In a historic move brewing since the beginning of the term, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) voted to recommend an increase in activities fees from $45.50 to $95.50 in their meeting on Sunday, May 7.
All senate members present voted to approve the increase in student activities fees other than U-Councilor Genevieve Shutt ’26, who abstained from the vote.
Shutt declined a request for comment from the ‘Prince.’
With this vote, the USG will send a memo recommending the fee increase to “relevant administrators,” according to an email sent today to the student body. A memo with the specific language that the USG voted on was sent to the student body in this email.
Memos from USG provide recommendations on University policy, but are ultimately non-binding in the decisions made by administrators.
The student activity fee was last increased in 1996 by seven dollars. If tracked to inflation, the fee would be $88.95 today before the raise.
The raise was a key priority for USG President Stephen Daniels ’24 and Treasurer Walker Penfield ’25. Both have repeatedly referenced an inability to maintain current levels of funding without an increase.
“Due to years of inflation and stagnant fees, the USG’s historical level of programming is no longer sustainable within the current budget,” the two wrote in an email, noting that without leftover funding unused during the COVID-19 pandemic, USG would have a budget deficit of $10,000 this year. The proposed increase would raise USG’s budget by $275,000.
Daniels referenced a lack of funding for student groups and events as another rationale. He said that the lack of funding was “striking” given that Princeton is “one of the richest universities in the world.”
“Student groups and events are underfunded in a big way. A lot of the events that come to Projects Board, we can’t fund the full way,” he said.
Both Daniels and Penfield also emphasized that even with the raise, activity fees are still second lowest in the Ivy League.
The Projects Board is the group in charge of distributing the majority of USG funds to student events. The projects board primarily funds events open to the whole student body rather than internal club events.
“As we’ve seen with Lawnparties, we don’t really have the ability to expand funds and get the sort of headliners [that] students want and see their friends in other schools experiencing,” Daniels added.
Daniels also said it was the “perfect time to have this conversation with the financial aid changes that are coming,” given the elimination of student contribution, “meaning that this will have no impact on students [on aid].”
“My understanding is that financial aid allotments would increase by the same amount as any increase in the activities fee because Princeton calculates how much aid a student receives based on how much they are able to pay and that would not change if the student activities fee increased,” Daniels told the ‘Prince.’
Penfield said, “I think it’s really important that we as USG support diverse sets of programming that appeals to the various facets of the student body.”
“That allows people to experience Princeton and have an engaging college experience without needing to pay their own way,” he added.
Shutt asked how USG will ensure the money does not end up becoming a surplus and will allow for a wider range of programming, as opposed to simply providing more funding to existing events.
Daniels responded that he had thoroughly looked into the proposed funding increases and believed the allocation would meet student interests.
“When there’s a good idea and people really like it, it’s gonna be something the USG will stick with,” he said.
Penfield also clarified that the proposed funding increases are organized in specific categories, laid out in the May 7 memo shared with students.
These proposed changes include increasing budgets by $100,000 to USG Projects Board/Student Groups, $80,000 to the USG Social Committee, $30,000 to Student Trips and Excursions, $10,000 to increasing the scale of celebratory events on Dean’s Date, $10,000 to Expanding USG Movies, and $45,000 to other USG Initiatives.
Due to funding constraints, the USG requires support from the Alcohol Initiative for Lawnparties food, explained Penfield, clarifying that the increase means that the USG would take “back some of the burdens that we placed on other people.”
As the last regular meeting of the semester, other pending USG matters were resolved.
Vacant spots in the Senate were filled. Earlier this year, Sean Bradley ’24 resigned as Sustainability Chair and Noah Luch ’24 was appointed as Mental Health Committee Chair, opening a spot for a 2024 Senator. Isha Patel ’25 was appointed as Sustainability Chair and Luke Martin ’24 was appointed 2024 Senator in a unanimous vote.
USG also voted on a constitutional amendment that would require the group to meet twice in June to approve the fall budget spending. Despite a previous back and forth on the details of the arrangement, the group voted unanimously this time around on the amendment. The amendment requires a second vote at a separate meeting to be passed and to go into effect.
USG Social Chair Avi Attar ’25 also clarified that while Waka Flocka Flame had initially requested that Skeez join him to perform, he ultimately communicated that Skeez would be unavailable.
USG Senate Meetings are held during the academic year in Robertson 016 on Sundays from 4 to 5 p.m. and are open for all students to attend.
Nandini Krishnan is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.