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Student leaders propose counterplan to administration-backed dining pilot

<h6>Isabel Richardson / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Isabel Richardson / The Daily Princetonian

A coalition of student leaders released a five-point proposal for the expansion of upperclass dining in an email to residential college listservs on Tuesday, Oct. 4. The plan is being put forth as an alternative to the pilot program the University plans to run in the upcoming spring semester.

The pilot program, which has yet to be officially announced by the University, would give all juniors and seniors five dining swipes per week to be used at any dining hall, co-op, or eating club, with a possible $1,500 tuition hike. 

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Student representatives of various interest groups have expressed doubts about its implementation, especially with regard to its potential increased financial burden on eating clubs, co-ops, and individual students.

The students’ five-point plan includes an expansion of the already-existing “Two Extra Meals” program, which currently allows all upperclass students two dining hall meals per week, to also include late meal and eating club meal exchange, as well as a new set of eating-club-hosted open nights which could occur weekly.

The plan also proposes that the new underclass dining points program be extended to include upperclass students.

The remaining three points of the proposal lay out longer-term recommendations, such as “social programming that opens the [eating] clubs specifically for all upperclass students,” similar to last spring’s pre-Street Week block party. 

They also recommend that the ICC “open a campus-wide conversation around exclusionary aspects of the eating club system, including the recruitment and selection processes and costs associated with membership.” This point of the plan also suggests that the University expand financial aid “to further cover the prohibitive dues at eating clubs (and other dining options) for lower income and [First-Generation, Low-Income (FLI)] students.”

Finally, they suggest that the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) consider opening additional inclusive “supplemental social spaces” on campus. This could include the reopening of a campus pub that would serve all members of the University community.

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The campus pub, which was in Chancellor Green, served students from 1973 to 1984, during a period when New Jersey briefly dropped the drinking age from 21 to 18. Since its closing, there have been several attempts to revive the campus pub, including a referendum which passed in Winter 2014, and a steering committee which then-president Shirley Tilghman appointed in 2011 to find a location. The pub has not yet been revived. 

The proposed alternative plan was signed by Inter-Club Council (ICC) Vice President and Terrace F. Club President Alexander de Gogorza Moravcsik ’23, ICC and Ivy Club President Sophie Singletary ’23, Real Food Co-op President Naomi Frim-Abrams ’23, Residential College Adviser (RCA) Mutemwa Masheke ’23, USG President and independent student Mayu Takeuchi ’23, and USG U-Council Chair and Charter Club member Stephen Daniels ’24. 

“In a monumental move, the ICC and co-op leaders and USG are all working together to try and figure out a plan that works best for all of us,” Frim-Abrams said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. “[A plan that] allows us all to be financially and socially secure, and also starts to address some of the concerns, especially that the co-ops had regarding the exclusivity of eating clubs.”

She said that she thought the alternative plan was “a good compromise for what the administration was pushing for, which was fluidity in dining and allowing people who couldn’t normally eat together to eat in new spaces.” 

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Takeuchi also noted in an interview with the ‘Prince’ that she personally believes that the five-point plan would be more effective in furthering the goal of fluidity in dining. She also emphasized that her endorsement of the plan does not represent an endorsement from USG, and that her primary role in the formation of the alternative plan has been as a facilitator to convene leaders from various student populations.

The University has yet to officially address the program or its pilot, and has made an emphasis on keeping discussions of the plan and its details by the University confidential. 

Prior to the release of the alternative plan to students, USG sent out an email in the afternoon of Oct. 4, reminding the student body that “the dining pilot and program are not USG initiatives.” They also provided a feedback form where students could “share [their] thoughts regarding the administration-developed dining program and pilot, as well as junior and senior dining more broadly.”

While Takeuchi and Daniels both signed the proposal, USG has not announced an official stance on the issue, nor does it plan to take an official vote as of now due to the fact that the University has not made an official announcement and “is maintaining confidentiality,” according to a message from Takeuchi to the ‘Prince.’

Takeuchi also told the ‘Prince’ that the plan has been “informed by student input” beyond just the six leaders who signed the proposal. Student input collection regarding the future of campus dining will be ongoing.

In their email, USG said that there would be a Student Assembly on Thursday, Oct. 6 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in Frist Campus Center Room 302. This would be limited to students only and would provide the opportunity to “listen and share perspectives on the administration-developed dining pilot and program as well as the upperclass dining experience more broadly.” 

In a message to the ‘Prince,’ Takeuchi said that she has been meeting with “​​eating club members, co-op members, students on meal plans, and independent students” since the University’s plan was covered in the ‘Prince’ in order to understand a variety of student perspectives on the issue. She said she plans to meet with senior administrators by the end of this week with the goal of “amplifying student feedback.”

Frim-Abrams said that she was excited to see what students were thinking. 

“I think having as many students as possible chime in and give us a bigger picture of what upperclassmen actually want is going to be really helpful,” she said.

Laura Robertson is a News staff writer for the ‘Prince.’ She can be reached at lr15@princeton.edu.

Annie Rupertus is a sophomore from Philadelphia, an Assistant Data Editor, and a News staff writer who covers USG for the Prince. She can be reached at arupertus@princeton.edu or @annierupertus on Instagram and Twitter.

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