Princeton University

Committee Election

It is once again time for elections for the Lawrence Committee! The winners will be announced in the Lawrence Committee meeting to be held on Thursday, December 16th, 2021. You may view the Candidate Statements for the election below. 

Candidate Bios

Here are all the candidates, followed below by bios:

President: Deepen Garg
Vice president: Saumyashree Ghosh
Secretary: Hassan Sayed, Nicolette Seeback
External Relations Delegate: Anastasia Karpova, Jessica Wilson
Social Chair: Kristin Isaacs, Midori Kawaue
Garden Coordinator: Liz Helfenberger
Facilities Manager: Josh Lederman, Audrey Zhu

President

Deepen Garg

Dear Lawrentines, I am a graduate student in Plasma Physics, and have served as President of the Lawrence Committee for the past year. If reelected, I would like to focus the next year on reenergizing the committee so that it can serve the community in a more active fashion. There are two major items that are needed to achieve that. The first one is to bring more accountability to the elected members of the committee, and the second is to fix pipeline issues to get better candidates elected who are more involved with the community. To achieve these goals, I will work to amend the constitution in consultation with the Lawrence community as well as the university administration.

First, I would like to restructure the incentive framework (housing priority) and introduce articles of impeachment so that the committee members have a real incentive to fulfill their duties until the end of their tenure. I will need to talk to the new committee members before finalizing the proposal because the transition from the current system to the new one would require some understanding on their part. The current constitution needs a major overhaul in other areas as well. I would like to use my experience on the committee and the input from the community to rephrase and change parts of the constitution that are either too vague or outdated. An example of this is the requirement to attend at least one meeting before the December meeting to run for elections, which is currently being exploited by attending one meeting only for the first 5 minutes. It would also be nice if the community can have some way of knowing which candidates have been involved with the committee like attending the meetings as well as helping organize various things. Such candidates often make for more active committee members.

In summary, in addition to the regular managerial duties in the upcoming year, I would like to focus on constitutional amendments to make the committee more accountable and help make elections more transparent. I hope you will give me this opportunity to implement my ideas and help keep the committee ever ready to serve the community.

Vice President

Saumyashree Ghosh

Hello neighbours: I am Saumyashree, a 7th year in History. Lawrence has been the most wonderful home to me over the past two years, especially throughout the very isolating and scary COVID-19 pandemic. You probably recall me as the Facilities Manager on the Lawrence Committee this past year–i.e., from our conversations about concerns regarding printers, picking up  COVID test kits, bugs in apartments, heating, laundry, street lights, or common rooms that I did my best to timely address and resolve. I ensured white boards were put up in the laundry rooms so that residents can track/report their concerns, particularly about out-of-order laundry machines. Or we may have run into each other as I was delivering packages to the right door/owner after they were left in the wrongly numbered building. Etc.

If elected as the Vice-President of the Lawrence Committee, I would continue to advocate for the needs of residents, besides looking after the Committee and its financial records. One of my efforts would be to alleviate housing worries of upper year students, i.e. G5 through G7 (or G8) that are particularly very stressful. The COVID-19 remains an ever-evolving menace. It’s been very rough on these students—especially international ones—whose research abroad is rudely disrupted, visas are expired, graduation is postponed, but who have to nonetheless weather the daunting job market while heavily teaching to maintain their funding. Nobody has to worry about a home at such times. PhD students already have a lot to worry about!! They atleast require a stable home. I’d advocate for guaranteed housing for these vulnerable students during these extraordinary times (and its long-term standardization). Such concerns have been endlessly drawn to my attention—i.e., many rooms remain unoccupied that can be assigned to upper year students who may not find subsidized & convenient off-campus housing, and the University should immediately expand graduate housing. Additionally, I would continue to push for a complete overhaul of laundry machines (and adding new ones), the delivery of packages to their actual owners, and inclusion of spouses and families in listservs and the weekly COVID testing system.

