Princeton, NJ — Following extensive debate last night, the USG Senate voted down a resolution urging President Tilghman to reconsider the denial of University chaplaincy to Chabad Rabbi Eitan Webb.
“We weren’t elected to pass resolutions that reflect our own views,” USG president Rob Biederman ’08 said. “It would be irresponsible if we took sides on issues that are not clear cut.” He added that the USG, as a rule, refrains from supporting resolutions on divisive issues.
Three students representing Chabad –– Andrew Bogorad ’09, Arthur Ewenczyk ’09 and Leon Furchtgott ’09 –– gave a presentation to the USG during the meeting, arguing that student opinion had not been considered when determining whether Webb would be granted chaplaincy.
Since Tilghman’s rejection of Webb’s bid for chaplaincy in a February letter, numerous students and alumni have weighed in on the matter, especially in the news and opinion pages of The Daily Princetonian.
Bogorad, a Chabad student board member, said Webb plays an “integral role” in the University’s Jewish community, organizing events for holidays, mentoring students and teaching religion classes.
But, he added, Webb’s “ability to organize events and reach out to students is limited” because he is not a chaplain. “Making him a chaplain would get him access to more University resources and allow him to make an impact.”
Ewenczyk, the Chabad student board president, said the group “recognize[s] that the USG should not take positions on issues like this,” but he added that “the USG, as the representatives of the student body, should convey to the administration the notion that this decision was made without consultation of students, and that since the decision, there have been a lot of student voices on the issue.”
Ewenczyk, who is also a member of the ‘Prince’ editorial board, asked the USG to “call upon the administration to take into account these expressed student voices and to reconsider the decision.”
Bogorad — who is running a web-based petition protesting Tilghman’s decision, which currently has more than 100 signatories — also emphasized the importance of student opinions. “It seems that the University has greatly underestimated the support for a Chabad chaplaincy,” he said. “We ask that you help us convey to Shirley Tilghman that this is an issue that students care very much about.”
The students representing Chabad proposed a resolution to the USG, which called for recognition of the importance of a Chabad chaplaincy to the University’s goals of religious diversification. It also asked the administration to reconsider its denial of the post in light of recent student response.
Emphasizing how complicated the issue is and how heated the debate has been on campus, the USG Senate voted down the motion to support the resolution. Biederman urged the Chabad students to initiate a petition for a referendum instead. If they obtain 400 signatures from supporters, the USG constitution allows the resolution to be added to the election ballot.
“The general prescription of the Senate is that you guys should go out and get 400 signatures by [April 22], if possible,” USG vice president Josh Weinstein ’09 said.
The meeting also included a check-in for senators to update the USG on the projects they are working on.
Current projects include proposed improvements to Tiger Tickets, including the creation of a digital system to keep track of available tickets, the creation of a meal suggestion box system, improvements to the intramural sports program, construction works to address problems with drainage on campus and a proposal to collaborate with global warming activist groups to lower emissions.
Weinstein also gave an update on the upcoming elections, reporting that 20 candidates are competing for the 10 available positions on the U-Council. In addition to that race, there are six other contested elections and 10 uncontested elections. Extensive information regarding the elections is posted on the Tigerforum website, accessible through the USG’s Point website.
The meeting ended with a tentative proposal from Miriam Chaum ’08, who suggested an increase of about $5 in annual student fees, which would finance purchases to lower emissions levels and foster more effective uses of alternative energy. Chaum is a member of a Wilson School task force that is formulating a carbon emissions policy for the University.