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USG debates taking action on potential campus dining changes, passes elections reform

<h5>USG passed a series of changes to its official elections handbook.</h5>
<h6>Annie Rupertus/The Daily Princetonian</h6>
USG passed a series of changes to its official elections handbook.
Annie Rupertus/The Daily Princetonian

On Sunday, Oct. 9, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) debated taking an official stance on proposals to change the upperclass dining system, voted to pass a set of reforms to the student elections handbook, and held a feedback session on the new Pay with Points program.

These discussions of the junior and senior dining experience come in the wake of a leaked University plan to expand dining options by giving all upperclass students five swipes per week to use at any dining hall, dining co-operative, or eating club, and the subsequent release of a student-initiated alternative plan. There has been no official announcement from the University regarding the student-proposed pilot.

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At the onset of the dining discussion, the question posed to the senate via the meeting slideshow read, “Do you support the USG Senate endorsing the five point plan, as presented by the coalition of student leaders, as a basis for the campus-wide discussion to address fluidity in the upperclass dining experience?” 

USG President Mayu Takeuchi ’23 presented the question as independent from the pilot program itself but rather one addressing fluidity in upperclass dining. She said that a vote to endorse the student-initiated five point plan would not necessarily be a vote to reject the administration’s proposal.

“Just to be clear, this current discussion of the five point plan today is independent of the merits and shortcomings of the dining pilot itself,” Takeuchi said. “This is more of a discussion focused in the context of addressing this issue of fluidity in upperclass dining.” 

Later on, Takeuchi added, “Endorsing the plan does not necessarily mean that we do endorse or oppose the dining pilot as developed by the administration.”

Some senate members, however, pushed back on this point, as the five point plan created by student leaders was initially framed “as an alternative to the dining program and pilot developed by the University administration” within the body of the proposal

“I think that a vote on [the five point plan] will effectively communicate an endorsement of this plan that opposes the University’s plan, but you want us to act like that’s not the case,” U-Councilor Dillion Gallagher ’23 said.

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Takeuchi responded to further debate by clarifying that the steps outlined in the five point plan could be viewed as either “additive or alternative” to the University’s proposal, or, in the words of U-Councilor Daniel Shaw ’25, it would “be theoretically possible for the USG to support both the five point plan and the administration’s pilot.”

Given that no official information has been released by the University, Takeuchi explained that USG cannot yet vote on a stance.

Though the meeting agenda initially called for the senate to vote on an official position regarding the student-initiated proposal, members expressed a desire for more information prior to taking any official stance.

U-Councilor Judah Guggenheim ’25 brought up the possibility that USG vote to call on the University to release official information about the pilot, and the senate ultimately decided to table a vote on its stance and instead take an electronic vote later in the week regarding whether it should officially call on the University to release more information. The timing of the vote on this stance is yet to be determined.

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The senate also unanimously passed a set of changes to the Elections Handbook as part of the ongoing USG Reform Project. 

The updates include: (1) the implementation of electronic petitioning to replace paper petitions, (2) a clarification of the rules regarding electronic campaign messaging, including a new mandatory disclaimer that must be included in any campaign message sent to more than ten people at once, (3) additional language on ballots that clarify the meaning of abstentions, (4) a delay to the winter elections calendar by two weeks, (5) the renaming of pre-election “open houses” to “rules meetings,” (6) the inclusion in the handbook of an already-existing rule that bans “expenditures on cash equivalents” like gift cards, (7) the elimination of an “unenforceable” 100-sheet limit on paper campaign posters, and (8) adjustments to the language in the handbook that prohibits the Chief Elections Manager (CEM) from checking election results while a complaint or appeal is pending, in order to better align with the Election Runner program.

Campus and Community Affairs (CCA) Chair and Reform Project leader Isabella Shutt ’24 explained the changes to the winter election calendar, saying that with the previous timeline, “[w]e essentially take what’s already a really short semester for USG and chop it down even further by having sort of a sitting duck period.” 

Takeuchi added that the election timelines in official USG documents have not been changed since the University shifted in fall 2020 to a calendar where final exams occur prior to winter break.

The changes will be implemented immediately following the 2026 Class Council Election, for which voting closes on Wednesday, Oct. 12.

Shutt also opened a conversation around potential reforms to the structure of the U-Council. The Reform Project’s proposal, titled “Everyone’s a Senator,” advocates for all U-Councilors to be made senators. Instead of ten U-Councilors being elected within the same cycle, the proposal puts forth the idea that senator elections would be split between the winter and spring elections, with six Senators total from each class — three from each elected in both the fall and the spring.

The senate would then hold an internal election to determine which senators should represent USG in Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) meetings.

According to Shutt, the proposal responds to concerns about low-candidate turnout in U-Council elections, as well as issues with varying commitment among U-Councilors to attendance at USG Senate meetings.

Senate members debated the necessity of electing members based on class year and the potential effects of this proposal on voter turnout.

USG also held a feedback session with University Services administrators Chris Lentz and Emma Marshall on the new Pay with Points program introduced this semester.

Marshall reported that 81 percent of underclass students have used the program so far, which she characterized as “great numbers,” and that the average student has spent about a quarter of their available points so far. 

She also reported positive feedback from vendors, noting that one participating location even reported increased numbers of students applying for jobs there since the start of the program.

“There’s definitely a lot of buzz in the community about it,” Marshall said.

Administrators are currently seeking additional vendors for the program, taking into account factors like diversity of restaurant options and availability of options throughout the day. According to Lentz, administrators hope to reach 15 total merchants before 2023, and they expect one vendor to be added by the end of October. 

Shutt suggested that the administration consider adding Tacoria and Junbi to the roster of participating restaurants.

The Senate also heard an update from Sustainability Chair Audrey Zhang ’25. She reported that the Sustainability Committee’s two major projects for the remainder of the semester include hosting an eco-festival event, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 12, and working towards increased vegan and vegetarian food options in the dining halls. The committee hopes that by next semester, Campus Dining will assign a different dining hall each day to serve exclusively vegan and vegetarian options.

USG Senate meetings are held in Betts Auditorium in the School of Architecture at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoons and are open to all.

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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