I have 6.5 years of long experience with the Princeton University administration in handling different housing issues and the past year introduced me to different people in the same. I would build on the professional insights I have acquired to serve the Lawrence community for another year. Hoping you would give me this opportunity and I look forward to working with you all.

Secretary

Hassan Sayed

Hi y’all! My name’s Hassan, and I’m a G3 in the Econ department. I’ve been living in Lawrence since August 2020.

The role of secretary requires recognizing the pressing importance of fast-pace access into graduate life information. As a graduate student, I offer familiarity with this information. Because I’m affected by the same issues as other residents, such as anxiety about the housing lottery, I also have a stake in communicating these issues to the committee and administration.

Tracking meeting minutes is a job I’m confident I’d do well. I’m a fast typer and have lots of experience summarizing and organizing information — whether for a high school alumni sex-ed committee, as editor-in-chief of Northwestern’s Muslim magazine, or in my day to day life in front of the computer as an Econ graduate student.

If elected secretary, I’d make two improvements to the Lawrence website. First, I’d coordinate with the facilities manager to update the (currently bare) FAQs. There have been a lot of announcements in the past months — e.g. laundry whiteboards — that should be under FAQ but aren’t.

Second, I’d spearhead a project updating pictures of Lawrence. When I applied for housing, I was shocked by the lack of info about what Lawrence looked like. The current photos use the wrong camera lens and poorly show off spaces. There are no pictures of bathrooms! One beds in building 1 are very different from those in building 12, but the site only shows building 12 units; same goes for buildings 2-7 vs. 8-11. There are no photos of common spaces, gardens, or laundry rooms. I’d be willing to use a wide angle lens on my personal camera to document the apartments.

I’m open to residents’ thoughts on other ways we can improve the website or communicate announcements from the committee. Thanks for the opportunity to run as secretary!

Nicolette Seeback

Hi neighbors! I’m a book cover designer and art director at Henry Holt, Macmillan Publishers. This is my fourth year living in Lawrence with my partner, Joe, who’s a PhD candidate in the Politics department. Before the pandemic, I would commute each day to New York City, but changes in my company’s policy have enabled me to permanently work from home as of March 2020. During my time at Princeton, I’ve lived in both Old Lawrence and New Lawrence. I’ve lived here year round since August 2018, including the entire duration of the pandemic. It’s safe to say I consider Lawrence my home.

As a non-student resident, I believe that I have a unique perspective on how to improve life at Lawrence. I would love for non-student residents to be more active in the community and more informed. If elected to serve on the committee, I plan to work on making it easier for all residents to get involved and feel at home. As Secretary, I would work to ensure that information regarding Lawrence apartments is clearly communicated to residents. My background in design and publishing will be an asset for this aim; I will happily put my training in design to good use for the Lawrence community. Additionally, working as an art director has given me a lot of experience in overseeing projects and making sure our team accomplishes the goals we set for ourselves. These skills will help me to serve as an effective Secretary for Lawrence. 

I feel incredibly lucky to live in Lawrence. I would love the opportunity to be more involved in this community and give back however I can to help improve the lives of current and future residents.

External Relations Delegate

Anastasia Karpova

Hi everyone! I am a 5th year PhD student in Economics, and I have served as a Social Chair on the Lawrence Committee for the past year. As a Social Chair, I organized several social events including the most recent and well-attended Pizza Social. As an incumbent Committee member, I have vast experience communicating with the university administration and I am well acquainted with the most pressing issues for our community. Because of that, I am well prepared to work together with the GSG and other university bodies to resolve the following issues (alongside any other concerns that residents raise): 

  • I commit to advocate with Graduate Housing to replace the oldest laundry machines and to provide air conditioners for Old Lawrence. I also plan to work with Facilities to ease the process of submitting maintenance requests and checking their progress. 
  • I will push for more bus service during the weekend, including buses to campus/downtown. In addition, I am ready to work with Transportation Services on bus reliability and adherence to schedule, as well as more spaces for and better maintenance of bike parking.  
  • Although my main focus will be on external relations, I would also like to work with the new Social Chair to make Lawrence 1 community room more attractive for social activities and events. For that, I will apply for additional funding from the GSG that can also be used to finance events and other community needs. 
  • Based on my experience as a Social Chair, I have specific suggestions on how to reform the Committee to make it more efficient (e.g. redefine the roles of some committee members). 

