had already been established.
Hoffman also delivered a brief budget update, explaining that USG is well within its budget so far this term. The USG Senate has spent $2,500 of its general allocation from the $230,000 overall budget for the semester, with most of the funds spent at this point having been allocated to TigerApps.
“We do still have a lot of money that we can begin appropriating,” Hoffman noted. “Be ready and be comfortable to extend programming after [spring] break and make use of the funds that we have.”
USG President Mayu Takeuchi ’23 gave the Senate an overview of the upcoming spring elections, which will include races for U-Councilor and class government positions as well as referenda.
“Our core values of this administration, in particular, are transparency, accountability, and also engagement,” said Takeuchi. She explained that in line with these goals, USG has partnered with Vote100 for the upcoming election.
“We are aiming to reach 100 percent voter turnout in this election cycle,” she said.
USG will kick off the election cycle with an open house for potential candidates on Monday, March 14.
Nelson Dimpter ’22 of the USG Projects Board presented a funding request from J-Lats, a student organization dedicated to Princeton’s Jewish Latinx community. The Senate voted unanimously to approve $1,800 of USG funding for the group to host a carnival event on Saturday, March 19. The funding will be used primarily for food trucks for the event.
Max Jakobsen ’24, Head of Communications for the Princeton African Students Association (PASA), presented a funding request for Sankofa, an African fashion show event that the group has hosted previously in pre-COVID years.
“Sankofa is a fashion show that's been held multiple times here at Princeton in 2018 and in 2019, and was scheduled to be held in 2020 but was obviously pushed back because of the pandemic,” explained Jakobsen. “And so this year, we're bringing it back, and we're bringing it back better.”
Jakobsen emphasized the developments occurring in the African community at the University.
“The African community at Princeton is sort of going through a renaissance,” said Jakobsen. “It’s growing, and it’s incredibly active, so we want to celebrate that.”
PASA has applied for funding from various sources on campus, and the group’s treasurer, Mona Hassan ’23, noted that with funding from Projects Board, they’ll have what they need to “see the vision for Sankofa coming to life.” Out of the $4,000 requested, $2,000 will be supplied by USG. The request was approved unanimously.
In response to a question from U-Councilor Stephen Daniels ’24, Dimpter explained that $10,500 of the Projects Board’s budget has been awarded so far this semester, “so we’re looking pretty good.” Takeuchi confirmed to the ‘Prince’ that $45,000 of the $230,000 budget is allocated to the Projects Board.
The meeting wrapped up with a discussion about a comprehensive “USG Survey” for the student body, led by USG Chief of Staff Dillion Gallagher ’23.
USG Senate meetings are held in Robertson Hall Room 016 at 8 p.m. on Sunday evenings and are open to all. The next meeting will be held on Sunday, March 13, the day before classes resume after spring break.
Annie Rupertus is a first-year from Philadelphia and a News Staff Writer who covers USG for the ‘Prince.’ She is also a designer for the print issue. She can be reached at email@example.com or @annierupertus on Instagram and Twitter.