In a special meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 16, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) voted to pass a resolution to “condemn and combat antisemitism” and added a Senate-initiated referendum on the expansion of gender-neutral bathrooms to the upcoming winter election ballot.
The special meeting was called following an extended session on Sunday, Nov. 13, during which the Senate debated a referendum proposal that would have called on the University to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. On Sunday, some USG members raised concerns about the application of the definition with regards to free speech and anti-Zionism; the proposal ultimately failed to gain the support needed to appear on the ballot.
Prior to the introduction of any new business, USG President Mayu Takeuchi ’23 read a statement she wrote that was “circulated via the Center for Jewish Life and Chabad listservs” following the meeting.
“Currently, the University hosts robust trainings for students, faculty, and staff regarding antisemitism that use the [IHRA’s] definition and examples,” Takeuchi said. “These trainings will continue with my enthusiastic support.”
She reported having met this week with student leaders from the Center for Jewish Life (CJL) and Chabad, noting, “as someone who doesn't identify as Jewish, I'm here to listen, and I've learned a lot about our vibrant Jewish community here at Princeton.”
U-Councilor Judah Guggenheim ’25 then introduced a new resolution on antisemitism, which Takeuchi co-sponsored.
The resolution text calls on the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS) and the Office of the Dean of Graduate Students to increase trainings on antisemitism, including “trainings for student leaders, bias trainings for students, and annual orientation programming.”
Though the resolution does not call on the University to adopt any particular definition of antisemitism, it notes in its preamble that “the University hosts trainings addressing antisemitism for students, faculty, staff, and administrators, and those trainings use the [IHRA] definition of antisemitism with its examples.”
The resolution also calls on the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity “to include statistics and other information regarding antisemitism in the Annual Report on Bias at Princeton University and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Annual Report.”
“So hopefully [the changes called for] will help students be better prepared to combat antisemitism,” Guggenheim said.
He also explained why he chose to bring forward a resolution rather than a referendum.
“Antisemitism, like all forms of discrimination, is something that we want to strongly and actively condemn,” he said. “So to put [a referendum on] a student-wide ballot with an option of voting ‘no’ on condemning antisemitism, I think felt a little uncomfortable, especially for members of the Jewish community that we were talking to.”
Takeuchi said that the resolution needed to gain a majority vote in the Senate in order to pass, which it ultimately did unanimously.
Some community members in attendance seemed to express concerns about the resolution during deliberations.
Emanuelle Sippy ’25 asked about the continued role of the IHRA definition in University trainings and in the resolution, to which Takeuchi replied that “USG should be [following] the lead of the Jewish community,” and that “there's no vote coming before the Senate” with regard to defining antisemitism.
Guggenheim later noted that USG “should not directly prescribe” the content of antisemitism trainings, but rather defer to experts.
“It became increasingly clear that the role of USG seems to be to support [the Jewish] community and its leaders in their work with the University and not to take a strong affirmative position to define anything,” Guggenheim said.
But to Sippy, USG’s advocacy for trainings that continue to utilize the IHRA definition was problematic.
“The IHRA definition has been documented to silence criticism in Israel,” Sippy said. “The continued reliance on the IHRA definition is concerning.”
Nate Howard ’25 brought up the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism as an alternative definition that he argued “does a better job clearly delineating what types of criticism of Israel are not antisemitic” and which are antisemitic.
Guggenheim noted that “there are a lot of different perspectives” within the Jewish community, which is why “it’s very important that the USG does not insert itself into a conversation that's happening within the Jewish community.”
Martin Mastnak ’25 asked whether USG members drafting the resolution had consulted “members of the Jewish progressive community, [who] are frequently sidelined and sometimes even ignored during discussions concerning the entire Jewish community on campus.”
Mastnak, Sippy, and Howard are members of the Alliance of Jewish Progressives, which published an open letter in The Daily Princetonian prior to Wednesday’s meeting condemning the CJL’s use of the IHRA definition.
Takeuchi declined to comment on which students were consulted “out of respect for [their] privacy.”
Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne also noted the importance of USG encouraging students to take the trainings that are already available at the University.
In a message to the ‘Prince,’ Guggenheim expressed gratitude to those who contributed to the writing and passage of the resolution, which he said “was crafted with thoughtfulness in collaboration with students from USG and the Jewish community.”
Gender-neutral bathroom referendum
The second item on the agenda, a “Resolution of the USG to Initiate a Referendum to Expand Gender-Neutral Residential Restrooms,” was introduced as a last-minute referendum proposal for the winter election.
Prior to the introduction of the referendum, USG Vice President Hannah Kapoor ’23 clarified, “We are at that point in the elections period that the only referenda that can be proposed must be Senate-initiated,” which she said was “purely for logistical purposes.”
Although U-Councilor Uma Fox ’26 said she has been “considering putting [the referendum] forward for the entire semester,” she was only very recently able to obtain information about “the legal basis” for gender-neutral bathrooms on college campuses.
The referendum question asks, “Shall the undergraduates call on the Office of the Provost to, in a timely manner, establish a commission to investigate and provide recommendations on how the University may convert the majority of residential campus restrooms to be gender-neutral?”
“By pushing this resolution forward,” Fox said, “we are able to say, as a Princeton community, that we’re both supportive of transgender and gender nonconforming students, and that we’re also willing to take action to make sure that all members of our community feel safe.”
“We are at a moment of a critical juncture in American higher education about transgender and gender nonconforming students,” Fox said.
She also noted that students should be able to “access a bathroom that is pursuant and agrees to [their] gender identity” in any residential college on campus.
The referendum text references gender-neutral bathrooms in Princeton’s new residential colleges, stating, “As evidenced by the gender-neutral residential spaces of the Yeh College and New College West dormitories, the University has the resources and ability to implement gender-neutral restrooms across campus.”
Senator Walker Penfield ’25 voiced his support for Fox’s work on the referendum, emphasizing that now is an “important moment” for Princeton “to show support for nonbinary, trans, and queer students.”
Takeuchi asked Fox about possible effects should the referendum fail or be passed by a “narrow margin.”
“Personally, as an LGBTQ+ student,” Fox responded, “I would like to know if the majority of my peers at Princeton do not support this, because that would inform decisions I make, and how I approach my role on the [Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] Committee.”
Takeuchi also asked for clarification on the use of the word “majority” in the referendum question, noting that, for example, some survivors of sexual assault may not feel comfortable using gender-neutral bathrooms.
Fox answered that those sorts of examples did factor into her decision to request that the “majority” of undergraduate residential bathrooms be converted rather than all of them.
The Senate voted by a wide margin to put the referendum forth as Senate-initiated; only USG Treasurer Adam Hoffman ’23 voted in opposition.
The referendum passed the language review portion of the session unanimously.
“I’m very excited for this opportunity for Princeton undergraduates to show their commitment to equality and acceptance on our campus,” Fox told the ‘Prince’ following the referendum’s initiation by the Senate.
“We don’t get a lot of opportunities to, as a community, come together and show that there’s a mandate for LGBTQ+ inclusion, and the Senate today has given us a real chance as a community to show that we all hold those values in common, and that we want to advance further equality and acceptance here at Princeton,” she said.
USG Senate meetings are typically held in Betts Auditorium in the Architecture School 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 staff News writer who covers USG for the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections at dailyprincetonian.com.