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USG hears updates on mental health, campus safety, dining

<h5>USG members vote via Zoom to approve a constitutional amendment.</h5>
<h6>Annie Rupertus / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
USG members vote via Zoom to approve a constitutional amendment.
Annie Rupertus / The Daily Princetonian

The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Senate heard updates regarding mental health resources, campus security, and dining during a Zoom meeting on Sunday, Nov. 27. 

The Senate voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to establish an expiration date for ad hoc committees, and also rejected a second amendment that would have expanded committee flexibility.

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With the semester and USG term nearing their ends, a number of members took the time to report on some of the hallmark initiatives of this year’s Senate administration.

U-Councilor and Mental Health Task Force Chair Stephen Daniels ’24, who is currently running for USG President, noted the launch of a new 24/7 CPS hotline last week, as well the ongoing results of mental health advocacy, including:

  1. CPS plans to focus social media messaging to better correspond with “high-stress” times on campus, like the upcoming bicker season.
  2. Students who have taken time off and re-enroll for the spring semester will now be able to register for Wintersession, something that was not previously possible.
  3. The number of participants in group therapy sessions doubled this year, which, according to Daniels, is due to increased communication efforts. 
  4. In the future, when new counselors are hired by CPS (they are currently working to hire two), drop-in hours will be built into their schedules, a change described as an “ongoing commitment to making sure that students can access counseling on their own terms and when they need it most.”
  5. A student health advisory committee will launch in the spring semester. 
  6. The University is providing “ongoing training to utilize Residential Life Coordinators in non-emergency situation wellness checks, instead of PSAFE.”
  7. Progress is being made towards a partnership — possibly with Lyft — to provide transportation to off-campus mental healthcare by this spring.

USG members then participated in a discussion on efforts to improve student mental health. U-Councilor Med Coulibaly ’25 emphasized USG’s role in demanding that administrators follow through on the implementation of the recommendations made in the mental health working group report

He added that “it's not just enough to throw these links to students and say, ‘here, go fix your mental health.’ We need to promote and acquaint students with these resources.”

Campus and Community Affairs (CCA) Chair Isabella Shutt ’24 echoed these concerns, expressing the need for broader shifts in campus culture in order to truly make space for mental health. Shutt is also running for USG President.

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“If I don't feel like I have the time to go and talk to someone at CPS, then the resource might as well not exist for me,” said Shutt, who is also running for USG President. “If every minute of your day is blocked out into some sort of extracurricular or class assignment, then you're not taking the time to build the community and to feel like you belong.”

“Ultimately it comes down to whether or not students are given the space to fully be human at Princeton, and I think there are some times where we just don’t receive that,” Shutt added.

USG President Mayu Takeuchi ’23 updated the Senate on campus safety proposals, reporting that a desire for greater lighting is a “widespread student sentiment.”

At a Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) meeting earlier this semester associate vice president of capital projects Dozie Ibeh explained that a group of administrations, including individuals from Housing and Real Estate, Facilities, Public Safety, Environmental Health and Safety, Residential Colleges, The Graduate School, and The Office of Disability Services conduct campus safety walks every semester in order to identify areas for improvement. 

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These walks, however, occur in the early evening hours. Takeuchi informed the Senate that “one gap that we identified during a recent safety walk is that the safety walks currently happen right around dusk, around 5 or 6 p.m., which is not representative of the typical nighttime campus that we experience as students.” 

Takeuchi is working to plan an additional safety walk, which she requested take place no earlier than 10 p.m.

She also reported that in addition to the feedback given in a Nov. 21 Zoom session with administrators, over 220 students have submitted to a feedback form about campus security cameras. A second, in-person feedback session is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 1.

U-Councilor Aishwarya Swamidurai ’26 reported that, of the input gathered from the feedback form, about 36 percent of students “explicitly said they want to see cameras nowhere.”

Daniels also gave an update on the Pay with Points program, which recently added a new slate of participating restaurants, including Mamoun’s and Princeton Soup & Sandwich this week.

“We continue to get the piece of feedback that upperclassmen would really love to be involved with this program in some way,” he added. “In particular, RCAs have been mentioned a couple of times.”

On a second dining-related agenda item, U-Councilor Dillion Gallagher ’23 reported on a meeting he had with members of the Interclub Council (ICC) and administrators from the dining pilot working group, along with U-Councilor Uma Fox ’26, U-Councilor Judah Guggenheim ’25, and Takeuchi.

Gallagher described the meeting with administrators as occasionally “off-putting.”  

“There were some moments where it seemed administrators were more territorial over the working group,” he said. 

To close out the meeting, the Senate held two final votes on constitutional amendments that had both passed initial votes in a Nov. 20 meeting. Amendments to the USG Constitution require two-thirds support in two consecutive meetings.

The first amendment, proposed by Takeuchi to “establish an expiry date for ad hoc committees,” passed unanimously.

There was less agreement on the second proposed amendment, which would “empower Senate ownership over ad hoc committees.”

“This resolution is about expanding the flexibility of the Senate and also encouraging more responsibility and ownership over USG policy initiatives,” said sponsor and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Chair Braiden Aaronson ’25, adding that the proposal aims to “build in more democratic structures into USG.”

Currently, the Senate or its Executive Committee has the power to establish an ad hoc committee and specify its duties. The role of appointing a committee chair and members is the USG President’s responsibility. Aaronson’s amendment would transfer the latter power regarding chair and membership to the broader Senate (and Executive Committee), with the option to delegate that responsibility to the President.

Some Senate members expressed concerns about the proposal regarding potential loss of accountability in its structure and lack of time for the full USG to interview and deliberate about candidates. Others expressed support for a more involved candidate selection process for ad hoc committees.

Ultimately, the second amendment did not pass, with 8 members in favor and 13 opposed. Members voted as follows:

In favor: Aaronson, Bradley, Fox, Gallagher, U-Councilor Afzal Hussain ’25, Senator Walker Penfield ’25, Shutt, and Swamidurai. 

Opposed: University Student Life Committee (USLC) Chair Avi Attar ’25, Senator Ellen Battaglia ’23, Branom, Daniels, Dockery, Vice President Hannah Kapoor ’23, Social Chair Madison Linton ’24, U-Councilor Riley Martinez ’23, Caitlin McNally ’24 (by proxy for Guggenheim), River Reynolds ’24 (by proxy for Academics Chair Austin Davis ’23), Shaw, Takeuchi, and Sustainability Chair Audrey Zhang ’25.

Zhang, alongside Daniels and Shutt, is running for USG President.

USG Senate meetings are normally 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.

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