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Daniels spars with Genevieve Shutt on student engagement, Isabella Shutt set to return to Senate

USG meeting March 26
USG members at a March 26 meeting
Justus Wilhoit / The Daily Princetonian

The USG meeting on Sunday, April 16, got testy at times as U-Councilor Genevieve Shutt ’26 and USG President Stephen Daniels ’24 sparred over ways to engage the student body and the Senate thought of ways to gain a mandate for raising activity fees. U-Council elections also launched this week, with former presidential candidate Isabella Shutt ’24 set to return to the Senate.

U-Council seats uncontested again


Voting opened in USG Spring elections on Monday, as voters choose candidates for class council and members of the U-Council, who serve on the USG Senate. Eight candidates are running for U-Councilor. All eight are guaranteed a seat, given that 10 U-Councilors are elected every cycle. The remaining two seats will be filled by appointment. Despite guaranteeing seats in the USG Senate, the last contested U-Council election was in Spring 2019. Last year, only five candidates ran for the 10 spots.

U-Councilors Genevieve Shutt, Aishwarya Swamidurai ’26, Daniel Shaw ’25, and Judah Guggenheim ’25 are guarenteed reelection. Of the four, only Shaw was previously elected, in 2022. The other three were appointed over the course of the last year. As the longest serving U-Councilor, Shaw may be in line to serve as U-Council chair, as current chair Dillion Gallagher ’23 is graduating.

Three of the other four new candidates, Roberto Lachner ’26, Chloe Long ’26, and Leyton Watts ’26, are newcomers to elected office. Only one of the three ran in the crowded race for Class Council in Fall 2022. The fourth new candidate, Isabella Shutt, is a USG veteran. Shutt unsuccessfully challenged Stephen Daniels ’24 in the race for USG President in December 2022. In her candidate bio, Isabella Shutt highlighted her experience “leading the Campus & Community Affairs Committee and USG Reform Project.” Shutt ran on a slate that included her sister, Genevieve Shutt, in December.

Three members of the Class of 2025 declined to seek reelection. Med Coulibaly ’25 wrote to the ‘Prince’ that he is “stepping back to take a breather ahead of [his] many commitments in the Fall.” Coulibaly noted that he still plans to contribute to USG in an unelected capacity.

The USG also called for applications for the 2024 Senator and Sustainability Chair in an email on April 24, given the resignation of Sean Bradley ’24 and the transition of Noah Luch ’24 to Mental Health Committee chair.

A debate on active engagement with the community


Much of Sunday’s USG meeting was spent on a debate over how USG can more actively engage with the student body. How the USG can be more effective is a frequent topic of USG debate. Last year, the USG Reform Project spent the better part of the year brainstorming proposals. One of the proposals of the project involved asking all Senators to serve on core committees, a proposal that ultimately failed.

Daniels made a proposal to increase “active representation” of USG. He noted that the group is currently very “passive,” working only when “people reach out or when we recognize a problem.” Daniels said his vision would be for U-Councilors and Senators — who do not have a specific responsibility within USG — to serve as unofficial ambassadors of USG to different constituencies. This would include, for instance, religious groups, affinity groups, and performing arts groups. 

Genevieve Shutt raised concerns about the effectiveness of the proposal in increasing engagement. “I think we’re going to keep coming back to this conversation because the Senate in its current capacity is extremely dysfunctional,” she said, calling for “systemic change.”

Genevieve Shutt cited concerns from SPEAR that USG’s advocacy on the privacy issues posed by security cameras was inadequate. “In an ideal world people would come to us, but people don’t think we support them,” she said.  

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“Eventually student groups become burnt out: they come, they ask, we don’t help them,” she said, adding that it is unreasonable to “expect that people come and talk to us about their issues when we haven’t proven that we can help them.”  

Daniels responded that USG must be “very clear in what we can and cannot do.”

“But like we did make time for SPEAR, and their concerns have been raised,” added Daniels, clarifying that the conversation was part of the reason why the group needs to be “much more clear about what you USG can do for students.”

Social Chair Avi Attar ’25 noted that Daniels’ proposal was already covered under the scope of the University Student Life Committee (USLC) charter that aims to create Campus Life Liaisons. Attar said that amending the charter might be better “to the extent that [the charter] is not already sufficiently broad” and that changing the language might “facilitate [the proposal] under USLC.”

USLC Chair Caitlin McNally ’24 argued in favor of the proposal, stating that there is promise for closer engagement between USG representatives and students. 

“I think anyone that runs [a committee] knows that it’s really hard to make sure your committee members are as engaged as other Senate members.”

Student input on activity fee raise

The USG also debated an issue that has been raised in prior weeks regarding an increase in the student activity fees and discussed a new proposal from USG movies. 

Daniels noted that Princeton students pay the least amount in activity fees relative to our peer institutions. He presented data from other universities, stating that Stanford students pay $537, students from Brown pay $300, Harvard students pay $200, and Yale students pay $125 in activities fees to their respective undergraduate governments per academic year, while Princeton students pay $91. Given that Princeton has the lowest fees, Daniels proposed that fees be increased given recent budget shortfalls. Such a change would need to be presented and approved by the University administration.

Daniels explained that USG was previously able to provide a shuttle bus service to New York City and the Jersey Shore, as well as summer storage for students, but is unable to provide these services given current budget restraints. 

USG Treasurer Walker Penfield ’25 said that USG has “maintained our current level budget for about two decades not really accounting for inflation” and explained that it was “not enough to maintain historical levels of programming.” 

Penfield added that the group has spent $24,300 more than the $226,400 received in activities fees for this semester. “I think that an increased budget would be really beneficial for the student body,” he said. 

Genevieve Shutt raised concerns about the financial impacts on students of the raise, but Penfield responded that only students who are not on financial aid would be required to pay these increased fees.

While Penfield initially ran as part of a slate with Isabella and Genevieve Shutt opposing Daniels in the winter election, Penfield and Daniels, both economics majors, have been closely aligned on key votes this year.

USG discussed at length how to gain a mandate for a student fee increase. The last time the student activity fee was raised, USG considered putting the issue to a referendum but eventually opted against it. Guggenheim suggested that there be a student poll or referendum on the issue while McNally suggested focus groups, citing that she doesn’t think “the general student population realizes that USG is funding a lot of projects.”

“Focus groups would be useful to essentially cover our ass to show that we polled students,” she said. 

During the meeting, Tyler Wilson ’26 was also confirmed as USG Movies Committee chair in a unanimous vote. He presented a proposal to purchase equipment for their outdoor movies event that should cost $400 upfront as opposed to $5,000 that is currently spent per semester renting the equipment, as per an estimate by Penfield.

The USG meets every Sunday from 4–5 p.m. in Robertson 016, and meetings are open for all students to attend. 

Nandini Krishnan is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince’ who usually covers USG.

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