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Over the past semester, the unsigned editorials featured on this page have discussed issues such as increased transparency in forced mental health withdrawals, defining a University marijuana policy and investigating gender pay discrepancy at Princeton. 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 who are 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.
Last spring, The Daily Princetonian reported on the last USG Senate meeting of the year. While nominees for the Honor Committee and the Committee on Discipline (COD) were being approved, concerns were raised about some of the Honor Committee’s practices. Currently, according to "Rights, Rules, Responsibilities," “when a report of a suspected violation of the honor system is received, the Honor Committee immediately conducts an investigation.” Yet the exact procedure of the investigatory process is unclear, especially in regards to at what point in time after initial contact students are notified whether they are witnesses or suspects. Since the constitution of the Honor Committee emphasizes students’ rights to representation and a fair trial, the Editorial Board believes that the suspicion of a discrepancy in the Honor Committee's investigatory practices merits a transparent review. It is important to note that a similar line of inquiry exists for COD investigations, and the student body should also be aware of the level of promptness in which students are made aware of their positions in COD investigations.
Before the academic year began, the University administration made important progress in strengthening the University’s stance against sexual assault on campus. Chief among these is the recent recommendation by the internal Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy that the University lower its standard for the burden of proof in cases of sexual assault from the policy of “clear and persuasive” to that of a “preponderance” of guilt. Additionally, the University announced that students would no longer serve on committees handling sexual assault cases.
A recent piecepublished in Nassau Weekly detailed the lack of female officers in the eating clubs. Though the definition of an “officer” varies from club to club, most clubs have a president, vice president, social chair, house manager and treasurer. Less than one third of these positions are currently held by women. Of the 11 eating clubs, only Colonial has a female president, Nassau Weekly reported.
On April 29, the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault released its inaugural report on sexual assault on college campuses. The report comes after a series of widely publicized sexual assault cases at our peer institutions like Harvard, Columbia and Brown, in which students have charged their administrations with failing to provide justice for sexual assault survivors.
The beginning and end of the academic year bring one of Princeton’s most cherished traditions: the biannual Lawnparties concert. As an integral part of the Princeton undergraduate experience, it is imperative that the USG continues to improve the day-long event. And so it has tried, creating controversy through its choice of artist and major change in donating a portion of proceeds to charity. The Editorial Board would like to address aspects of this spring’s Lawnparties, particularly these controversies, and offer potential solutions.
As the college application season draws to a final close and the May 1 deadline for matriculation waits just around the corner, we hope to provide you with one final summary of the reasons why you should consider coming to this great University.
Recently, the American Association of University Professors released its 2013-2014 Faculty Salary Survey. The survey investigated “trends, gender breakdowns, and comparisons of faculty salaries” at over 1000 colleges and universities. The survey found that while on the whole, Princeton pays its full professors more than most institutions, the average pay of female professors is just 89.9 percent of their male counterparts. This statistic parallels a similar discrepancy that pervades nearly all careers at the national level. This national gender pay gap was recently addressed by the Obama Administration with two executive orders meant to improve transparency of pay at federal contractors and businesses. While the discrepancy at Princeton may not be the result of intentional discrimination, the Board believes that the University should investigate the source of this difference and ensure that equal pay is given in return for equal work.
Recently, in response to criticism about unfair grading, some courses have implemented a system of blind grading for problem sets and papers. In these courses, students are either required to submit a copy of their paper without a name in addition to a copy with a name or are assigned a number to write in place of a name. In both systems, the professor or preceptor grades the nameless papers and then matches grades to students. While this policy may be unrealistic for some courses such as seminars and independent work, the Editorial Board supports this trend and encourages more University departments and classes to adopt this policy.
Every semester during course selection, students are faced with a difficult yet necessary task: deciding on only four or five classes. Even with four years, it’s difficult to take all classes of interest while trying to balance distribution requirements, prerequisites and departmental courses. Thus like many other institutions, the University allows students to audit courses, which are reflected on the transcript by "AUD." While the official audit policy requires “successfully pass[ing] the final exam or complet[ing] some major component of the course,” professors and departments do not enforce this uniformly. Some professors give audit credit for only attending lecture while others require completion of all components of the course. The Board believes that while auditing can clearly enrich a liberal arts education, current audit rates at Princeton are too low. In order to make the system more clear and accessible, the University should standardize course audits by requiring either a minimum attendance rate of 85 percent or a passing grade on the final exam/paper.
