Yee for President

Voting for the Undergraduate Student Government’s Winter Elections will be held between Tuesday the 12th and Thursday the 14th. Following in the tradition of the former Daily Princetonian Editorial Board, the Princeton Editorial Board has interviewed the three candidates running for USG President this year: Matt Miller ’19, Ryan Ozminkowski ’19, and Rachel Yee ’19. After carefully considering their platforms and experiences, we are endorsing Yee, with Miller as our second choice candidate. Should no candidate win a majority of the votes cast in this week’s election, a runoff election will take place from Saturday the 16th through Monday the 18th at the start of winter break.  As such, we encourage all students to have an opinion on their first and second choices for President and to be sure to vote in the runoff election should one be necessary. In making our decision to endorse Yee for President, we considered the candidates’ plans, their past experience, and their ability to represent the entire student body while effectively implementing the goals of their platform. We believe that Yee has the most promise in each of these key areas.

This is the second year that Rachel Yee is running for USG President, and the second year that the Board has endorsed her for President. Her platform reflects issues that are important at this moment on campus and impact students greatly. Yee’s platform is in large part focused on mental health. We believe her emphasis on mental health is appropriate and necessary given mental health’s importance in student life on campus. Her platform is also impressively detailed and focused in this area. Yee offers innovative solutions, proposing adding satellite CPS offices (with additional CPS staff) in residential colleges, as well as office hours for CPS in the LGBT Center, Carl A. Fields Center, Davis International Center, Jadwin, and E-Quad. Yee proposed these ideas in her previous campaign and has carried over her focus on mental health throughout the past year. Since last year’s election, she has furthered her commitment to this area, for example serving as Princeton’s Head Delegate to the Ivy Mental Health Conference and coordinating a Summer Soiree Benefit for Mental Health. Yee’s continued focus on and dedication to this matter reflect both the seriousness of the issue and the persistence of problems regarding mental health on campus. We believe Yee offers the best platform to address this pressing concern.

In addition, Yee has offered ideas and plans to revamp USG’s communications, improve freshman advising, implement a midterm feedback system for professors, establish a loan-free textbook program, better train new USG members, and improve the housing and living situation for independent students. These are good ideas that the Board would also like to see implemented on campus during a Yee presidency.

Yee moreover has the operational know-how to get the job done. In choosing a candidate for USG President, it is important to consider not only the quality of the candidate’s platform but also the candidate’s ability to accomplish the goals of his or her platform. Yee’s platform details the specific University offices with which she plans to work to accomplish her goals. She correctly does not view USG as a body that acts alone and understands the necessity of leveraging personal relationships with University staff and administrators to make changes on behalf of the student body. We are particularly impressed by the thorough “Monthly Breakdown” Yee created for the Game Plan section of her website, which details the careful thinking she has done to prepare herself for serving as USG President. This demonstrates that Yee understands the role of USG President and the time commitment necessary to do a good job for the student body. She is therefore well-positioned to implement the goals on her platform and to effect positive change for the Princeton community.

The Board was also very impressed with Matt Miller, which is why he is our second choice candidate for President. His platform exhibits perhaps the greatest breadth of all three candidates. While platforms that have such breadth often seem unfeasible to implement, Miller’s platform includes very reasonable proposals that we believe he would be able to implement if elected President. He details a plan to have a library or student center open 24 hours, which is a change the student body has often requested. Miller also proposes establishing bus services to airports from Princeton during key travel times before breaks. He would expand on USG’s existing program to offer bus services before Thanksgiving that take students to major cities in the Mid-Atlantic. This is a very popular program, and it would make sense to add airport shuttles as well and to offer this service before more breaks. Miller also advocates expanding the McGraw tutoring program to include daily language class sessions, as well as sessions for other subjects if there is enough student interest. Finally, one of Miller’s main proposals is a detailed one to host better acts for Lawnparties. He believes that selecting up-and-coming artists would improve Lawnparties and generate greater student interest in the event. These are just a few of many ideas on Miller’s platform that are both feasible to implement and would directly improve student life on campus.

In addition, Miller demonstrated that he has the attitude and dedication to represent the student body well. He is is a former student athlete who already has USG experience. Accordingly, we encourage students to consider Miller as their second choice candidate and to vote for him in the runoff election should Yee not advance to the second round of voting.  

We encourage all students to vote online in the many races and referenda starting tomorrow. We endorse Rachel Yee for President, with Matt Miller as our second choice.

Vote No on Referenda 1, 2 and 3; Vote Yes on Referendum 4

During this semester’s USG elections – which will be held from Tuesday, December 12 to Thursday, December 14 – undergraduates at the University will have the opportunity to vote on four referendum questions, all of which have been put forth by the USG Subcommittee on the Honor System. Each of these changes to the Honor Code would have a noticeable impact on Princeton’s Honor Constitution. If 3/4s of voters vote in favor of a referendum, this would be a binding vote, and the Honor Constitution would be formally amended. As such, the student body has a responsibility to carefully analyze these referendums and think critically about their implications. The Board urges students to oppose referenda 1, 2, and 3 and to support referendum 4, for reasons explained below.  

Referendum 1

The Board urges students to oppose this measure. This referendum will shift the standard penalty for violating the Honor Code from a one-year suspension to disciplinary probation, moving the one-year suspension to the punishment for a second violation. The purpose of penalizing violations of the Honor Code is twofold: to punish violations and deter future ones. As we wrote last year,  academic integrity is of considerable importance to Princeton’s community, particularly because of the University’s unique emphasis on undergraduate independent work. A one-year suspension for a violation is appropriately strict to punish violations of trust in our academic community. The same can hardly be said of disciplinary probation, which is so light a punishment that it essentially gives every student a one-time pass to cheat at Princeton. Furthermore, the proposed lower standard penalty is simply not a great enough deterrent to prevent violations. Disciplinary probation is a penalty where a student may be willing to risk an infraction during a major exam because it has little to no long-term consequences. If the student is not caught, this may quickly perpetuate itself into a much greater issue, wherein the student becomes a repeat offender because this individual knows the much lower severity of a disciplinary probation compared to a one-year suspension for a first-time violation. Accordingly we urge the student body to vote “no” on Referendum 1.

