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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Changes made to Pepper Prize selection process

Photo by Patrick Hansell for The Lafayette
Dean Tim Cox will choose Student Government representatives to select Pepper Prize finalists.

Last year, the Student Government president chose the representatives on the George Wharton Pepper Prize selection committee. All of the representatives were members of the Student Government, raising concerns about how the finalists were picked.

Amid this concern and others, several changes are being made this year to the finalist selection process and the composition of the selection committee. Two notable changes are that Dean of Advising and Co-Curricular Programs Tim Cox will choose the Student Government members on the selection committee, and the time that the committee has to decide on the finalists will be increased.

The Pepper Prize is earned by the graduating senior at Lafayette who “most nearly represents the Lafayette ideal.” Every year, a committee of students, faculty and administration is chosen to select 10 finalists among seniors who applied for the prize. These 10 finalists then get voted on by the Lafayette community.

According to an email from Cox, “Names of non-senior students — members of Student Government — are normally sent to us by the Student Government President.”

Trebor Maitin ‘24, who served on the Pepper Prize selection committee last year, said that last year, the former Student Body President Flor Caceres ‘22 asked General Body members who they wanted to be on the committee.

Caceres did not respond to a request for comment.

Fatimata Cham ‘23, who also served on the committee last year as a student representative, said that she thinks that the reason Student Government members were selected as student representatives is that “[Student Government] is seen as the voice of the students, [and] people would think that Student Government is diverse enough.”

According to Maitin, in the past, “student leaders throughout campus … were plucked from around campus to participate in the committee.”

“I cannot speak on what exceptions, if any, were made in the past to include non-Student Government members,” Cox wrote.

Maitin shared concerns over how having only Student Government members serve as student representatives on the selection committee could have affected the finalist selection process.

“We’re all a pretty similarly involved group of people. Our circles are fairly similar,” Maitin said, noting that this could have prevented fact-checking of Pepper Prize applicants and the selection of finalists.

“That you don’t need to be nominated to the Pepper Prize to become a Pepper Prize finalist is a problem because you can’t really check anything … We believe everything that the applicants tell us,” he said. “Some applicants were apparently not as truthful as others in their applications.”

According to Cox, there are several other changes being made to the Pepper Prize selection process this year. The nomination and selection process is beginning earlier in the semester to allow for more time to complete the application and for the committee to review applications.

Also new this year, those who nominate seniors to the Pepper Prize finalist committee must explain why they chose to nominate that person. This reasoning will be used in the evaluation of Pepper Prize finalists.

Additionally, this year’s application is more in-depth in asking applicants to detail their involvement at Lafayette.

To prevent “potential conflicts of interest, instead of having the Student Government president select the Student Government representatives, I will invite members of the Student Government,” Cox wrote. “Like last year, students may also be affiliated with other student groups on campus.”

Kelsey Wong ‘25 also served on the Pepper Prize selection committee last year as part of Student Government. As part of the committee, she felt that representatives on the committee were not given enough time to fully discuss all of the candidates.

“To me, it didn’t feel like enough time. How can you assess like 100-something students with lengthy resumes? There are so many factors we have to consider,” Wong said.

Cham agreed that having more time in the process would be “helpful.”

“I think starting the Pepper Prize application process earlier allows for more time for students, in general, to conceptualize … what they’ve done, contributed to the campus [and] have people actually think about who they could see as a Pepper Prize finalist,” Cham said. “If we started the process earlier, we could vet candidates.”

Cox wrote that research and conversation must be had before any substantial changes are made.

“Anything that is not in the deed of the gift or current policy must be brought to, considered by and voted on by the faculty,” he wrote.

Pepper Prize nominations were closed to the Lafayette community on Feb. 28. The application will be open for all seniors until March 10.

Disclaimer: Managing Editor Trebor Maitin ’24 did not contribute writing or reporting.

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About the Contributors
Selma O’Malley
Selma O’Malley, News Editor
Waiting for someone to write a sitcom about a college newspaper.
Patrick Hansell
Patrick Hansell, Staff Photographer

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