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USG President, Treasurer, argue for raising student fees to increase programming

Students gathered for the USG meeting on February 23.
Aarushi Adlakha / The Daily Princetonian

At the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) meeting on Feb. 26, USG President Stephen Daniels ’24 said that the budget has become more and more of a “sticking point” in terms of USG’s ability to run programming and impact student life. To close the gap, Daniels proposed raising student fees, with USG Treasurer Walker Penfield ’25 also in support.

“There’s programming that USG could offer that we’re not able to offer due to financial constraints,” Daniels said.


“I started having some conversations about what it would mean to potentially — and I recognize this is going to be a much longer process with plenty of opportunities for student feedback — look at what it would mean to increase the student activities fee to expand the USG budget. There aren’t any hard numbers today,” Daniels continued.

Penfield provided further details about budgeting and activities fees, emphasizing a need to consider “longer-term solutions with increasing student fees to match inflation.”

Penfield has made his mark in his early days in his role urging higher spending. At a previous meeting, Penfield had pushed for a larger USG budget: “Any money spent by students through their student fees should be spent on them during the semester,” Penfield said on Feb. 12, mentioning that his goal was to “really push for more large-scale projects that utilize that whole reserve so that the impact of USG can be seen.”  

Students currently pay $45.50 a semester in activity fees, less than 0.1 percent of the University’s estimated cost of attendance.

Daniels emphasized the positive impact of a potential budget increase, specifically mentioning past artists at Lawnparties. “We had huge names. We had like Rihanna, I think we had Maroon 5. If we did truly last look at expanding the student activities fee in 2002, it would make sense that we were able to suddenly get much larger names. That’s trickled out over time,” he said.

A University blog post notes that Princeton hosted Rihanna and Maroon 5 in the past “back when their careers were just starting.”


The student fee was last increased in 1996 by $7 from $38. At the time, there was debate about whether to put the issue to a referendum, which the USG eventually opted not to do.

Daniels preempted arguments that a student fee hike may impact low-income students, saying that, “because the student activities fee is covered by financial aid, this is not something that, at least in [my] understanding, would hit the students who have the most financial need any harder. We’re potentially increasing the equity of programs on this campus by having there be more and more programs, more and more opportunities for people to come together, regardless of their financial background.”

Also at the Feb. 26 meeting, Princeton Conservation Society president Michael Salama ’24 delivered a presentation to USG members on the Youth Climate and Conservation Summit, which will bring leading youth climate activists from every continent to Princeton. The project was approved and passed unanimously. 

The Senate also unanimously voted to renew the Menstruation Products Ad Hoc Committee, which was previously a USG task force. The group aims to expand the accessibility of menstrual products in academic buildings, as well as the residential colleges and eating clubs.

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The committee’s co-chair, Aditi Desai ’24, described this status change for the group as the “the right path to follow for the task force, because it offers us more flexibility and also funding for some of the events we do.”

Following up on USG’s Feb. 19 meeting, representatives continued their discussion on the Mental Health Work Organization and how they can increase mental health resources and opportunities through collaboration on campus.

“There’s always more work than there are hands,” Daniels said.

Penfield asserted that USG must go about mental health urgently and in a way that is not performative. He argued for a vote by USG “at once” to establish a mental health core committee, as opposed to delaying the establishment of said committee through a campus-wide referendum. 

“It’s honestly startling that we don’t have a mental health committee institutionalized in USG already,” Penfield said.

Daniels also noted that he has an upcoming meeting with the New Jersey Department of Education to discuss topics such as financial resources tied to paying for college and mental health resources for students.

USG went into a closed executive session at the end of the meeting before adjourning.

USG Senate meetings are held in Robertson 001 at 4 p.m. on Sundays and are open to all.

Justus Wilhoit is an assistant News editor for the ‘Prince.’

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