While on the Committee, I have met many of you and I hope to continue talking to you and learning about your needs so that I can be a better advocate for our community. I am looking forward to serving as your External Relations Delegate and thank you for considering me! 

Jessica Wilson

Hello Lawrence! I am a 5th year graduate student in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. I am running for External Relations Delegate to improve transportation, fund more social events, look for solutions to the golf-ball problem and improve the laundry facilities. I have significant leadership and service experience, most recently on the Lakeside Committee as the Lakeside Garden Coordinator and as a member of the town’s Public Transit Advisory Committee. I also represented my department (MAE) at the Graduate Student Government General Assembly and served on the Graduate Engineering Council.

I was appointed to the Municipality of Princeton’s Public Transit Advisory Committee by the Town Council, which made note of my many public comments on transportation at council meetings and my December 2nd, 2020, Op-ed in Town Topics in favor of the one-way Witherspoon Street configuration and increased pedestrianization of the central business district. I have been to many meetings of the University’s Transportation Advisory Board to provide feedback on bus routes and ask for covered bike parking. As such, I am well equipped to advocate for you, both within the university administration and in the town at large. I care about your safety, and I will encourage you to select low-carbon transportation when you head into town or to Princeton Junction by increasing the frequency of bus service, improving pathways for cyclists, and implementing traffic calming measures on Alexander Road.

I have significant experience applying for grants and raising funds. During my tenure as the Lakeside Garden Coordinator, I raised $2,000 from the GSG Events Board and $3,000 from Tiger Well for the construction of raised beds (built March 2021). If elected, I will support the Social Chair by pulling in funding that dwarfs the Lawrence Committee’s $1,000 annual budget. This means more socials to look forward to. I talked with Kristin Isaacs (who is running for Social Chair) about her vision for Lawrence. I am convinced that her program will offer something for everyone; we discussed seven different ideas for socials!

Stray golf-balls are a safety hazard here at Lawrence. If elected, I will advocate for better netting. I have experience initiating difficult conversations, posing the questions that others do not know how to ask, and finding creative solutions to problems. In March 2020 when all in-person events were canceled and public facilities closed (including playgrounds), I successfully fought to open the Lakeside Garden. I kept the garden open all season long by keeping the gardeners informed of density expectations, organizing multiple EMS-approved orientation sessions, addressing anonymous complaints, and adopting other safety measures as needed.

Finally, if elected, I will attend the Graduate Housing Advisory Board meetings to request that the university find a more responsive contractor to better maintain the ageing laundry facilities.

Social Chair

Kristin Isaacs

Hello friends and neighbors!

I am Kristin Isaacs and I live in Old Lawrence with my husband, our three-year-old son, and two cats. You may have seen me around outside with a little boy on a scooter, or with sidewalk chalk! We love to be outside playing. We have lived in Lawrence Apartments since Fall 2017. I am familiar with the joys and frustrations of living here. These past two pandemic years have been difficult for me, and I think for many of us. We have been isolated, sometimes lonely, and we’ve had to make our own (mostly outdoor) fun! I am running for the position of Social Chair on the Lawrence Committee because I love organizing and bringing people together under a common interest or shared cause. 

I am a trained art teacher, and my creative forces, planning, and organizational skills come in handy for a position like this. I have been informally organizing events for the parents and families here for the past couple of years (playroom organizing, playground clean-ups, scavenger hunts), and then more recently, as the Vice President/Social Chair of Tigers with Cubs (Tigers with Cubs is a student-run group that focuses on Princeton University families with children). I organized this year’s well-attended Halloween Trick-or-Treating event at Lawrence in collaboration with the Lawrence Committee, the Graduate School, the International Spouses and Partners of Princeton University group, and Tigers with Cubs. It gives me pleasure to see my neighbors enjoying themselves and being together.