Referendum 2

The Board urges students to oppose this measure. This referendum constitutes that a case must have two pieces of evidence to bring a hearing, with each indicating that a violation has occurred. Yet this ignores key instances in which the Honor Committee may be presented with one overwhelmingly convincing piece of evidence that a violation of the Honor Code has occurred. For example, if a student reworks a returned, graded exam and then improperly submits it for a regrade to obtain more points, the Honor Committee would receive one piece of evidence: the copy of the student’s original exam versus the exam he or she submitted for a regrade (instructors often copy graded exams to compare to exams later submitted for a regrade). Another example is if the Honor Committee receives Internet records which indicate that a student accessed a course’s Blackboard site during an exam. In both instances, the Honor Committee has quite compelling evidence that a student violated the Honor Code from just one piece of evidence. The student body must reject Referendum 2 to continue allowing cases such as these to proceed to hearing. Additionally, the wording of this amendment is highly questionable, as it states that the two pieces of evidence each must “indicate that a violation occurred.” The Board contends that such an addition to the Honor Constitution would inherently create a pre-bias judgement against the accused. This will inevitably raise issues following the hearing, as students found responsible could plausibly claim they were unfairly tried due to pre-hearing bias. This further strengthens the case for voting “no” on Referendum 2.

Referendum 3

The Board urges students to oppose this measure. The operative element of this referendum states that if the course instructor explicitly states that the student’s actions were not in violation of the class policy, then that individual will be found not responsible. It is the most flawed of the proposed referendums because it effectively establishes a parallel Honor system separate from the Honor Code in a manner that allows for unfair and inconsistent findings of responsibility. Supporters of Referendum 3 present it in innocuous terms—that the Honor Committee must not find students responsible for an alleged violation that the course instructor made clear was acceptable within his or her course policies. Yet this ignores the troubling possibility that professors might tell the Honor Committee their course policies were different after an exam if an accused student asks the professor to do so. There are a myriad of ways that this could result in unfair and inconsistent outcomes, for example if the student in question has a positive relationship with the professor or if the professor is generally more lenient with regards to Honor violations. Moreover, the Honor Committee decides cases based on fair and consistent precedents, regardless of who the student and the professor are. And because seven members hear each case, the individual biases of one member do not have an outsized impact on the results. By contrast, this referendum would give individual professors veto power over the consistency of the Honor Committee's process.

This is not to say that professors should have no role in the process. Quite the opposite - the Honor Committee already gives weight to the professor's word; it should and does matter. Professors are interviewed as part of every Honor Committee investigation, and they must present evidence to show the student “ought reasonably” to have known the course policy. This also works to help students accused of violations, because professors cannot claim after the fact that they prohibited calculator use, for example, when this was never explicitly stated as a policy. This highlights the fairness of the current process, and the student body must reject Referendum 3 in order to preserve the fair, equal, and consistent application of Princeton’s Honor Code.

Referendum 4

The Board urges students to support this measure. The referendum constitutes that investigators must inform students of their status as a student in question or witness when “making initial contact” with them, rather than waiting until just before questioning. There is value for students being called as possible witnesses and students who have been accused to know their status before meeting with the investigators. For possible witnesses, they will no longer have to experience the stress of worrying they have been accused of a violation before meeting with the Honor Committee. For students who have been accused, it is far more fair to give them the opportunity to think about how they would defend themselves, no matter the point in the investigation, rather than blindsiding them with an accusation when they reach the Honor Committee’s office.

The counterargument to supporting Referendum 4 is that students who have been accused could somehow destroy evidence or come up with a story in advance of their initial meeting with the Committee. We do not agree with this argument on face because we think it is only fair for students to know their status prior to meeting with an investigator. We are also not concerned about its practical effects. If someone has cheated, they would know if they did so. And if they received a call from the Honor Committee asking them to meet, it is likely they would destroy any evidence or get their story straight in advance of meeting regardless of if they were officially told they had been accused or not. We thus do not see any practical harms to Referendum 4 and only see benefits in reducing the stressfulness and raising the fairness of students’ dealings with the Committee.

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To conclude, it is of unequivocal importance that students consider the referendums at hand with utmost seriousness. They are to amend the governing Constitution of the Honor system, one of the most substantial aspects of the University’s academic foundation. The Board, therefore, strongly urges students to be sure to have their voices heard during this semester’s USG elections, by casting their vote between Tuesday, December 12 and Thursday, December 14. We urge “no” votes on Referenda 1, 2, and 3 and “yes” votes on Referendum 4.

Carolyn Liziewski ‘18 recused herself from the writing of this editorial.

Jack Whelan ‘19 abstained from the writing of this editorial with respect to referenda 2 and 3.

Dissent, in part

While we support the majority’s stance in support of Referendum 4 and in opposition to Referendum 2, we respectfully disagree with its opposition to Referenda 1 and 3.

With regard to Referendum 1, the majority overlooks that the new standard penalty would include “a recommendation to fail the examination on which the violation occurred” in addition to the academic probation they discuss. Given that examinations generally count for very significant portions of course grades, this hardly represents a “one-time pass to cheat” with “little to no long term impacts” that the majority describes because students will still likely incur a large penalty to their class grade which will always be present in their GPA. In a departmental class, a student may also fail to receive sufficient credit for the course to count, even if the penalty does not result in a failing grade. For a student so concerned about grades that they would consider cheating for a finite portion of points on the exam, this represents a large but fair deterrent from cheating.

The current penalty of a one-year suspension must be improved upon, particularly given its disparate effects on students of different backgrounds; a student from a well-connected family could obtain a prestigious internship during their time off and actually be helped by their suspension. Other wealthy students also have the option of taking an unpaid internship while their family supports them, something that can either help the student or help mitigate the effects of suspension long-term. On the other hand, a student from a less-connected, low income family could have to work a job in an industry that is not relevant to their degree in order to support themselves without the University's financial and thus is punished disproportionately more than their better connected/wealthier peers. Because of this, it makes sense for the University to move away from the one-year suspension and adopt the policy specified in Referendum 1.

With regard to Referendum 3, we argue that a professor for a given course in every circumstance understands the context of an academic violation better than the Honor Committee could without being in the class. Even if the professor is interviewed by the Honor Committee, there is no way for the Committee to have knowledge of every course policy/informal practice that could influence the professor believing a student to be innocent. While the majority is largely preoccupied by wrong-doers not being punished, the dissent is more concerned about innocent students being wrongly punished. It is a greater harm to the community as a whole to have innocent students convicted than for guilty students to occasionally slip through, as it creates a culture of fear and resentment towards the Honor Code, which is actually contrary to the community placing a high value on academic honor and integrity that the majority describes. Given Referendum 3 helps to mitigate some of these current deficiencies, the dissent supports this measure.

