USG discusses Eisgruber’s comments on mental health

The Senate of Undergraduate Student Government (USG) opened its last meeting on November 20 with a debate about mental health on campus, in light of a recently published interview in The Daily Princetonian with university president Christopher Eisgruber ’83.

After this debate, the Senate proposed and voted on amendments to the ad hoc committee structure, and heard presentations on the digitization of US government records and a potential new ad hoc committee for upper class dining.

At the top of the meeting, Isabella Schott, chair of Campus and Community Affairs (CCA), drew the Senate’s attention to Eisgruber’s claim in his recent interview that “high-aspiration environments are compatible with mental health and [he doesn’t] Seeing any evidence that academic laxity or academic leveling would be somehow better from a mental health standpoint.”

“I want to state in the field that I don’t know any student who wants to be mediocre academically in that they want to live, to be good, to be human,” said Schatt. “I think it’s really important that we as Under-Secretary-General take a clear break from the Icegruber statement.”

Stephen Daniels, U-Councilor, added that Icegruber “seems confused as to why students aren’t thriving.”

After this discussion, Shutt, along with advisors Uma Fox ’26 and Aishwarya Swamidurai ’26, put forward a proposal for an initiative called “MakingSpace: Enabling Students to Name Grievances and Imagine Solutions.”

“The CCA got together after the fall break and had a conversation about where our community is and what we need,” Schott said, “and one of the things that comes out of that is we need an ongoing student-centered dialogue.”

The proposed initiative would bring students together for conversations about student issues in which administrators would be present to answer questions and observe, but not to direct or lead the conversation.

Shutt, Fox, and Swamidurai have proposed the initial pilot event under this project to be held on Friday, December 2, with the possibility of repeat talks after that.

U-Councilor Dillion Gallagher ’23 also introduced a new initiative: a possible ad hoc panel for the Upperclassmen Dining Experience.

“The primary driver of this is to create a space for conversations and develop policy regarding upper-class dining that we hope will lead to greater usability in all those distinct dining experiences, and then greater interpersonal connection,” Gallagher said.

He noted that he hopes implementing the committee will improve consistency and transparency in conversations about upper-class dining, “especially because the experimental dining working group was initially not very open to student input.” He noted that while recent conversations about junior and senior dining have revolved around the university’s dining pilot program for the upcoming spring semester, the committee would ideally handle on-campus dining experiences.

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Gallagher added that while the work of the Dining Committee could theoretically fit into the University Student Life Committee (USLC), he believes it would make more sense to devote an entire panel of people to the initiative given how “urgent” dining issues on campus are now.

The US government did not vote on Gallagher’s decision during Sunday’s meeting.

USG historian Caitlin McNally ’24 gave a presentation on the process of digitizing USG records. Some USG records are already available on the Princeton University Library website, although many records are not yet digitized and made available to the public.

McNally reports that digitizing the remaining records, including paper records in the university’s Mudd Library as well as Google Drive content and meeting minutes, would take roughly a semester and cost between $5,500 and $6,000.

“I think it’s really important to make our documents really accessible,” USG Chief Academic Officer Austin Davis ’23 added.

No formal budget request has been made on the issue of digitizing records, and the US government did not vote on any aspect of the proposal during Sunday’s meeting.

The Senate has voted on two proposed amendments to the Constitution of the United States Government, both of which relate to the structure of ad hoc committees within the United States government.

First, the US government voted on an amendment to the “Expiration Date for Ad Hoc Committees” put forward by US President Mayu Takeuchi ’23. The amended constitutional formula states that “the special committees expire upon adjournment of the first ordinary meeting of the term of the next president, unless they are renewed.”
The decision was passed by the initial unanimous vote. Since constitutional amendments require two-thirds approval in two consecutive meetings, a second vote will be held at the next meeting of the Senate.

Then, Braiden Aaronson ’25, chair of the Diversity and Equity Committee (DEC), introduced a “parallel resolution” to “empower Senate ownership over ad hoc committees.”

Currently, special committees can be created and assignments assigned by a majority vote of the Senate. The Chairman of the Under-Secretary-General then appoints the Chairman and members of the Committee.

The amendment would allow for the incorporation, renewal, determination of chairmen, and membership of an ad hoc committee “by a majority vote of the Senate or a majority of the fully voting members of the Executive Committee.” The amended language still allows for presidential appointments, if the Senate does not specify any appointment of the presidency or members.

Aronson explained that the amendment is “primarily about designing more flexibility into the Constitution and making it easier for the Senate to organize initiatives around specific ideas,” as part of an effort “to build more cohesion, community, and efficiency in the Senate.”

Councilman Daniel Shaw25 noted, “This amendment raises a deeper question outside of our committees, which is the balance of power between the presidency and the Senate.”

He has raised concerns about the “precedent” set by the proposed amendment, given that “the President of the United States is elected to be the head of the student government.” Shaw suggested, “It might be wise to include a presidential check of the Senate’s authority [regarding ad hoc committees]if we were to invert the hierarchy from the Senate imposing an examination on the ability of the President to initiate the President’s examination of the authority of the Senate.”

The amendment passed its initial vote by 14 members, with 6 opposing:

Favor: Aronson, Sen. Ellen Battaglia ’23, U-Counselor Amanda Branum ’25, Senator Med Coulibaly ’25, Senator Ned Dockery ’25, Fox, Gallagher, U-Councilor Afzal Hussain ’25, Senator Maryam Latif ’24, Social Chair Madison Linton ’24 , Jessica Scott ’24 (acting for Senator Walker Penfield ’25), Shutt, Swamidurai, and Sustainability Chief Audrey Zhang ’25

oppose: Daniels, Davis, Vice President Hannah Kapoor ’23, U-Councilor Riley Martinez ’23, Shaw, and Takeuchi

The Senate will vote on the amendment again at its next meeting.

USG Senate meetings are held in Betts Hall in the School of Architecture at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoons and are open to all.

Annie Robertus is a sophomore from Philadelphia, assistant data editor, and staff news writer covering USG for “Prince.”

Please direct any correction requests to Corrections at dailyprincetonian.com.

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