I look forward to assisting the Lawrence Committee for the greater Lawrence good if I am elected. Due to my prior involvement and participation in several committee meetings I already have a good working relationship with Deepen Garg, the Lawrence Committee President. I pledge to organize at least a minimum number of 4 social events per year for the Lawrence community, relying on input from neighbors and my own creativity to bring people together. As Vice President of Tigers with Cubs I already have an outlet for organizing events for families, so my work as social chair for the Lawrence Committee wouldn’t only be family-centered, rather I’d look to serve diverse interests. I have lots of ideas, I just need your vote to make them happen!

Please vote for Kristin Isaacs for Lawrence Committee Social Chair!

Midori Kawaue

The Great Lawrence Bakeoff, Pokémon Go Social, Destress with Puppies and Kitties Event, Cocktail and Mocktail Party. . . These are among the many FUN ideas for us graduate students and graduate student families to reduce stress and foster community. My name is Midori Kawaue and I am a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in the History of Science department. In the past, I have organized Japanese food nights, International Friendsgiving, Spicy Party, and Greek Food Night here at Lawrence. It is my life motto to practice hospitality and to create a welcoming community.

As a graduate student, I am aware of the stress that we go through with research, job applications, relationships with colleagues, etc. I am also aware of many campus resources that can alleviate some of the stress that we can be experiencing. I am committed to providing both a destressing environment at Lawrence and referring people to different campus organizations as needed to help people feel like Princeton and Lawrence Apartment as their homes.

I also take COVID seriously and am committed to communicating with the university to ensure the safety of the residents. SAFETY FIRST!!! I will be creative in the ways that I will organize my events be it hosting them outside or virtually. I will listen to your concerns when it comes to events.

Garden Coordinator

Liz Helfenberger

My name is Liz Helfenberger. I’m a graduate student in the Physics Department and the incumbent Lawrence Garden Coordinator. I’m running for re-election because I would like to continue opening up the garden to the Lawrence community, bringing people together using this shared space. Gardening is beneficial for mental health and teaches people about food production and sustainability. It also bonds community members from different walks of life and social strata. Since it benefits both the individual and the collective, a well-maintained community garden is a huge boon to the Lawrence community. However, the garden faces obstacles to both individual enjoyment and in its capacity as a community gathering place.

First, weeds encroach on the walkways and become waist-high in a matter of weeks, making it difficult to reach one’s plot or explore the rest of the space. Second, over 1/3 of the garden is unused land. While there is in principle nothing wrong with letting a space go wild, this should be done intentionally with a focus on native plants and biodiversity rather than letting invasive plant species simply take over. Ideally it should also have some aesthetic value so residents feel an appreciation for and connection to nature.

In 2021 I tackled the first problem, weed encroachment, by establishing a volunteer weeding program where gardeners signed up for weekly time slots to trim the walkways. While this solution did not completely eliminate weeds from the walkways, it dramatically improved access to garden plots compared to the previous year. If re-elected, I will focus my efforts on the second problem. Many solutions have been proposed to grow food on the unplotted space in the garden rather than letting it go wild. These include trying to recruit a larger number of Lawrence residents to join the garden, opening up the garden to non-Lawrence residents, or teaming up with charity organizations to grow food on the extra space and donating it locally. The task in 2022 is to determine which of these proposals best suits the needs of the community. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to have the pleasure of serving the Lawrence community for another year!

Facilities Manager

Josh Lederman

Hi everyone! My name is Josh Lederman, and I’m a 3rd year PhD student in Electrical Engineering who’s lived at Lawrence for a year and a half. I really appreciate Lawrence’s incredible sense of community, especially as it’s been reinvigorated by the return of people to campus, and I hope to have the privilege of supporting the community in the role of Facilities Manager. I’m running for this position with two primary goals: improving Lawrence residents’ quality of life and keeping residents consistently up-to-date regarding the current status and anticipated date of resolution of facilities problems.