For these reasons, we respectfully dissent and urge the student body to vote “yes” on Referenda 1 and 3.

Signed,

Megan Armstrong ‘19
Rachel Glenn ’19

 

Make All Language Classes PDF-able​​​​​​​

Most students, at some point in their undergraduate education, experience both the intellectual joys and challenges of a Princeton language class. Introductory language classes are currently among the few classes that students cannot elect to take on a Pass/D/Fail (PDF) basis. The Board recommends that the University should allow students to PDF all language classes because it would incentivize students to explore new interests and make language classes more appealing to a wider array of students.

The primary purpose of PDF-able classes, as defined in Princeton’s Academic Regulations, is to allow students to explore a new interest or subject area that they might not otherwise try due to fear of hurting their GPA. Foreign language classes are an area that some students would like to explore but do not feel confident enough in their abilities to take the class for a grade. Because of these concerns and the inability to PDF introductory language courses, students are currently disincentivized from learning something new by taking introductory language classes. The disincentive is even stronger because when starting at an introductory level, students need to take two semesters of a language in order to obtain credit for it. For example, if a student received a poor grade in the fall semester and decided not to continue with it in fear of underperforming again, he would not be able to use the class to count towards the required 31 classes to graduate for AB majors. Furthermore, the grade he received for the class would still affect his GPA even if it does not fulfill the foreign language requirement. This is a challenging situation that has no comparison with any other course at Princeton and further underscores how the way introductory language courses work at Princeton disincentivizes students from trying a new language.

The University clearly values foreign languages: in the 2016 Report of the Task Force on General Education, it recommended requiring all A.B. students to take a foreign language class “regardless of any existing proficiency” because it exposes students to different cultures and broadens students’ international scope. While University believes students benefit greatly from the foreign language requirement, many students opt out of it, including engineering students and AB students whose prior language experience fulfills requirement. Yet these students could be incentivized to still take a language course even though they are not required to if they know their GPA would not be affected by the ability to PDF the course. Students needing to take a fifth class who would otherwise not think of taking a non-PDF-able class would now have more options in their class choice. Finally, students who wish to travel, study abroad, or do an international internship that requires some proficiency in a foreign language would be able to take language classes without the potential risk for the sole purpose of gaining an additional skillset. The conversational ability gained from taking one or two semesters of a language is sufficient enough for students to pick up some proficiency.

There is a perception that students who PDF a course are less inclined to actively participate, and that can be detrimental in language classes because they rely on each student to make an effort to contribute. Because classes are small and require the collaboration of all students, if even one person does not participate it can affect the other students’ performance in the class as well. However, in order to even pass in the first place, students must come to class and participate because participation accounts for a large percentage of their grade. This is likely one of the easiest ways to pass the course with minimal effort, which is incentive enough for students PDFing to actively contribute. Moreover, active participation could be made an explicit requirement for a passing grade, thereby ensuring that students taking the course on a PDF basis still contribute to class discussions.

Furthermore, there are currently other classes that can be PDF-ed that also rely heavily on the engagement and cooperation of all students. For example, STL courses with group labs and computer science courses with the option of partner assignments both necessitate collaboration, yet their value does not depreciate because of the students PDFing them. Due to these similar cases, the Board believes that language classes can still function and maintain a good learning environment for all students even if they become PDF-able.

The Board recognizes the value of learning a foreign language and encourages more students to take advantage of the skills gained from learning one. By providing the option to PDF all language classes, more students would be inclined to explore new interests and take language classes that accommodate their needs.

 

Opposing a Zero-Tolerance Policy for Sexual Harassment

According to recent reports in The Daily Princetonian and The Huffington Post, Princeton University Professor Sergio Verdú was found responsible for sexual harassment in June of this year. A Title IX investigation determined that Verdú “engaged in unwelcome verbal or physical behavior” towards one of his graduate student advisees, and that said behavior “unreasonably interfered with [the student’s] educational conditions by creating a hostile or offensive environment.” Since the publication of the Daily Princetonian and Huffington Post articles, op-ed pieces have been written and petitions have been issued, criticizing the University’s handling of Verdú’s case. Specifically, they have demanded that the University retroactively increase the severity of Verdú’s punishment and that the University implement a “zero-tolerance policy” for cases of sexual harassment. The Board categorically condemns acts of sexual harassment, but we disagree with the op-ed authors and petitioners on both points.

The petition asks that the University “elevate its disciplinary actions against Professor Verdú,” but such retroactive alterations, outside of a formal appeals process, to an already-adjudicated case would constitute a severe violation of due process. Decisions about responsibility and punishment should be left in the hands of trained University bodies like the Title IX Panel that considered Professor Verdú’s case. It is unfair to relitigate a case in the court of public opinion merely for the sake of satisfying public outrage. Moreover, while we do not know the exact punishment levied against Professor Verdú, we do know that the University imposed some penalty beyond the mandatory eight hours of counseling. Based on the University’s annual Title IX Report, that penalty could presumably have been a letter of concern, a warning letter, or probation. We hope that it was on the more severe end of these options, but we disagree that his punishment should be increased after the fact. Finally, it is worth noting that University disciplinary proceedings such as this are guided largely by precedent. Penalties are determined by reference to previous cases that occurred under similar circumstances. It would be inappropriate to increase Professor Verdú’s penalty when other professors who committed similar infractions, but whose cases did not receive similar public attention, received less severe punishments.

The Board also rejects calls for a “zero-tolerance policy” in cases of sexual harassment. Generally speaking, a zero-tolerance policy is a poor way to dole out punishments. Different crimes and infractions can be more or less severe than others. Any effective adjudicative procedure must recognize this fact and, accordingly, assign punishments of varying severity. This is a fundamental aspect of our nation’s criminal justice system, and the University would be remiss if it did not incorporate the principle in its own internal proceedings. Correlating different levels of punishment with different levels of wrongdoing is especially important in cases of sexual harassment. As a specific policy violation, sexual harassment is poorly defined and can encompass an extensive range of behaviors. As a result, there is room for misinterpretation and even abuse of sexual harassment policies. Examples of such abuse abound: a professor at Louisiana State University was terminated for using “off-color language,” and in another case a Northwestern University professor was accused of Title IX violations simply for writing an article that expressed worries about “sexual paranoia” on college campuses.