As course selection approaches, students are again faced with the issue of academic advising. The courses students take at the University are integral to their Princeton experience. These important decisions are best made with knowledgeable and experienced advice, but such advice is not easily available. Though the University has some competent resources in the assigned faculty advisers, peer advisers through the residential colleges and contact information and databases such as Major Choices or course reviews, the Board believes that these resources fall short of their effectiveness due to their fragmentation, lack of publicity and near-sighted focus on just the next semester. We believe that increased training for faculty advisers and a focus on a long-term comprehensive path through Princeton academics, along with improved awareness of already available resources, will enhance the benefits of academic advising.
Last week, the University announced that the duration of its annual program for prospective students, Princeton Preview, would be shortened to one day. Traditionally held over a span of multiple days, the changes came in response to links between the strain of meningitis present at Princeton and the recent death of a student at Drexel University.
April is now upon us, which means one thing to the masses of bleary-eyed seniors who fill Firestone Library: Thesis due dates are drawing near. But while some seniors have already finished writing their theses, had them bound and turned them in, others have over a month to go until their due dates. Traditionally, each department has decided its own due date. As a result, due dates range from late March to early May. The Board believes that the lack of a standardized thesis date is detrimental to the thesis writing process, class unity and the senior year experience and therefore proposes implementing one due date for all senior independent work.
In a Q&A published in The Daily Princetonian on March 11, Susan Patton ’77 argued that women who receive unwanted sexual contact after drinking excessively bear a degree of “responsibility” for their victimization. Patton’s remarks came in defense of claims in her recent book, "Marry Smart", that a woman who dresses provocatively or who impairs herself by consuming alcohol assumes “accountability for what may happen.” In response to Patton’s comments, 215 University faculty members signed a letter to the editor of the 'Prince', published on March 26, stating “we do not believe that their [students’] manner of dress or drinking behavior makes them responsible for unwanted sexual contact” and encouraging students to reach out for help if necessary. The Board endorses these faculty members’ position: the Board not only rejects Patton’s claims on face, but believes that the sentiments they embody are counterproductive to serious, ongoing efforts to combat the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment within the Princeton community.
Every spring, numerous articles about Bicker are written both in this paper and other sources. We discuss whether the system is fair, whether it is outdated and what happens to the people who do not get into or join a club. However, one thing often neglected in the coverage is what happens to those sophomores who join and find themselves responsible for dues that they will struggle to or cannot pay. The Board thinks this is an aspect of the eating club system that is underaddressed.
The Daily Princetonian recently published a series of three articles documenting various aspects of the operation of the University’s Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline. These articles explored everything from the number of incidents reported to the Committee to the process the Committee employs when reviewing a case. Concerns were raised about the Committee’s lack of transparency, the conduct of its hearings and the severity of its disciplinary measures. In light of these criticisms, the Board recommends that the University administration review the Committee’s policies as well as the implementation of these policies so as to address many of these complaints.
The University prides itself on its beautiful campus filled with Gothic towers and buildings that serve as the ideal backdrop for a picturesque postcard. For the most part, these facilities are not only gorgeous and brimming with history, but they are also well kept and maintained. Yet, while Princeton revels in the beauty of its century old Gothic buildings, the University has been slow to respond to the more ugly side of aging: pathway deterioration.
Last week, the University’s Students for Prison and Education Reform began circulating a petition, titled the Admission Opportunity Campaign, calling on the University to change its admissions practices. In light of racial and socioeconomic inequalities found in the United States criminal justice system, the petition asks the University to remove all questions about past involvement with the justice system from the undergraduate admission application. University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua wrote in an email to the Board that the admissions office currently uses the information as part of a “holistic review of the applicant.”
In February, The Daily Princetonian reported on a lawsuit filed by a student who was allegedly asked to withdraw from the University following a suicide attempt in 2012. Based on the complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, the 'Prince' reported, “Just as the student was leaving the hospital following the suicide attempt, he was informed that the University had evicted him from his dorm room, that he was prohibited from his classes and that he was banned from all areas of campus.” This story, along with recently published allegations of similar occurrences at Yale, has raised concerns among students that individuals experiencing mental health issues could be forced to withdraw from the University. In light of these allegations and the way concerns about forced withdrawal could prevent individuals with mental health issues from seeking treatment, the Editorial Board believes the University should make public and transparent the conditions under which it requires students with mental health issues to leave campus.
Since 1969, one senior from each year’s graduating class has been elected as a Young Alumni Trustee— a position conferring the same rights and responsibilities as a fully installed member of the University’s Board of Trustees. In that capacity, they sit on Board committees, aid in setting the University’s annual operating budget and contribute to the development of Princeton’s long-term strategic vision.