I believe living at Lawrence Apartments can be made easier in a few key ways. First and foremost, it’s often challenging to find shopping and package carts, something especially frustrating when you have to bring bulky items up to your apartment. I plan to implement several changes to address this problem:

• Purchase more large package carts. We used to have two of these, but they have since broken down or disappeared

• Assign the current Lawrence carts to individual locations interspersed between the buildings

• Conduct periodic walk-throughs of the Lawrence grounds to identify misplaced shopping carts and to better track facilities issues

• Update residents on what carts we have and where they should be located.

Laundry machine maintenance problems are another persistent source of annoyance. The committee has done a great job in adding whiteboards to improve transparency regarding out-of-order machines, and I aim to continue their efforts to ensure break-downs are quickly tracked and repaired, especially when large numbers of washers are out simultaneously, as in Building 10. In addition, I’ll be on the lookout for smaller issues, like the broken wheels on the Building 1 laundry carts, which I can fix myself—as I learned while serving as a house manager in undergrad, that’s often the fastest way to get stuff done! I also intend to explore procuring covered racks to address package doorway overcrowding and exposure to the elements. Lastly, I will investigate adding board games and a Foosball table to the activity rooms and the possibility of finding space for a fitness room.

My second priority will be maintaining lines of communication with Lawrence residents. It’s irritating not knowing what, if anything, is being done about facilities problems. I plan to improve transparency by taking advantage of the GSG Lawrence Slack channel to update the community on the status of ongoing issues and to respond to problems noted by residents. Regardless of the forum, I welcome suggestions for improvements and look forward to helping the Lawrence community flourish. Thank you for your consideration, and I hope to have the chance to serve you all!

Audrey Zhu 

Hi Lawrentines! My name is Audrey Zhu, and I am running for the role of Facilities Manager. I am a 3rd year grad student in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department. Since moving in about 1.5 years ago, I have been active in the Lawrence community by attending committee meetings for their full duration (seven and counting) to stay updated on resident concerns, responding to questions on the GSG Lawrence Slack channel, and notifying the Lawrence Committee of any pressing issues I’ve encountered, such as cigarette smoke and littered cigarette butts outside Lawrence 1 back in summer of 2020, and the more recent issue of personal items being left in common hallways. Witnessing improvement in these areas after reminders from the committee helped me appreciate how considerate many of us are to our neighbors.

If elected, my main objectives as Facilities Manager will be to (1) improve safety within the residences and Lawrence-adjacent grounds, (2) transform the common rooms into more inviting social hubs with input from the Social Chair and all resident groups, and (3) fix the issue of constantly-broken laundry machines.

In terms of safety, I have listened to and empathized with several complaints about apartment doors being opened by maintenance staff without the resident’s explicit permission. To address this issue, I will work to improve lines of communication between facilities services and residents regarding when a service will be performed, and expand options for choosing a time to have a request fulfilled. Another ongoing safety concern is the issue of stray golf balls. I will fight for better netting along with the External Relations Delegate by noting where balls usually land (e.g., around Buildings 10/11), and argue for a cost-effective solution that will target specific breach points.

To make the common rooms livelier spaces, I will advocate for the set-up of coffee machines and new couches, as suggested by residents I’ve spoken to. Soliciting feedback from residents would be a top priority for me when making changes to shared areas, and I would ensure that no group of residents feels alienated by any decision. For instance, I will communicate with parents of children who use the Lawrence 14 common room before considering new items that may interfere with their play.

Lastly, the issue of laundry machines remains a pressing issue. If machines continue to fail repeatedly, I will advocate for new laundry machines, especially in Building 10. Laundry theft has also been a problem. Theft may be minimized if residents have greater incentives to waiting in the laundry rooms while their clothes are washed (heeding occupancy limits). I would propose adding stools to go with the central table in Building 1 so folks can work or study in the meantime, an amenity I liked in a previous residence. This may also minimize the length of time clothes are left in the machines.

Thank you all for your consideration!