A zero-tolerance policy is particularly inappropriate in the context of flawed Title IX procedures, about which we have written before. Current procedures for adjudicating Title IX allegations lack due process protections for the accused and utilize an unfair ‘preponderance of evidence standard,’ which finds the accused responsible for a violation if it is more likely than not that they have committed the alleged violation. If the University wishes to treat sexual harassment allegations seriously, then it should reinstitute robust due process protections for the accused and raise the standard of proof so as to ensure confidence in the adjudication process. So long as the University does not adopt these common-sense reforms, it is wrong to automatically terminate someone who is found responsible under the current, flawed procedures.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a zero-tolerance policy could backfire in a number of ways specific to an academic setting. Princeton prides itself on its low student-professor ratio, and students frequently note the wonderful ways in which professors go beyond the classroom to engage with students and advisees. Commonplace examples include professors inviting students to their home for dinner, students inviting professors to have coffee on Nassau Street, and both students and professors inviting each other to interesting cultural and learning opportunities. Yet, under a zero-tolerance policy, the certainty professors would be fired if found responsible of sexual harassment would deter them from engaging with their advisees in one-on-one situations -- particularly their female advisees -- out of an abundance of caution to avoid being accused of harassment. Consequently, advisees would be robbed of many opportunities to network, receive mentorship, or otherwise develop a strong relationship with their advisors.

Additionally, a zero-tolerance policy could actually make it less likely that allegations of sexual harassment are brought forward. If a victim of sexual harassment knows that bringing any allegation against their harasser could result in that person’s termination, then he or she may not be inclined to bring their claim if they do not feel that the incident warrants a punishment so severe as termination. This would leave unreported a number of cases of sexual harassment that should be punished, albeit less harshly than termination. Additionally, if a professor were fired for sexual harassment, their termination would be public knowledge and likely the subject of considerable media coverage. Victims who do not wish to make their situation so public (for fear of retribution, personal privacy concerns, etc.) may thus be deterred from lodging an official complaint.

The Board understands that those frustrated with the University’s current sexual harassment policies wish to support victims by removing harassing professors and making the academic environment a safe and comfortable place for victims. We acknowledge this concern, but we believe the University must not ignore important due process concerns, that it must be prudent when assigning penalties to violations of varying severity, and that it must consider the serious downsides of a zero-tolerance policy.

Megan Armstrong '19, Rachel Glenn '19, Dee-Dee Huang '20, and MaryAnn Placheril '21 abstained from the writing of this editorial.

Dissent, in part

We agree with the opinion expressed in the majority that it would be incorrect to try Professor Verdu in the court of public opinion; however, we respectfully disagree with the majority’s advocacy against a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment. As such, we dissent.

As ELE Professor Andrew Houck ‘00 argued in his letter to the editor of The Daily Princetonian, “there is no greater power discrepancy in all of academia than [that] between PhD advisor and advisee.” We believe this power discrepancy is too great to overlook, in all cases involving both undergraduate and graduate student victims. For graduate students, the stakes are alarmingly high: a student’s advisor plays an integral role in the success and distribution of a student’s research, and functions as the primary advisor for the student when he or she enters the job market. While the relationship between professor and undergraduate does not typically impact the undergraduate’s post-University prospects to the extent the PhD-advisee relationship impacts the advisee’s prospects, we argue any professor who would be willing to make unwanted sexual advances toward an undergraduate would pose a similar risk to graduate students. Independent of this risk, we believe Princeton is an environment in which no student should ever have to interact with a professor who has been found responsible of sexual harassment. Simply put, this community deserves better.

The majority advances a number of problematic arguments to advocate against a zero tolerance policy; we will respond to three.

First, the majority claims sexual harassment is often poorly defined, which leads to wrongful termination of professors. The majority fails to engage with the University’s definition of sexual harassment as “unwelcome verbal or physical behavior which is directed at a person based on sex, gender identity or gender expression, when these behaviors are sufficiently severe and/or pervasive to have the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s educational experience, working conditions, or living conditions by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.” Notably, the University’s definition includes a severe and pervasive clause, which is to say one unwelcome and offensive comment or gesture almost certainly will not fit under the definition of sexual harassment.

Second, the majority claims a zero tolerance policy may backfire in academic settings. Specifically, the majority fears a zero tolerance policy will discourage male professors from interacting with female advisees with the same zeal with which they interact with male advisees. We believe the onus should be on a professor to engage with all of his or her advisees in an equitable manner.

Finally, the majority claims a zero tolerance policy will discourage victims from reporting perpetrators because they fear being a catalyst to a perpetrator’s termination. The majority fails to recognize the status quo is even more problematic, and creates a stronger disincentive to report than does a zero tolerance policy. Under the status quo policy, a victim who chooses to report an alleged instance of sexual harassment must do so with the understanding they will likely interact with the perpetrator for the remainder of their undergraduate or graduate school career. Given the reputational damage inflicted by accusations and findings of responsibility, it seems intuitive a victim would fear retaliation. Retaliation is significantly more likely to occur when a perpetrator remains within the community.

For these reasons, we respectfully dissent.

Carolyn Liziewski '18
Gabriel Swagel '20
Jack Whelan '19

Celebrating the Life of Uwe Reinhardt: 1937- 2017​​​​​​​

In this editorial, the Board celebrates the life of Uwe Reinhardt, a renowned health economist and beloved Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School. During his lengthy academic career, Professor Reinhardt published articles in both leading economics and medical journals. He made significant contributions to the study of health care that influenced health policy topics including equity, cost-effectiveness of health care, payment reforms, veteran’s health care, and the political economy implications of U.S. health care. As the University wrote in its obituary for Professor Reinhardt, “his work was instrumental in advocating some of the reforms embodied in the Affordable Care Act, such as having Medicare pay for performance rather than entirely on a fee-for-service basis.” Professor Reinhardt was also a distinguished teacher who taught ECO 100 for many years. In addition to his academic work, Professor Reinhardt served as an advisor to many government commissions and advisory boards and was a trustee of Duke University.

