Strong collaboration between the town and the University was on display as University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 gave his 10th annual address to the Princeton Town Council at its Feb. 27 meeting.
During his remarks, Eisgruber centered his presentation on town and gown relations, including off-campus housing, improving student interactions with local businesses, and other ways the University can partner with the town.
Eisgruber alluded to the growing campus population in his presentation, noting an overenrolled Class of 2026:
“We were expecting to add another 125 students to the entering class to take it up to 1425. We actually have 1500 in that class,” Eisgruber explained during the meeting. “It’s going to be the biggest class that we’ll have for a very long time. It turned out we were even more popular with our admitted students than our dean of admissions projected.”
According to Eisgruber, the new residential colleges had enough housing to accommodate the larger-than-expected class. If more students had enrolled than there was room for, Eisgruber speculated, the University might have had to apply for permits to put housing trailers on Poe Field.
Councilmember Eve Niedergang GS ’85 praised the University’s efforts to increase graduate student housing by building the Meadows neighborhood (formerly known as the Lake Campus) across Lake Carnegie. She suggested that the University could also build housing for staff who have to commute to work.
“I’d like to ask if there’s any interest in developing more workforce-type housing for people who are not faculty, not high-ranking staff, to be able to be a part of the community, to walk to work, and to establish roots here,” she said.
Eisgruber said he would think about the proposal and “bring it back to [his] team.”
The Council also praised the new Pay with Points program, in which students on the unlimited meal plan have $150 to spend at local restaurants, with $140,000 being spent over the past semester.
“It just seems to be one of the things right now that everybody is happy about,” Mayor Mark Freda said.
Eisgruber came out in support of Governor Phil Murphy’s proposed liquor license reform that would get rid of the cap on how many licenses a town can award, potentially increasing the number of businesses that serve alcohol in town.
“It may be surprising that it’s of interest and importance to the University, but I am someone who’s very glad that Governor Murphy put liquor license reform on the legislative agenda,” Eisgruber said. “I think one of the advantages that New Jersey could get by this kind of reform is the opportunity to have more of a kind of entrepreneurial restaurateur, the young chefs, the chefs from underprivileged backgrounds or minority backgrounds, who may want to open up restaurants of the sort that I think will attract a younger population and encourage more students to stay to make their careers in the state of New Jersey.”
Eisgruber’s comments on alcohol have been a focus of campus discussion after he wrote in an op-ed in the ‘Prince’: “I sometimes hear Princeton students boast that they ‘work hard and play hard.’ If ‘play hard’ involves alcohol or other drugs, it is by far the riskier element of that couplet from a mental health standpoint,” he wrote last December.
According to Eisgruber’s written remarks to the Council, the University remains committed to financially supporting the town, having contributed a total of $8.2 million in 2021 and 2022. As a non-profit institution, Princeton is exempt from property taxes on much of its property, though according to the University, it paid $6.2 million to the town in “voluntary tax payments” in 2021.
Different council members had different ideas on where that support should go, with Councilmember David Cohen focusing on issues like stormwater management, and Councilmember Mia Sacks focusing on public schools. But the Council as a whole praised the University and its contributions to the town.
“I’ve been a big believer, as I’ve said for a number of years, that the more the University and the town can work together, find common goals, and work together on those, the better,” Freda said.
“This is a once-a-year opportunity for us, and it’s one that I really appreciate,” Councilmember Leticia Fraga said. “I can tell, year-to-year, that you truly are listening to what we have to share.”
The full meeting can be viewed here. The next Council meeting will be held on March 13, 2023.
Charlie Roth is a Head Data Editor and staff news writer for the ‘Prince,’ focusing on local politics coverage.
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