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Last week, USG held its spring elections. They gave students the opportunity to vote on U-Councilors, class government positions and referenda on divesting from private prisons and creating a task force on disciplinary reforms. Neither referendum met the one-third turnout threshold required for the results to be considered, and voter turnout across all elections was low with participation rates between about 30% and 40% for each class in class elections. As a result, the Board calls on USG to reform its referendum policies by informing students of the referendum proposal deadline earlier, extending the referendum campaign time to two weeks and clarifying campaign opportunities for opposition groups and individuals. The Board believes these reforms will help USG promote informed voting and encourage voter participation.
During the Spring Undergraduate Student Government elections this week, students voted on, among other ballot items, a referendum calling on the University and the Princeton Investment Corporation to “divest from corporations that draw profit from incarceration, drug control and immigrant deportation policies.” The Board has consistently argued against divestment of the University’s endowment. Although the referendum did not meet the minimum voting requirement of one-third the student body,the Board urges the University to reject future petitions to divest unless there is substantial consensus and more conclusive evidence. In addition, we believe there are several problems with the proposal. Specifically, Students for Prison Education and Reform and advocates of the referendum conflate issues surrounding the criminal justice system with issues surrounding private prisons. Finally, we believe SPEAR presents inconclusive evidence on the merits or harms of governmental entities employing private companies to incarcerate or detain people.
Last Monday, the University announced that it would discontinue its sprint football program. Having existed on campus for 82 years, sprint football is an alternative version of football for players weighing under 172 pounds with a minimum of five-percent body fat. There are currently nine remaining schools in the country that field sprint football teams, including Cornell, Penn and West Point. The Board believes that the University should have been more transparent in its decision-making process and that its justification for ending the program is inadequate. Lack of communication with members of the sprint football team and the greater Princeton community regarding the details of the decision has also led to confusion and speculation concerning the reasons for the program’s termination. As a result, we call on the University to releasethe statistics and safety concerns used to justify its decision to end the sprint football program.
An important, yet often forgotten, historical site in the United States is just around the corner from the University, beyond the Graduate College: the Princeton Battlefield. The battlefield is the site of George Washington’s victory over the British Army in January 1777, in a battle that set the course for the Continental Army’s eventual victory in the Revolutionary War. Today, the preservation of the field is threatened due to the purchase of a portion of it, Maxwell’s Field, by the Institute for Advanced Studies. The IAS intends to develop faculty housing on the plot. The Board calls upon IAS to sell the land to a non-profit for the purposes of historical preservation and build housing elsewhere.
Last week, the University Board of Trustees announced its approval of the recommendations made in the Wilson Legacy Committee's report. These recommendations include retaining Wilson’s name at the Woodrow Wilson School and Wilson College, revising Princeton’s unofficial motto, diversifying campus art and establishing a potential graduate school pipeline program for underrepresented groups. The Board supports the aforementioned recommendations, commends the committee’s emphasis on student involvement through the process and encourages student involvement in continued discussions about Wilson.
Last week, Harvard Collegeannounced the creation of a $2,000 “start-up” grant for incoming members of the Class of 2020 from low-income households. The grant, which will augment Harvard’s typical financial aid package, is meant to help students “fully engage in what Harvard has to offer” irrespective of their financial circumstances by offering them assistance with the costs related to college matriculation. One member of Harvard’s Undergraduate Council aptly noted that, despite Harvard’s need blind policy for admission, few resources and other opportunities on campus are likewise need blind.
The last major academic hurdle that many Princeton seniors must clear to graduate is completing their senior thesis. The senior thesis consists of original research and a significant written component and serves as the culminating experience of a student’s time at Princeton. Despite the important nature of the senior thesis, the thesis binding process has significant flaws. The Board recommends that each department implement two changes to improve the thesis submission process: set the deadline for binding of the thesis after the due date of the thesis itself and subsidize the cost of binding for students on financial aid.
President Eisgruber recently stated, “We at Princeton believe that it is a fundamental advantage for a university to be able to tolerate even offensive kinds of speech and to respond to bad arguments when they are made with more speech rather than with disciplinary actions.” His statement was made to defend freedom of expression, up to the point of protecting the right of student groups to commemorate Osama bin Laden, and this Board believes that such freedom extends to other offensive ideas and arguments.
In recent years, the unfortunate prevalence of sexual assault on campus has become a political issue of national importance. President Barack Obama has launched a campaign to raise awareness and the U.S. Senate is considering a bill to tackle the issue. Despite this, college sexual assault is ultimately a campus issue that the University administration and community have a responsibility to mitigate. As part of University efforts to curb sexual assault and related issues, such as stalking and harassment, graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to fill out the We Speak survey on sexual misconduct.
In the next few weeks, sophomores enrolled in the A.B. program will be declaring their majors within one of the 35 academic departments offered by the University. In light of this rapidly approaching deadline, the Board recommends the following improvements to the declaration of majors and certificate programs: 1) the University should update its certificates webpage to include a more comprehensive and inclusive list of all programs offered, as it is currently missing some programs, 2) individual departments should create and advertise open houses and information sessions for their respective certificate programs, and 3) the Office of the Dean of the College should update its website for choosing majors to make it more comprehensive and user-friendly than is its current format.
The General Education Task Force was established in the fall of 2015 to review the University's undergraduate curriculum and to make recommendations about distribution requirements, independent work and other aspects of academics at Princeton. The academic calendar determines how these components fit together. A new survey which asks students for feedback regarding potential changes to the academic calendarhas been created by the Task Force in conjunction with the Dean of the College, the USG Academics Committee and members of the Graduate Student Government. The survey explores the following three proposals: 1) moving the fall term exams before winter recess, 2) expanding the teaching semester from 12 to 13 weeks and 3) increasing intersession from 1 to 2 weeks. These are important issues about which the Board has written before; consequently, we call on all students to participate in the brief survey.