Professor Reinhardt’s academic accomplishments go on, and the University memoriam comprehensively describes these important contributions reflect Princeton’s informal motto in the nation’s service and the service of humanity. As such, the Board would like to highlight additional aspects of his legacy. Professor Reinhardt was exceptional in his attention to the environment on campus and contributed positively to campus life. We note three of his contributions: his vocal support for veteran enrollment, his engagement with a 2015 campus referendum about divestment from Israel, and his support for free speech on campus.

In September 2013, Professor Reinhardt penned an op-ed in the Daily Princetonian arguing that the University’s Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity’s failure to include veterans in its list of diversity objectives constituted a “conspicuous absence of one dimension of diversity.” He wrote of the importance of having veterans within our campus community, given the unique perspective they add through their life experiences “in the nation’s service.” Additionally, he noted the discipline and idealism that the military impresses upon those who serve would bring something not commonly found on college campuses. Professor Reinhardt’s support for increasing veteran enrollment was especially important given that even ROTC was once banned at Princeton. Since the publication of the op-ed, his arguments have gained traction. The Board echoed many of Professor Reinhardt’s arguments in our recent editorial about increasing veteran enrollment. And this year, the University has promoted its goal of enrolling veterans with its new transfer program, expressing many of the sentiments of Professor Reinhardt’s op-ed.

During the Spring of 2015, Professor Reinhardt penned an op-ed opposing a student referendum calling for the University to divest from Israel, specifically writing that divestment was an empty moral gesture because of its limited impact on stock markets. Not only did Professor Reinhardt utilize his economic expertise to add an important dimension to what was a contentious campus debate, but the op-ed also reflects Professor Reinhardt’s engagement with the student body and a praiseworthy focus on campus life beyond his academic work. Such engagement, especially for a renowned scholar, is rare among professors. This anecdote is just one example of Professor Reinhardt’s genuine care for students and concern with campus life at Princeton.

Finally, Professor Reinhardt also demonstrated his support and attention to free speech on campus. He signed the James Madison Program’s “Think for Yourself” letter, in which a group of Princeton, Harvard, and Yale professors stressed the importance of free speech and individual thinking on college campuses, which the Board has continually emphasized. Professor Reinhardt was one of only 28 professors to sign this important statement. In light of this, the Board would like to praise Professor Reinhardt for taking what sadly must be considered a bold stance in today’s environment to strongly support free speech. Professor Reinhardt saw it correctly, that free speech is essential to the academic enterprise at Princeton.

As President Eisgruber said, “Uwe Reinhardt was one of Princeton’s most beloved teachers. He had a lasting impact on generations of students, and we will miss him tremendously.”

Considerations for USG’s Subcommittee on the Honor Constitution

The Honor Code and the body that enforces it, the Honor Committee play important roles in the lives of Princeton students. As such, they should be responsive to the opinion of the student body, and students should themselves take an interest in a unique Princeton tradition that affects them all. Prompted by the establishment of a USG subcommittee on the Honor Constitution, the Board commends this proactive engagement with important issues surrounding the Committee and proposes possible areas of investigation and change to the status quo to the Committee. We urge the subcommittee to examine the following issues but do not take a stance on specific policy prescriptions herein.

We have previously endorsed affirming the standard penalty for violation of the Honor Code -- a one-year suspension. Nevertheless, this remains a contentious issue among the student body, and certainly one that has the potential to gravely impact students. As we previously wrote, it could be argued that such a harsh deterrent is appropriate both practically, to discourage such dishonesty, and to uphold the high standards and values of the University. Further, it puts weight behind the premium placed on honor, and emphasizes this commitment. Nonetheless,the automatic one-year suspension is more severe than corresponding punishments at peer institutions. At those schools, an automatic failing grade in the class is arguably a sufficient deterrent and does not pose the various disproportionate downsides as a suspension.A suspension can complicate the timeline of a student’s college career, jeopardize job opportunities, and endanger relationships. All these outcomes can further negatively impact a student’s mental health, and separate students, especially those from low-income backgrounds, from adequate care.

Next, we urge the Subcommittee to examine the current practice of having investigators and adjudicators drawn from the same pool of students on the Honor Committee. There are currently 15 members of the Honor Committee. When the Committee receives a report of a suspected violation, the Chair will assign 2 members to investigate the allegation. If the case proceeds to a hearing, the Chair will appoint 6 other members to take part in the hearing, deliberate about the evidence presented, and then vote to find the student responsible or not. While members do not serve both roles in a single case, their experience in both could bias the judicial process towards guilt. Having previously investigated cases, they might be subconsciously predisposed to believe the investigator, with whom they work and whose methods and practices they understand and trust. One possible solution to this concern, which would produce fairer outcomes, would be to delegate investigative functions to a separate group of students who do not sit on the Honor Committee, whose members would solely hear cases. This would create three bodies of students involved in the honor process: student investigators, student adjudicators, and peer representatives, helping ensure that the judicial body could decide cases without bias.

Third, the asymmetry between the composition of the Committee on Discipline--which handles all other disciplinary offenses except for sexual misconduct cases, such as plagiarism and drug possession--and the Honor Committee should be reviewed. The Committee on Discipline is composed of both students and faculty, whereas only students comprise the Honor Committee. The status quo is defended by pointing to the unique, student-only nature of the Honor Code itself. The distinctive ethos of Princeton’s Honor Code depends on professors being absent during all processes related to the Honor Code, from the exam itself to investigation of violations to adjudication. Additionally, all members of the Honor Committee are on equal footing during deliberations; there is no added weight given to what a professor might say about a case.

On the other hand, having professors on the Honor Committee would mitigate possible abuses of power. While we commend those students serving on the Committee for their effort and dedication, there is a common perception among students that the Committee sometimes acts capriciously. Such evidence is obviously anecdotal by its nature, but the appearance of fairness is important by itself, whether or not actual issues of fairness arise. Professors would be less likely to know the student accused, and would not know him or her as a peer, making it easier to render an impartial decision. They would also, by virtue of their career and experience, likely be more used to positions of power, increasing professionalism and procedural decorum.

