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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. 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.
Recently, University Transportation and Parking Services announced a new policy that allows undergraduate students to have a car on campus only if they have a “compelling need.” This change in policy was released very suddenly to the University community, with no input from the broader student body or opportunity for discussion. The Board finds the policy’s standard of “compelling need” to be too narrow, unnecessarily restrictive of students’ use of cars and potentially intrusive to students’ privacy. The Board condemns the lack of transparency exhibited by University administration, TPS and Undergraduate Student Government on this important issue, and we urge a return to the former policy.
For a vast majority of Princeton students, the transition from sophomore to junior year is marked by changes to living and dining plans. During the spring semester, sophomores must make challenging choices regarding their housing and dining options for the following year. Some sophomores solidify their junior-year dining plans following bicker and the spring eating club sign-in period in February. However, after the bicker and sign-in period, many sophomores are still unsure of their dining plans for the following year. This problem is not isolated to sophomores. Juniors who have spent a year taking meals in clubs, co-ops or residential colleges or as independents may be interested in pursuing alternate dining plans during their senior year. While there is an abundance of dining options available to undergraduates, the Editorial Board believes that rising juniors and seniors are at a distinct disadvantage when establishing or amending dining plans at the start of the fall semester since there is a lack of information on dining options and associated deadlines. As such, the Board calls on the rising junior and senior class governments, in collaboration with the Undergraduate Student Government and the Interclub Council, to compile and publicize information regarding dining options for rising juniors and seniors.
In an email last week, Head of Wilson College Eduardo Cadava announced that he would accept the recommendation of anad-hoc Student Advisory Committeeand remove the mural of University and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879, from the wall of Wilcox Dining Hall. The discussion surrounding the mural began after the Black Justice League demanded its removal during their Nassau Hall sit-in this fall, and President Christopher Eisgruber '83 encouraged Cadava to consider whether to remove it. While the Board applauds the process through which the Committee and Head Cadava considered this issue and solicited student and alumni feedback, we disagree with their argument that the naming of Wilson College can be isolated to his vision for the residential college system and ignore the man himself. In our view, there is little meaningful distinction between the reasoning behind naming the college after Wilson and prominently displaying his photograph in the college. However, while we understand why some might find the large, blown-up photo odd, and plenty of other reasons might exist for removing it, this specific reasoning for removing the mural is unconvincing.
For many admitted students, Princeton Preview is the official introduction to the University’s campus. Given the program’s goal of offering admitted students an in-depth look at the life of a Princeton student as they make their decision to matriculate, the Board, as we have previously stated, argues for lengthening Preview to create a multi-day program that would allow students more time to socialize with each other and their hosts.
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.