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USG members look back on first term

With the newly instated USG administration set to hold its first meeting on Feb. 16, members of the outgoing executive committee reflected upon their time and accomplishments. Outgoing and incoming USG president Shawon Jackson ’15 said that increasing the accessibility of USG was his biggest accomplishment, while various other USG members explained that Jackson’s administration made several strides towards serving students.

As Jackson finishes his first term as president of the USG and prepares to enter his second term, he said the biggest success he found at his post was making the USG more accessible.  Jackson said that through USG office hours, weekly ice cream dates and releasing applications for project teams, he has increased the accessibility of the USG by showing students they can still be involved with the USG without having to run for a position.

Accessibility was one of the frameworks for Jackson’s administration, as it was one of the canons of his first campaign along with accountability and approachability.

Once he won his bid for the presidency and took office, however, Jackson chose the mantra “To lead is to serve,” a quote he attributes to Elie Wiesel, for his administration. He said the USG became very “mission driven” in making sure that all members had an understanding of why they were doing what they were doing.

“ ‘To lead is to serve’ was to set a tone that all of the projects should be serving the student need, not necessarily our own interests,” Jackson said. “Whenever we set up a project, we always said, ‘OK, what do the students want?’ and then made sure we created the project accordingly.”

Former USG vice president Carmina Mancenon ’14 said the quote helped to set a “broader vision” for the administration, both in terms of how meetings were run and how projects were completed.

With the USG’s broader vision, new projects geared toward helping the students took form. All USG members interviewed agreed that the pilot Wintersession program was a huge success in giving students an enriching opportunity during a time when nothing else is happening on campus.

“I think Wintersession went far better than anybody could have possibly anticipated,” former social chair Carla Javier ’15 said.

Javier is also a video editor and a senior writer for The Daily Princetonian.

However, USG members did not think of all their initiatives as successful.

“Ultimately, a lot of the efforts that, in my opinion, Shawon prioritized were somewhat of a distraction,” U-council chair Elan Kugelmass ’14 said. “I think that the effort to amend the USG constitution to redefine the relationship between the class governments and the senate was dead on arrival and was a distraction … It consumed a huge amount of USG time that we should have spent on other things.”

For example, Kugelmass said that he thought it would have been better to prioritize the compilation of the Committee on Background and Opportunity’s fourth report and the Extended Leave Report.

Other members of the USG agreed that the constitutional amendments took a lot of time away from other topics during meetings and that the body could have been more efficient with its time.

Overall, however, USG members interviewed said Jackson was a good leader and worked seamlessly with Mancenon, making the two an effective pair.

None of those interviewed said they believed Jackson’s class year — he started his term as a sophomore rather than a junior — had an effect on his ability to lead.

“Surprisingly, no I don’t think it had much of an effect – I thought that it would have,” Jackson said, a contrast from the experience of Michael Yaroshefsky ’12, who also served as USG president as a sophomore and told Jackson that he had had difficulty gaining respect from older members. “Thankfully with the team this year, everyone was very cooperative and really pushed back when needed and they took on projects that were priorities for me without saying ‘Hey, I don’t want to do that,’ so I was pleasantly surprised by that.”

Outgoing Campus and Community Affairs chair Trap Yates ’14 said all of the USG members were supportive of initiatives that Jackson wanted to accomplish and outgoing Academics Committee chair Dillon Sharp ’14 explained that there was a mutual respect between Jackson and the members of his administration.

Yates is a former associate editor for the Street section of the ‘Prince.’

Sharp said that his committee made a number of gains during the last year and struggled to determine which project was his committee’s biggest success. One project was the change to the academic calendar in order to allow the semester to begin a day earlier so students could shop a Monday/Wednesday class during the first week of classes and take the Wednesday of Thanksgiving break off so students could spend more time with their families.

“To be able to carry that through and see that be successful, I thought, was one of the most significant academic changes this decade,” Sharp said.

Since Sharp’s predecessor Steven Rosen ’13 started that proposal, Sharp said the policy he proposed that he was most proud of was the change to the overcrowding policy for final exams, which now allows students to reschedule an exam if they have one at night and another the following morning. On the other hand, he said that he was disappointed in the faculty committee’s unanimous vote against the academics committee’s proposal to allow students to rescind a pass/D/fail grading option for a class.

“I’m still incredibly proud of it even though it was a failure,” Sharp said. “I expect that in the next decade, the same proposal or a similar proposal will be successful.”

Yates said he was satisfied with his committee’s “fixed” events: Communiversity and Restaurant Week. He also said that he liked that the committee’s relationship with University administrators and townspeople is in good standing.

However, he said he thinks there’s “a long list” of things that could have been done differently. In particular, Yates said that all of the Campus and Community Affairs initiatives seemed to revolve around monetary transactions between students and the town when he had hoped to be able to just get more students off of campus and into the town.

“It would be nice, I think, if students had more reasons to be in town other than ‘I want to buy things,’” Yates said.

Outgoing Undergraduate Student Life Committee chair Greg Smith ’15 also said that he was pleased that his committee was able to build a lot of important relationships with administrators, but he said that he wished his committee had a “bigger, more substantial project” with which they could have ended the year.

Javier said she thought it was good that her committee organized a variety of artists for both the spring and fall Lawnparties and that it was able to save some money to be able to fund the bonfire in November.

“Even though we had less things happen, I’m proud of the quality of all of them,” Javier said.

Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article misstated Carla Javier’s position in the USG. She is former social chair, not outgoing social chair. Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article said the first USG meeting of the semester will be this Sunday. The first meeting will be on Feb. 16. Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated Elan Kugelmass’ title in the USG. He is U-council chair, not U-councilor chair. The ‘Prince’ regrets the errors.

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