Lastly, the transparency of the Honor Committee should be reviewed. The Board recognizes that some level of obscurity is necessary to maintain anonymity of the accused and to protect privacy. However, students’ confidence in the procedures and outcomes of the Honor Committee and, ultimately, the Honor Code, depend on understanding what occurs. In this instance too, the Committee on Discipline offers a possible model. They release an annual report detailing the general type of offenses committed, and the number of students found guilty of each offense. The Honor Committee could follow this example by providing general information, such as the number of students accused of and found responsible for various offenses, like using a cellphone during an exam or tampering with a graded exam and then submitting it for a regrade. Such information could give valuable context to the student body as a whole, increasing institutional trust, without compromising student privacy.

The Subcommittee’s review of the Honor Constitution provides a valuable opportunity to re-examine the procedures and practices of a body that is of great importance to all students, whether or not they are ever called before it. We urge the subcommittee to carefully consider both sides of the issues outlined above, with the ultimate goal of allowing the Honor Code and Committee to better serve all students.

Carolyn Liziewski ‘18 recused herself from the writing of this editorial.

Questioning AJP’s Opposition to Tzipi Hotovely’s Talk

Last Monday, November 6, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely was scheduled to speak in Lewis Library in a talk sponsored by the Center for Jewish Life (CJL). The night before the talk, students from the Alliance for Jewish Progressives (AJP) sent a series of emails to residential colleges, eating clubs, and other student groups protesting the event and urging students who disagreed with MK Hotovely’s right-wing views to sign a letter of protest. After the letter was published in the Daily Princetonian - with signatories from AJP members, other students and groups not affiliated with the Jewish community, and alumni - CJL Director Rabbi Julie Roth announced the CJL’s decision to “indefinitely suspend the talk.”

Following this, Rabbi Eitan Webb, Director of the Scharf Family Chabad House, announced on Monday that Chabad would sponsor MK Hotovely’s talk instead. Members of the AJP and the Princeton Committee on Palestine (PCP) protested outside the event before it began and many attended the talk, sharply but respectfully questioning MK Hotovely when she took questions. The Board praises the leadership of Chabad in ensuring that, as Rabbi Webb wrote, “every person is entitled to speak, and that dissent and debate are meant to be done in person with even more speech and not by preventing speech.” We also affirm the right of the students who disagreed with MK Hotovely’s views to protest, and acknowledge that they did so in a respectful manner that engaged substantively with the speaker without infringing upon other students’ ability to hear the talk.

However, after the talk, AJP reiterated its stance that the CJL should not have sponsored the event and praised the CJL for rescinding its sponsorship. In a second letter published in the Daily Princetonian, AJP stated that their objection related to a procedural concern: that the CJL had not “properly reviewed [the event] in accordance with the CJL’s sponsorship policy.” This followed AJP’s claim in their first letter that this “Israel Policy has previously served as a thinly veiled method to exclude left-wing voices.” After reviewing the CJL’s Israel Policy, the Board reaffirms that hosting Tzipi Hotovely would have been in accordance with the Policy and with campus free speech norms more broadly. Moreover, AJP misrepresented the circumstances surrounding the Shimon Dotan and Penny Rosenwasser events. Contrary to AJP’s claim, we believe the CJL has demonstrated its commitment to inclusivity of diverse political opinions.

The CJL’s Israel Policy states that it “is committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and a homeland of the Jewish people. We support Israel’s existence, legitimacy and security. With this as our basic premise, the CJL is open to a full spectrum of student opinions and positions on issues related to Israel.” The Board believes this is an appropriate policy for the CJL to have. Israel is central to Judaism: the Torah affirms the idea that the Jewish people have a homeland in the land of Israel, the religion's holiest sites are in Israel, and much of Jewish law and religious practices are connected to the land. The Board draws a distinction between the CJL, as an institution built around a religion that includes a basic premise supportive of Israel’s existence, and other campus bodies, such as academic departments, which must maintain neutrality on all issues. For example, the Near Eastern Studies Department should not take any official stance on Israel’s right to exist because its only purpose is to foster scholarship across a range of topics and opinions. By contrast, religions often include central tenets that implicate political issues. We thus believe it is appropriate for campus religious bodies to take religiously substantiated stances on political issues. In the context of the CJL’s policy supporting the existence and legitimacy of Israel, hosting Tzipi Hotovely, a democratically elected leader of the state, would clearly have been appropriate.

We also support the CJL’s stance that beyond its official support for “Israel’s existence, legitimacy, and security,” the CJL will be “open to a full spectrum of student opinions and positions on issues related to Israel.” AJP stated that the CJL has not acted in accord with this policy, claiming that “the CJL has refused to co-sponsor or has qualified their sponsorship of events proposed by the Alliance of Jewish Progressives that skewed left-of-center on Israeli politics, with speakers such as feminist activist Penny Rosenwasser and Israeli filmmaker Shimon Dotan.” Yet AJP misrepresented the circumstances of both events.

As the Facebook event for a December 2016 screening of Shimon Dotan’s documentary The Settlers indicates, the CJL co-sponsored the event with AJP. The Settlers has been called “an effective work of leftist propaganda;” therefore the CJL’s co-sponsorship of the screening reflects the CJL’s openness to a variety of political views. Although the screening was held in Betts Auditorium instead of in the CJL building - perhaps what AJP meant by writing that the CJL “qualified their sponsorship” - MK Hotovely’s talk was not scheduled to take place in the CJL building either.

While AJP is truthful that the CJL did not co-sponsor its April 2016 event with Penny Rosenwasser, the Facebook event for the talk indicates it was held in the CJL building, effectively still giving Rosenwasser a CJL platform. This is remarkable given that Rosenwasser co-founded a group called Jewish Voices for Peace, which supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and argues the United States should stop giving military aid to Israel. The BDS movement seeks to delegitimize Israel, while ending United States military aid to Israel would greatly harm Israel’s security. Accordingly it was appropriate for the CJL to decline to sponsor this speaker because of the CJL’s policy supporting Israel’s legitimacy and security. Given the extent of Rosenwasser’s anti-Israel views, we would argue the CJL in fact demonstrated a strong commitment to political inclusivity by even allowing her the platform of speaking in the CJL building.

