As part of an ongoing discussion of undergraduate student government (USG) reform, the Senate heard a proposal for potential changes to the referendum process and voted on a change to the committee structure of the USG at its first official meeting of the semester on Sunday. September 18.
Changes to the USG’s referendum process would come in the wake of a contentious election season last spring, in which the USG encountered backlash due to confusion over how votes were counted. . They ultimately upheld a call against a referendum regarding the use of Caterpillar machinery that was passed by the student body, in accordance with rules set forth in the USG Constitution.
The proposed reform, introduced by Isabella Shutt ’24, president of Campus and Community Affairs (CCA), calls for a move away from “petition-triggered referendums” and toward “petition-triggered” hearings that would allow the Senate to “consider determining the methods by which the wishes of students can be better represented in University decision-making.
Under the proposed reform, students with concerns would first be directed to channels such as emailing USG, filling out a feedback form, taking speaking during the public question-and-answer period at USG Senate meetings, reaching out to Senate members, or writing opinion pieces.
If a student wrote a petition that garnered signatures from 20% of the student body, USG would be required to listen to their concerns in a hearing and issue an official response. This requirement “would keep us [USG] accountable to students,” Shutt said.
Referendums can only be directly added to a ballot by a student if they are proposing changes to the Honor Constitution or the Class Government Constitution. The meeting slides noted that “[i]a student wants a question about a [USG] Senate vote that does not change either of these two documents, then the student can convince the [USG] Senate to launch the referendum.
In its current form, the constitution of the american government allows voting questions to appear after a petition in favor of the referendum is signed by 10% of the student body.
Ultimately, this reform would give more decision-making power over questions on ballots to USG members, who would retain the ability to add questions to any ballot. Shutt noted that this change would result in a change of mindset within the USG away from issues of “[d]o we support this [referendum]? Are we ready to sponsor it? simply if USG would like to hear from students on a given issue.
The proposed amendment would also place language review of referendums under the responsibility of the Chief Electoral Officer and Parliamentary, as opposed to the entire Senate. The Senate would still be able to override a rejection of referendum language by a majority vote.
The Senate did not vote on this proposal at the September 18 meeting, although it did vote on a proposal requiring U advisers and senators to sit on major USG committees introduced at the meeting. a special meeting on Wednesday 7 September.
Although Shutt initially noted that she had received “significant positive feedback” on the idea, a debate soon erupted regarding the usefulness of the proposal.
“I’m really not convinced this will make committees any more productive than they are now,” commented U-Councillor Riley Martinez ’23.
Councilor U Daniel Shaw ’25 expressed concern that the focus on central committees is ‘reducing the autonomy of the Senate’, saying ‘much of the useful work’ of the USG is taking place “outside the central committees”.
USG Senator Walker Penfield ’25 responded to these concerns, recalling initial skepticism of the rank-and-file committee structure when he first joined the USG, but noted, “If we assume, as senators, that productive work cannot be done within our formal structures, then we recognize that committees are not productive work bodies.
He stressed that centralizing more USG projects under central committees with this reform would be “very beneficial for the Senate.”
The senate ultimately voted with 11 votes in favor of the change and 10 against, the votes being as follows:
In favour: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Chair Braiden Aaronson ’25, USG Senator Ellen Battaglia ’23, USG Senator Sean Bradley ’24, U Councilwoman Amanda Branom ’25, USG Senator Ned Dockery ’25, U-Councillor Uma Fox ’26, U.S. Senator Mariam Latif ’24, Penfield, Shutt, U-Councillor Aishwarya Swamidurai ’26, and Sustainability Chair Audrey Zhang ’25
Opposite: USG Senator Avi Attar ’25, U Advisor Med Coulibaly ’25, U Advisor Stephen Daniels ’24, U Advisor Judah Guggenheim ’25, Treasurer Adam Hoffman ’23, Vice President Hannah Kapoor ’23, Social President Madison Linton ’24, Martinez, Shaw, President Mayu Takeuchi ’23
Withholding: President of Academics Austin Davis ’23, USG Senator Gisell Curbelo ’23 (absent), U Councilman Dillion Gallagher ’23 (absent), and U Councilman Afzal Hussain ’25 (absent)
Therefore, the proposed requirement that senators and U-advisors sit on main committees will not be implemented at this time, as a two-thirds majority is required to establish a permanent rule.
“As committee chairman, I always recruit members of the Senate to serve on my committee,” Shutt wrote in an email to the Daily Princetonian, “but it is not a requirement of their position. [because the resolution failed].”
The senate also examined the draft budget for the coming semester. The fall budget is $214,000, which includes money for various committees, task forces and projects, as well as what Hoffman described as an additional $36,000 “cushion” set aside for requests that may arise and be approved on a case-by-case basis. base. He noted that, for example, $20,000 of those reserves would be depleted if another bonfire was held this year.
Some members of the Senate have raised questions about the amount of money ($22,000) allocated in the budget for the USG Movies program. The Senate will vote on a final budget proposal at a meeting next week.
Finally, the Senate heard an update on the Mental Health Resources Task Force that emerged from a successful referendum last spring. Daniels detailed that the group would soon release a report outlining a number of recommendations relating to 24/7 advice, transport funding, welfare checks that are not entirely dependent on public safety and fundraising to “increase the number and diversity of [Counseling and Psychological Services] advisers. »
USG Senate meetings are held in the Betts Auditorium of the School of Architecture at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoons and are open to all.
Annie Rupertus is a sophomore from Philadelphia and a News writer who covers USG for the “Prince.” She can be reached at [email protected] or @annierupertus on Instagram and Twitter.