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USG discusses Eisgruber's comments on mental health

<h5>USG members vote on a proposed amendment to constitutional language around ad hoc committees.</h5>
<h6>Annie Rupertus / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
USG members vote on a proposed amendment to constitutional language around ad hoc committees.
Annie Rupertus / The Daily Princetonian

The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Senate opened their most recent meeting on Nov. 20 with a discussion of mental health on campus, in light of a recent interview published in The Daily Princetonian with University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83.

Beyond this discussion, the Senate proposed and voted on amendments on the structure of ad hoc committees, and heard presentations on USG records digitization and a potential new ad hoc committee on upperclass dining.

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At the top of the meeting, Campus and Community Affairs (CCA) Chair Isabella Shutt ’24 brought to the Senate’s attention Eisgruber’s claim in his recent interview that “high aspiration environments are consistent with mental health and [he doesn’t] see any evidence that academic laxness or academic mediocrity would somehow be better from the standpoint of mental health.”

“I want to name in this space that I don’t know any student that wants to be academically mediocre in that they want to live, be well, and be human,” Shutt said. “I think it’s really important that we as USG make a clear break from Eisgruber’s statement.”

U-Councilor Stephen Daniels ’24 added that Eisgruber “seems to be confused about why students are not flourishing.”

Following this discussion, Shutt, along with U-Councilors Uma Fox ’26 and Aishwarya Swamidurai ’26, introduced a proposal for an initiative called “MakingSpace: Empowering Students to Name Grievances and Imagine Solutions.”

“CCA got together after fall break and had a conversation about where our community is at and what we need,” said Shutt, “and one of the things that came out of that was that we need continual dialogue that is student-centered.”

The proposed initiative will bring students together for conversations around student issues where administrators would be present to answer questions and observe, but not to direct or lead conversation.

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Shutt, Fox, and Swamidurai proposed the initial pilot event under this project to take place on Friday, Dec. 2, with the potential for recurring conversations afterwards.

U-Councilor Dillion Gallagher ’23 also presented a new initiative: a potential Ad Hoc Committee on Upperclassmen Dining Experience.

“The primary motivation for this is to create a space for conversations and policy development regarding upperclass dining that will hopefully lead to a greater ease of use in all those distinct dining experiences, and then greater interpersonal connection,” Gallagher said.

He noted that he hopes the implementation of the committee would improve consistency and transparency in conversations around upperclass dining, “particularly because the dining pilot working group was initially not very open to student input.” He mentioned that while recent conversations around junior and senior dining have revolved around the University’s dining pilot program for the upcoming spring semester, the committee would ideally deal more broadly with dining experiences on campus.

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Gallagher added that while the work of a dining committee could theoretically fit under the University Student Life Committee (USLC), he thinks it would make the most sense to dedicate a full committee’s worth of people to the initiative given how “pressing” dining issues are on campus right now.

USG did not vote on Gallagher’s resolution during Sunday’s meeting.

USG Historian Caitlin McNally ’24 gave a presentation on the process of digitizing USG records. Some USG records are already available on the Princeton University Library website, though many records are not yet digitized and publicly available. 

McNally reported that digitizing the remaining records, including paper records in the University’s Mudd Library as well as Google Drive content and meeting minutes, would take approximately a semester and cost between $5,500 and $6,000.

“I think it’s really important to make our documents really accessible,” added USG Academics Chair Austin Davis ’23.

No formal budget request was made on the issue of record digitization, and USG did not vote on any aspect of the proposal during Sunday’s meeting.

The Senate did vote on two proposed amendments to the USG Constitution, both pertaining to the structure of ad hoc committees within USG.

First, USG voted on an amendment “to establish an expiry date for ad hoc committees” put forth by USG President Mayu Takeuchi ’23. The amended constitutional language states that “ad hoc committees shall expire at the adjournment of the first regular meeting of the succeeding President’s term, unless renewed.”

The resolution passed the initial vote unanimously. Since constitutional amendments require two-thirds approval in two consecutive meetings, a second vote will be held in the next Senate meeting.

Then, Diversity and Equity Committee (DEC) Chair Braiden Aaronson ’25 presented a “parallel resolution” to “empower Senate ownership over ad hoc committees.”

Currently, ad hoc committees can be created and assigned tasks by a majority vote of the Senate. The USG President then appoints a chair and members of the committee. 

The amendment would allow for the establishment, renewal, and determination of chairs and membership composition of an ad hoc committee “​​by a majority vote of the Senate or a majority of the entire voting membership of the Executive Committee.” The amended language still allows for presidential appointments, should the Senate not specify any chair or member appointments.

Aaronson explained that the amendment is “about fundamentally designing more flexibility into the Constitution and making it easier for the Senate to organize initiatives around specific ideas more readily,” as part of an effort to “build more cohesion, community and efficiency in the Senate.”

U-Councilor Daniel Shaw ’25 noted that “this amendment hits on a deeper question beyond our committees, which is the balance of power between the presidency and the Senate.”

He raised a concern about the “precedent” set by the proposed amendment, given that the USG “president is elected to essentially be the leader of the student government.” Shaw suggested, “it might be wise to include a presidential check on the Senate’s power [regarding ad hoc committees], if we’re inverting the structure from the Senate having a check on the President’s ability to initiate to the President having a check on the Senate’s power.”

The amendment passed its initial vote with 14 members in favor and 6 opposing:

In favor: Aaronson, Senator Ellen Battaglia ’23, U-Councilor Amanda Branom ’25, U-Councilor Med Coulibaly ’25, Senator Ned Dockery ’25, Fox, Gallagher, U-Councilor Afzal Hussain ’25, Senator Mariam Latif ’24, Social Chair Madison Linton ’24, Jessica Scott ’24 (by proxy for Senator Walker Penfield ’25), Shutt, Swamidurai, and Sustainability Chair Audrey Zhang ’25

Opposed: Daniels, Davis, Vice President Hannah Kapoor ’23, U-Councilor Riley Martinez ’23, Shaw, and Takeuchi

The Senate will vote on the amendment again at its next meeting.

USG Senate meetings are 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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