The winter 2023 Undergraduate Student Government (USG) elections are the most contested elections since at least 2013, and the Class of 2025 Senator race is no exception with six candidates. With the departures of Ned Dockery ’25 and Braiden Aaronson ’25 from the senate, both seats are open. This contested election stands in contrast to previous years as the senior class senator role is usually uncontested. Not including this year, this role has been contested only one time in the last decade.
Six candidates are on the ballot for the Class of 2025 Senator position: Zain Ahmed ’25, Gustavo Blanco-Quiroga ’25, Okezie Eze ’25, Niccolo Platt ’25, Bryce Springfield ’25, and Kevin Weng ’25.
Five candidates are actively seeking the position. Eze wrote in a message to The Daily Princetonian that “once [he] found out that a lot of other people were running, [he] decided [he’s] going to leave the race.” Blanco-Quiroga and Springfield are running on a ticket together.
The ‘Prince’ sat down for interviews with the candidates actively running for the 2025 senator position, and asked them about their plans for the position, views on the role of USG on campus, and motivations for running.
Candidates split on USG’s relationship with administration
Amid debates over the dining pilot and student-initiated referenda, USG often finds itself at odds with University administration. The ‘Prince’ asked candidates about their views on the relationship between USG and the school administration and received different responses.
Platt said that “it’s impossible to say USG is in opposition…to the administration.” He detailed his plans to take a student-centered approach to the senator role, making sure that people’s voices are heard by University administration.
“The only way USG can function is through the administration, collaborating with the administration," he added.
Ahmed expressed similar sentiments about how USG should work with administration, and said that USG should operate “not as an antagonist against the school, that’s not the way I think things should get done.”
Ahmed, who is a member of the varsity Squash team, referenced his work as a student athlete wellness leader as how he would approach the role of senator.
“[I work] as a liasion for students to express what they want, their desires, and bring that to the University,” he said. “I envision something similar to that…as how I would want to operate when working with administration at Princeton.”
Weng took a middle-of-the-road view, and said that “USG should represent the student voice.”
He added that USG “should act as a liaison to voice students' needs to the University and hopefully come up with agreements or policies with the University to make changes according to students' needs."
Springfield outlined more antagonistic views towards administration.
“The University administration does not represent students,” Springfield said. “It’s not a democratic institution.”
Springfield referenced the successful 2020 referendum, where students voted to divest from fossil fuels. The University took another two years to disassociate from 90 companies, including Exxon Mobil.
“We need USG to be a body that represents students in a way that is not afraid to challenge University administration,” Springfield said.
Blanco-Quiroga, despite running on a ticket with Springfield, expressed more conciliatory sentiments towards University administration than Springfield, and said that the relationship “should definitely be a collaborative one,” but also communicated a desire to “pressure” administration.
Priorities reflect past experiences
In the interviews, candidates drew upon their experiences at Princeton when discussing their priorities for the senator role.
“I lived on the third floor of Campbell Hall … I’ve been in and out of McCosh, questioned the ability of CPS services, I’ve seen the disciplinary process up close,” Platt said. “I’ve decided to act on the issues that I see everyday.”
Platt said that his top priorities are advocating for increased mental health funding through University Health Services (UHS) and Counseling, and Psychological Services (CPS), transparency in disciplinary proceedings, and revitalizing the University’s online software for room draw and course selection.
Springfield said his top priority is to make USG more democratic and hold the administration accountable.
“We’re already aware of the widespread support for fossil fuel divestment, that’s something that USG needs to be militant around and support student efforts to make that possible,” Springfield said.
“The University is designed in a way that’s resistant to change,” he added.
Springfield reflected on his experience working with the Princeton chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) and the Princeton Progressive Coalition as informing his priority of elevating student activism.
Similarly, Blanco-Quiroga focused on elevating previously unheard voices as senator, highlighting his work with Natives at Princeton to create an Indigenous Studies minor.
“USG is a step further where we can pressure administration to act upon these many requests of students and we can really see some action happen,” Quiroga-Blanco said.
Blanco-Quiroga and Platt both emphasized their backgrounds as international students when determining what they hope to prioritize in the role.
“As an international student, I’ve come to realize the importance of UHS, because, being far from home, you need the best support you can get,” Platt said, before detailing how it took him three weeks to get an appointment at UHS recently.
“Even though there’s a lot of [low-income] international students, they still have to pay $3,000 in taxes,” said Blanco-Quiroga, who is originally from Bolivia.
Ahmed said he would focus his platform around the accessibility of meals at Princeton, mentioning his experience as a student athlete for why such changes are needed.
“If you have a late practice, eating clubs close really early, dining halls end at 8, and if you’re an upperclassman, your only option is to go to Nassau,” Ahmed said. He hopes to bring late meal to upperclassmen to rectify this, a priority of many of the USG vice presidential candidates as well.
Like Platt, Ahmed also made mental health a priority in his pitch. He referred to his desire to prioritize student concerns in the senator role, and said saying that “One of my friends came and talked to me last week about McCosh…there’s a lot we can do with mental health services and increasing visibility and services in that area.”