Last Friday, New Jersey Gov. and ex officio University Trustee Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump in his bid for the Republican nomination and the White House. This Board believes that this action runs contrary to both democratic and University values and calls on Christie to renege on his endorsement and remove any affiliation to Trump and his campaign.
It is currently a common practice for instructors not to return Dean’s Date papers or final exams with feedback — or at all. The Board sees no reason why these essays and tests should be treated any differently from those scheduled throughout the course of the semester. In fact, we believe that the habit of ignoring these final assignments both costs students some of their best learning opportunities and sends a message of grading-over-teaching that corrodes Princeton’s educational environment. The Board believes that the University should encourage course instructors to make marked-up Dean’s Date papers or final exams available by the date on which overall course grades are posted online.
Recently, the University announced its intention to accept a small number of transfer students, starting as early as 2018, as part of a broader strategic planning framework intended to underscore Princeton’s commitment to continued leadership in education, inclusivity and diversity. Princeton has not offered admission to transfer students since 1990. In the past, President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 had hinted at the possibility of reversing the University’s transfer policy, arguing that such a move might afford students from community colleges and diverse economic backgrounds the opportunity to flourish at Princeton. The Editorial Board commends the University’s Board of Trustees for its decision.
Princeton offers its undergraduate students a wide array of summer opportunities, from the International Internship Program (IIP) to Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS). Included in students’ access to summer opportunities is the ability to study abroad during the summer for course credit through the Office of International Programs. However, for students on financial aid who wish to study abroad, the number of summer study abroad programs funded by the University remains low. Furthermore, when compared to the summer study abroad options offered by peer institutions such as Harvard, Princeton offers comparatively fewer and less flexible options. The Board encourages the Office of International Programs to extend financial aid coverage to all of Princeton’s seventeen summer study abroad programs. Additionally, the Board calls on OIP to explore the possibility of adding additional summer programs that give students more flexibility in regards to location and duration.
Since the beginning of the academic year, the Princeton community has engaged in lively debate surrounding the name of the Wilson School, Princeton’s school of public and international affairs. Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879, is a former president of the University, who went on to become Governor of New Jersey and the 28th President of the United States. He instituted long-lasting changes on campus, including the creation of additionalacademic departments and the precept system. However, he also left behind a troubling legacy on race relations, such as re-segregating the United States Civil Service; he also had a history of making racist statements. The Board commends students who have expressed their concerns on both sides of the issue. We recognize, however, that in the end, the Trustees of the University must decide whether to change the way the University honors Wilson’s legacy. In order for this decision to properly represent the diverse viewpoints of the Princeton community, the Board urges students to engage in discourse with the trustees and the administration through all available channels.
Many Princetonians, mainly sophomores, spent the first week of this semester concerned primarily not with finalizing their course schedule or buying books, but rather with the process of joining an eating club. We acknowledge the Interclub Council (ICC) and the Class of 2018 officers for their efforts to make this process more transparent by, for example, releasing a graphic explaining the various upperclass dining options and their costs. However, there remain areas for improvements to make this process clearer and less stressful for students. The Board recommends three reforms: 1) include as part of eating club registration on the ICC website a step requiring students to acknowledge and accept the spring dues for their clubs of choice, 2) like in years past, release the numbers of first-round sign-ins, and 3) encourage sign-in clubs to defer their initiations until the week after bicker.
Princeton University prides itself on its undergraduate focus and especially on the incredible availability of its world-renowned faculty to work with undergraduate students. With a student-faculty ratio of 6:1, students have a remarkable proximity to some of the most outstanding minds in today's academic disciplines. All University professors engage in teaching as well as research, and students interact with their instructors in various class formats such as precepts, seminars and lectures, but oftentimes the most valuable interactions come from outside of the classroom. Professors are not just technical experts; they are also individuals with tremendous experience in academic life and passions for intellectual pursuits. Students seeking out professors beyond the lecture hall can expand their knowledge of class material, discover new interests, bear witness to relevant wisdom about finding a career path and receive advice for navigating University life. While University professors already hold office hours for facilitating student-professor interactions outside of class, the Editorial Board proposes better promotion of that system as well as popularizing programs that support meals between students and professors.
Last semester, the unsigned editorials featured on this page have discussed issues such as anonymizing exam grading, expanding co-op options and improving career services. The Daily Princetonian Editorial Board, a group of 15 undergraduates, was collectively responsible for writing these pieces. The members of the Board are not the editors of the various sections of the ‘Prince.’ Instead, they constitute an independent group of undergraduate students charged with determining the position of the newspaper as a whole. Today, instead of taking a stance on an issue, we would like to explain the editorial process and invite interested freshmen, sophomores and juniors to apply to join the Board.
Princeton’s Office of Disability Services provides resources and opportunities to help students with disabilities overcome significant obstacles and works to ensure that all qualified students can attend Princeton regardless of physical or psychological disability. As reported this week, Princeton has seen an 80 percent increase in the number of students registered with ODS between 2011 and 2015. As more students with disabilities enter Princeton, there remain several steps that the broader University community can take to further its commitment to students with disabilities. Specifically, this Board has two key recommendations in support of Deaf students on campus: allowing American Sign Language to satisfy the foreign language requirement and pursuing further options for the study of ASL or ASL-related topics.