Ron Barrett

In January Paul Nehring ’10 took the oath of office — not on Lincoln’s Bible, but on a dog-eared, sauce-stained Joy of Cooking. Nehring promised to preside faithfully over 26 upper-class omnivores who comprise one of Princeton’s two cooking cooperatives, the Brown Co-op.  

The Brown Co-op and the vegetarian 2 Dickinson St. Co-op (2D) cannot be found in Prospect Street mansions or high-ceilinged dining halls. Rather, they are tucked between students’ rooms, nondescript until dinnertime, when the scents of curries, chilies, and roasted carrots perfume the halls.  

Dinners of spaghetti carbonara, spicy tofu, and lemon chiffon cake cost co-op members a thousand dollars a year — compared to University dining contracts of $2,800 to $5,200 or eatingclub costs of up to $8,000. The Univer-sity furnishes the location and supports utility upkeep, but the co-ops are largely financed and managed by students. Teams of four concoct multi-dish dinners seven days a week.  

Cooking experiences vary, but enthusiasm to experiment is ubiquitous. Liz Jobson ’10 said that one of 2D’s best chefs never had cooked a meal until his first night, when he dialed his grandmother to get her famous tomato-sauce recipe. Jobson herself is fond of Chinese cold noodles from a recipe she translated from a Beijing street vendor.

For more than 30 years, Princeton has nurtured two co-ops. But this year hungry students are cooking up a third. With the co-ops oversubscribed through word-of-mouth advertising, the International Co-op hopes to open in the fall with a focus on international cuisine, though a kitchen has yet to be secured.  

Community is the secret ingredient of the co-ops. “You create deeper relationships,” says Candice Chow ’09, who left Tower Club for Brown. Jobson pauses for only a second to consider: “It feels like home.”

The co-ops are light-hearted and full-stomached places — communities where students can bet on whether a boiled egg will float in a jar of applesauce (it will) and sustain a thread of 30 e-mails debating the merits of butter over vegan substitutes. They are kitchens that support bubbling pots of beef stew, large pans of Greek moussaka, and platters of warm peanut-butter cookies. Together, they feed more than 50 students every night. But the co-ops are always happy to see new faces: Dinner is at 6:30.

By Isia Jasiewicz ’10

Would students rather have more 24-hour study spaces or be able to eat late-night meals at Frist Campus Center on Fridays? Would they rather expand the peer advising system or multiply campus shuttle routes?  

The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is trying to find out. In an effort to better gauge how students prioritize various issues on campus, the USG has launched “Which do you want more?” (WDYWM), a Web-site polling mechanism that solicits and ranks ideas for new USG initiatives.

WDYWM, which is accessible from the USG Web site only to students, relies on a system of pair comparisons. Visitors to the site can submit their own ideas for how to improve campus life. The Web site then randomly pairs up suggestions so that students can vote between two ideas — for instance, “free cable for all students” versus “more buses to sporting events.”  

The mechanism ranks the ideas based on their margins of victory, so that USG officers can gauge the relative importance of various issues to the student body.  

As of Feb. 1, lower textbook prices topped the list. Other high-ranking ideas included free laundry detergent in dorms, improved academic advising, more shared meal plans for upperclassmen, free newspapers on campus, and even — for those wishing to find their soul mates at Old Nassau — a dating Web site.  

The polling site, created by outgoing USG president Josh Weinstein ’09 and David Benjamin ’10, launched at the beginning of November. In three months it was used by about 1,700 students, who offered hundreds of ideas ranging from the practical (later deadlines to rescind the P/D/F grading option) to the quirky (a student agency selling late-night burritos). “There are some nice suggestions on there that I never would have thought about, like massage chairs in Frist [Campus Center],” said Emily Cizek ’10.  

Some students were skeptical, however, about the concept’s potential to produce results. “Many of these issues are already well-known gripes on campus,” said Andrew Gordon ’10.  

Newly elected USG president Connor Diemand-Yauman ’10 said that while the survey may indicate ideas “that the student body is especially passionate about,” it may be difficult to get them approved, “given the current financial climate of the University.”