Finally, the fact that AJP has misconstrued and lied about the CJL’s engagement with AJP’s events makes us doubt the sincerity of AJP’s claim that their only objection to the event was a perceived violation of the CJL’s Israel Policy. If AJP truly objected to the CJL hosting the event, and not to Hotovely speaking on campus regardless of who sponsored her talk, why did AJP not propose that another campus body host Hotovely instead of the CJL? In fact, when Chabad announced it would sponsor Hotovely’s talk, AJP changed the name of a Facebook event for its protest of the talk from “Stand Against CJL-Sponsored Hatred” to “Stand Against Chabad-Sponsored Hatred,” providing further evidence AJP objected to Hotovely speaking on campus with little concern for who hosted the event. That AJP also turned to the knee-jerk reactions of many students to call viewpoints with which they disagree “racist,” without doing any intellectual work to explain why they believe Hotovely is racist, suggests to us they hoped to pressure the CJL into cancelling the event and to prevent Hotovely from speaking on campus. Indeed, after the talk’s indefinite postponement, an AJP member posted in the Facebook event for AJP’s protest: “Success! Protest is no longer necessary.” We recognize that “indefinitely postponing” an event, particularly when the speaker is from another country and cannot readily reschedule for a later date, effectively means cancelling the event. It thus rings rather hollow for AJP to write in its second letter, only after it had started to receive criticism for its role in the postponement, that it “never intended to obstruct open discourse on campus.”

In conclusion, we reaffirm MK Hotovely’s right to speak at Princeton and specifically at an event sponsored by the Center for Jewish Life. We commend Chabad for stepping in to host MK Hotovely given that her talk was an important opportunity for students to engage with a prominent foreign dignitary and debate Israeli policy. It was particularly valuable for those who disagree with Israeli policy to be able express their dissent in person to someone who has direct influence over the making of that policy. We regret the CJL’s decision to postpone the talk, for which it has since apologized, but believe the CJL has demonstrated admirable commitment to supporting Israel’s fundamental right to exist and to including many different voices in dialogue at the CJL. Given AJP’s obfuscations about the CJL’s strong track record on this front, we question AJP’s claim that it simply had a procedural objection to MK Hotovely’s talk. In light of this episode, we urge a renewed commitment to free expression and open debate among all members of the University community.

Jacob Berman ‘20 and Gabriel Swagel ‘20 recused themselves from the writing of this editorial.

Carolyn Liziewski ‘18 and MaryAnn Placheril ‘21 abstained from the writing of this editorial.

Increasing Meal Plan Flexibility through Dining Points

This year, Princeton introduced a pilot program that adds 250 Dining Points to the Block 95 meal plan. Each point is equivalent to one dollar and can be used at any college dining hall or designated campus eating location. The Board commends the University for implementing this program and listening to student requests regarding dining options. We encourage the University to expand the Dining Points program to more meal plans next year because it increases dining flexibility, benefits low-income students, and can help increase business for campus dining locations.

The Board recommends that the program be extended and adjusted for other meal plans next year. For block plans, we suggest maintaining the existing prices for the plans but adding 150 points and decreasing the number of meal swipes by 15 to account for the new points. Under this plan, the current 235 meal plan would change to 220 meals with 150 points and the current 190 meal plan would change to 175 meals with 150 points. Under the Unlimited plan, there would not be a built-in number of points, but students would have the ability to purchase Dining Points until the deadline to change meal plans ends in October. The cost would either be deducted from the student account surplus, if a student were on full financial aid, or through their student account. The one-point-one-dollar equivalency would remain when buying points, so a student could, for example, purchase 150 points by paying $150.

In addition, we recommend that the University work to allow Dining Points to be used at restaurants on Nassau Street. We encourage USG to work with popular establishments such as Small World, Qdoba, and Panera to accept Dining Points, as it would further diversify student dining options. USG should examine how other institutions such as George Washington University and Harvard have implemented their dining system to include external eating options as references in accomplishing this suggestion.

This expansion is valuable because it increases flexibility that aids students in maximizing their meal plan. Many students, regardless of their meal plan, do not exhaust the entirety of their swipes for several reasons, including not having time for meals in the dining halls throughout the day. Since the University does not currently reimburse students for their extra meal swipes, students are paying for more than what they eat and losing money. With Dining Points, students can eat at their own convenience and therefore fully utilize their meal plans due to the diversity of eating locations and times that the system offers. For example, an engineering student who spends his entire afternoon in the E-Quad can now purchase lunch from the E-Quad Café through his meal plan. Of course, students who prefer to always eat in the dining hall can use their points like dollars to swipe in if they run out of meal swipes. Thus, this proposal only increases flexibility without taking meal value away from students.

Moreover, low-income students with less spending flexibility are positively impacted because Dining Points provide more places for students to dine, especially if they can use their points at various restaurants on Nassau. While the residential dining halls are important in building a sense of community and an integral part of Princeton’s social environment, many students still eat off-campus, which can be alienating to lower-income students. Thus, this Dining Points system will improve students’ social experiences because it gives them an opportunity to occasionally eat out with their friends at no additional cost.

This program not only benefits students but also helps other campus venues such as the Genomics Café and Chancellor Green Café generate business. Typically, these locations are not seen as viable dining options for students because they would rather eat using meal swipes already paid for in their tuition. Because Dining Points extend beyond the dining hall, students will be more likely to eat at these designated locations when convenient. Furthermore, including Dining Points in meal plans increases students’ knowledge that they can use their proxes to dine in other locations and will lead to further exposure of these other campus venues.

Dining is a major part of the Princeton social experience, and the Board commends the University for listening to student input when exploring ways to improve it. We encourage the University to extend the Dining Points program past this year and expand it to include other meal plans and other dining options because of the value this would bring to all students.

Equalizing Study Abroad Opportunities

Throughout their four years of studies, many students at universities across America choose to spend one of their eight semesters abroad. The opportunity to experience and assimilate into a culture other than the one in which the student is familiar provides an excellent chance for widening horizons and diversifying thought. The intellectual frameworks and exposure to unique cultures that are built through studying, working, and living abroad are different than what students experience at Princeton. Some Princeton students who wish to spend one of their semesters abroad have support from their department as well as the financial means to do so. However, other students, for academic, financial, or scheduling reasons, find it difficult to fit a semester abroad into their Princeton experience. The Board believes that the University should equalize opportunities for studying abroad across all majors at Princeton, and make studying abroad a feasible option for all students who may be interested in doing so.