Knowledge of USG operations range among candidates
The ‘Prince’ asked candidates what committees or task forces they hope to work with should they have the opportunity to serve as a Class of 2025 senator. Responses varied and indicated a differing level of expertise of USG.
“I would like to work with the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” Blanco-Quiroga said. “I want to work with this committee to push for more funding to cultural affinities on campus. It’s very complicated for them to get funding to organize activities that can promote community.” He also expressed a desire to work with the Academics committee, which he has collaborated with as a member of Natives at Princeton to push for more support for Indigenous Studies.
“I think that [Blanco-Quiroga] would do better than me on DEI as somebody who is part of the Indigenous and Latin American communities,” Springfield said. He also emphasized his desire to work with the Mental Health committee, referencing the students Princeton has lost during his time at Princeton as furthering his passion for this issue.
Ahmed mentioned the “food security task force” as his top priority to collaborate with, aligning with his desire to expand late meal to upperclassmen, while Platt referenced his experience with the Undergraduate Student Life Committee (USLC), and said that “so many good ideas come out of there.”
Platt mentioned a desire to work with the Sustainability Committee to follow sustainable standards on campus through a publicly available framework of the University’s efforts. He also expressed interests in working with the DEI Committee, so that “people from all different backgrounds are heard.”
When asked about the groups within USG he wishes to work with, Weng did not provide an answer, and replied “I’m not too familiar with them” and asked “Do you have a list?”
Candidates have little USG experience, but promise to bring fresh perspectives
The candidates for 2025 senator are all relative USG newcomers. Only Platt and Blanco-Quiroga mentioned having previous experience with USG, with Platt having worked on the USLC and Blanco-Quiroga on the Social Committee.
“I think [experience] has some importance,” Platt said. “It helps you understand how USG works and what role USG has in the campus community.”
Platt did brand himself as a USG outsider, and that he was “not someone who has risen up the ranks in USG.”
Weng said that “I feel like experience is very valuable,” and added that “I don’t have much experience with such roles myself.” Weng then clarified, and said “It’s less about experience, but more about personality,” and added that passion and empathy are important attributes for the senator role.
“I don’t have any experience with USG, which is why I’m looking to get into it this year,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed referred to previous initiatives put forward by USG as evidence that the role can have a positive impact.
“I know last year, the changes to the minor program we just got was made through the help of students in USG. It’s a great opportunity to actually have some say at Princeton,” he said.
Springfield mentioned his previous dissatisfaction with USG as his reason for not getting involved with USG beforehand.
“I don’t have any previous USG experience, and part of that is because I personally have been disaffected from USG in the past because of the ways some USG representatives have suppressed, rather than supported, social activism on campus,” Springfield said.
Springfield continued his pitch for supporting student activism, and said that “There is some value in experience, but at the same time, there is more value in having perspectives that are willing to disrupt the status quo.”
Blanco-Quiroga echoed these sentiments, and said that he devoted his energy to becoming involved in cultural affinity spaces instead of USG over his time at Princeton due to this perceived disconnect from the student body.
USG recruitment effort led to crowded field
On November 23, USG Chief Elections Manager Alex Sorgini ’26 sent an email with the subject line “Soliciting Candidates for Uncontested 2025 Class Senator Election” and wrote that the role was uncontested and that “There is still an opportunity to run as a candidate for Class of 2025 Senator in the Winter 2023 election cycle.” In our conversations with candidates, all mentioned the email as a motivation behind their decision to run for 2025 senator.
“There’s not any structural difference compared to previous years,” Springfield said, emphasizing that USG’s email helped recruit candidates. “I think I was the only one running for two seats up until the first deadline they had. Five people joined in the 24 hours after the extended deadline, including Gustavo.”
“The email that was sent out helped,” Platt said. “I’m not too familiar with other candidates’ reasoning behind running … I hope that they are running because they want to make a difference.”
“Having messages sent through email was helpful,” Ahmed said. He also acknowledged that “many students are looking to get more involved with their communities and administration as a whole.”
Ahmed reflected on his reaction to find out the race was no longer uncontested, and said that “When a couple of other candidates were also listed, it was a good surprise. I’m just happy to see that interest is going up.”
Eze referred to similar motivations for running, saying in a statement to the ‘Prince’ that “[To be honest], I only ran because I was asked to because nobody else was running for USG Senator and I was asked to like a couple hours before the deadline.”
Eze then left the race upon learning other candidates were in the field.
“I'm sure a lot of the other people running for the positions that care a lot more about USG than I do. That’s why I think dropping out is the best idea,” Eze said.
To close out our conversation, the ‘Prince’ asked candidates how this year’s level of engagement can stay high into the future.
“The unethical way to go about it is just keep telling people it’s uncontested until the last minute,” Weng said.
Correction: A previous version of this piece wrote that the University divested entirely from fossil fuels a year after 2020. In fact, the University dissociated from 90 companies in Sep. 2022.
Ryan Konarska is an associate Data editor and staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.