Cleveland Tower in Princeton

Graduate students will now share in governance of the Graduate School

Princeton graduate students will now have a seat at the table where critical decisions are made about graduate education and students, following a vote of the faculty this week.

The Princeton faculty voted April 1 to accept the proposal of the Graduate School to add graduate students to each of its four governing subcommittees. The four subcommittees of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School are responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on academic policies, curriculum, fellowships, and student life and discipline. Previously, all subcommittee members were Princeton faculty.

“This is a significant change to Graduate School governance and the role and responsibility of graduate students in their School and education,” said Rodney Priestley, dean of the Graduate School, who has made collaboration with students and improvements to shared governance a priority of his deanship. “We proposed this change because we believe it will strengthen graduate education at Princeton. I am thrilled the faculty agrees.”

Beth Lew-Williams, professor of history and member of the Graduate School Policy Subcommittee, said, “I look forward to having graduate students in the room when we discuss policies that directly affect their education. This is an opportunity for faculty to learn from graduate students’ perspectives and for graduate students to share in the responsibility of governing the Graduate School.”

Graduate School governance

The Graduate School is governed and overseen by the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School, a body comprising 45 faculty members who serve as Directors of Graduate Studies (DGSs) for each of the University’s advanced degree programs. Much of the work of this committee is carried out by the four subcommittees on which graduate students will now sit, said Lisa Schreyer, deputy dean of the Graduate School. “The subcommittees meet separately to dig down into the details of the issues they must consider. The subcommittees then make recommendations to the dean or advise the whole Faculty Committee.”

The four subcommittees are:

  • The Policy Subcommittee, which makes recommendations regarding proposals, policies, and process changes overseen by the Graduate School that affect all graduate students. This subcommittee also reviews proposals for new advanced degree programs.
  • The Curriculum Subcommittee, which recommends and reviews academic program requirements and the creation and deactivation of permanent courses.
  • The Fellowship Subcommittee, which evaluates and recommends candidates for honorific fellowships and some competitive external fellowships, including foreign study grants, such as the Fulbright.
  • The Student Life and Discipline Subcommittee, which reviews and makes recommendations about student life issues and serious academic or behavioral disciplinary matters. (The Title IX Office oversees processes for matters relating to sexual misconduct.) 

Each subcommittee currently has four or eight members and must include faculty representatives from the four academic divisions—engineering, natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities. Three of the four subcommittees are chaired by the dean of the Graduate School, and the fourth—the Curriculum subcommittee—is chaired by the deputy dean.

The Graduate Student Government (GSG) and the Graduate School will each designate four students to sit on the subcommittees. “We believe this further strengthens the role of the GSG,” said Schreyer. “We are looking forward to working with the GSG to develop the student selection process and to advance this initiative.” Details on the process will be coming soon. Student terms will begin with the coming academic year.

Advancing the partnership with students

Graduate students at Princeton already sit on significant University committees. Among those is the University Priorities Committee, which is chaired by the provost and reviews and makes recommendations on Princeton’s operating budget and related issues including graduate student stipends. Graduate students also have seats on the Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC), the University Student Life Committee, the Graduate Housing Advisory Board, and the Student Health Plan Advisory Council.

“Graduate students already have many ways to participate in shaping important dimensions of their experience at Princeton,” said Priestley. “But having them now sit on the governing subcommittees of the Graduate School expands that partnership. We look forward to working directly with students in this new way.”