Currently, some departments have better programs for studying abroad than others. For example, the Woodrow Wilson School encourages semesters abroad, offering three specific Woody Woo programs with comparable classes to its concentrators each semester at international universities. The Economics department, on the other hand, when describing the possibility of taking core courses abroad, states on their website, “You can search for courses elsewhere [meaning at universities abroad] and consult the Economics Dep. Rep. about the suitability of courses, but the answer is likely to be no. It is much better to plan ahead and complete the core courses before going abroad.” This means that Economics students who wish to study abroad, as just one example, are discouraged from taking any Economics courses away from Princeton. For students who are not aware of these restrictions when they plan their first semester at Princeton, studying abroad is nearly impossible as a result of lack of flexibility in their schedules. Additionally, with regards to independent work, most departments have required seminars or lectures for students during Junior year, especially Junior fall that they are unable to miss, forcing them to forego their abroad experience. Princeton students’ ability to study abroad should not be limited by their choice of major or area of study.

In order to equalize opportunity for studying abroad among departments, the Board recommends that if a department believes their junior seminar is so crucial that all students must take them, the burden should be on that department to film the seminar and make it available for students who are abroad. In departments like Economics or Politics where independent work seminars are completed in the fall semester, the Board recommends that the departments encourage Junior Spring as a good time to go abroad, when students will not miss these lectures. The Board believes it is reasonable for Princeton to require students to take core departmental classes at Princeton, for the sake of standardization and uniformity among concentrators. However, we believe elective courses in concentrations can be found at similar standards at prestigious international universities. As such, we suggest that Princeton require students to complete the core departmental courses in their concentration at Princeton, but give them the flexibility to take departmental electives that hold to Princeton’s academic standard while studying abroad. This will allow students to have much greater flexibility while planning their time abroad, as it would allow them to fulfill requirements while they are abroad, instead of having to accelerate their department course load into seven semesters. We understand that the concern about students potentially taking easier courses abroad to inflate their departmental GPA is a legitimate one, so we propose that only Princeton University departmental courses be included in a departmental GPA.

The Board believes that Princeton needs to make studying abroad more available to all students for mental health-related reasons. Within the “Orange Bubble,” many students battling depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns feel trapped by their inability to get off campus. Since Princeton only offers the option of a gap year and not a gap semester, the Board believes one semester abroad would be a valid alternative for students who need a change from campus life, but do not want to take an entire year off. Students who do not enjoy being on campus for all eight semesters should not have to change or accelerate their studies into the other seven semesters, creating a more rigorous and stressful schedule than other students, to be able to enjoy the opportunity to leave for their eighth semester.

The Board recognizes that studying abroad in the summer is another valid option available to Princeton students as an alternative to a semester, and that a summer experience provides a way for a student to experience living abroad without the restrictions that come along with going abroad during a semester. However, summer study abroad options are not a feasible alternative for every Princetonian, especially low-income students. If a student were to study abroad during a semester, their tuition along with their financial aid package remains the same that it would if they were studying at Princeton for a semester. However, this does not apply to all summer programs, many of which require students and their financial guardians to pay thousands of dollars to study or intern abroad. During the summer, low-income students work to sustain their financial aid package and to make money for themselves and their family. Summer study abroad programs are infeasible for these students, as they require foregoing a summer job, and possibly spending thousands of dollars for their experience. Without the possibility of semester study abroad, they will not receive the same opportunities that other students have to study abroad during their time at Princeton. The Board believes that the lack of opportunity to go abroad because of financial reasons needs to be corrected so that every student, regardless of their economic background, can receive the same chance for a beneficial cultural experience.

For departmental equality, mental health, and socioeconomic reasons, the Board urges the University to make studying abroad more viable.

Dissent

We agree with the majority that study abroad can offer valuable experiences to certain students. But we dissent to make clear that we do not support a change in Princeton’s culture that would see many more students leaving campus during the academic year to study abroad. Princeton’s strong residential community and undergraduate academic excellence are what distinguish the University from our peer institutions, and changes to the study abroad policy should not diminish these unique attributes.

More than 98% of Princeton undergraduates live on campus, creating a residential culture that engages students in social life, maintains a sense of community cohesion, and fosters school pride. These strong ties are maintained throughout students’ four years in a continuous way that is distinct from a school like Dartmouth, where all students leave campus for at least one term during their undergraduate career. Current levels of study abroad at Princeton do not diminish the strength of our residential community but a larger shift in campus attitudes around study abroad could hurt this unique attribute of Princeton life, which we would oppose.

Turning to academics, Princeton offers a uniquely rigorous undergraduate program with challenging workloads, plentiful independent work opportunities, and diverse course offerings across departments. Yet the majority ignores this crucial diversity in asserting “that the University should equalize opportunities for studying abroad across all majors at Princeton.” Should the University also “equalize” independent work across majors? It should not, because there are fundamental differences between academic disciplines in terms of methodology and style. Similarly, study abroad may be more educationally valuable or feasible for certain concentrations than others, making it appropriate for different departments to have different requirements related to study abroad.

Yet the majority urges some departments to loosen their requirements for transfer credit from other institutions. We believe it is reasonable for departments, who know more about differences between their courses and outside courses than the majority does, to choose to maintain their stricter requirements and not diminish the quality of their academic program if they believe accepting more transfer credit would do so. In such cases the burden should be on students to plan ahead to facilitate study abroad rather than for departments to diminish their requirements. For example, the Economics Department publishes a document to facilitate student planning to study abroad while completing their departmental obligations. This illustrates that while it may require more planning to study abroad in some departments than in others, it is certainly possible to do so.

In conclusion, all Princeton departments offer students leeway to study abroad. In some departments, study abroad may be more flexible than in others, but such differences are reasonable and appropriately left to the department’s discretion. Study abroad has merit in exposing students to new experiences and as an alternative to a gap year for students who would like to leave for mental health reasons. But we believe Princeton’s residential community and academic excellence could be undermined by a broad shift in campus culture that results in more students leaving for study abroad. For these reasons, we respectfully dissent.

Signed,

Allison Berger ‘18
Paul Draper ‘18
Theodore Furchtgott ‘18
MaryAnn Placheril ‘21
Gabriel Swagel ‘20
Nicholas Wooldridge ‘21

New Editorial Board Members

The Princeton Editorial Board is pleased to announce our three newest members from the Fall 2017 applicant pool! 

MaryAnn Placheril '21
John Willett '20
Nicholas Wooldridge '21

We look forward to their contributions to our pieces going forward! If you are interested in joining the Board, we encourage you to check back at the start of the spring semester for information about the Spring 2018 application process.