Candidates for Undergraduate Student Government president and vice president at the first USG Candidate Diversity Forum Monday night used their platforms and personal anecdotes to address how their administrations would view and promote diversity. About 100 students attended the public forum in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center.
Following the discussion, candidates for USG Senate were given one minute to introduce their platforms to the audience.
The discussion was organized by Program Board’s assemblies to encourage dialogue about diversity during USG elections.
“There was never really a chance for the candidates to discuss issues of diversity before they are elected,” said Eric Burse, director of the Black Student Assembly. “A lot of the candidates like to come talk to the different assemblies before the election, so we decided to consolidate that into one and have a diversity forum.”
The forum was moderated by Jade Agua, assistant director of Asian Pacific American Student Services.
All of the candidates said they would be more involved with cultural assemblies within USG.
Presidential candidate Mikey Geragos, USG’s director of university affairs, said he would achieve this goal by integrating Program Board with USG’s advocacy efforts.
“There is this idea that is currently present in USG that there is the programming side of things, and then there is the advocacy side of things,” Geragos said.
Candidates addressed the relationship between the Greek community and other communities on campus at one point. The candidates specifically addressed Greek discrimination toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
Presidential candidate Jared Ginsburg’s running mate Sam Coxe, an active member of Delta Gamma, said she has been a long supporter of curbing LGBT discrimination within the Greek system and told a story about standing up for a student who was kicked out of a fraternity because of his sexual orientation.
“I took the boy, dragged him into the fraternity and went in and talked to the president,” Coxe said. “That guy didn’t even know what to say. I just went off.”
The forum revealed a difference between the candidates when they were asked whether they believed USG was diverse. While both Geragos and Ginsburg said they feel the student makeup of USG is diverse, presidential candidate Theo Offei said he felt USG could be more diverse.
“USG should reflect the student body of USC,” Offei said. “I’ve heard from a lot of students who do not feel they belong in USG. We have a great opportunity of changing that.”
The forum turned personal after Agua asked each candidate for instances in their life when they had felt like outsiders.
Geragos said his weight had often made him feel self-conscious in social situations, but he addressed the problem by pushing himself, an example of which was joining his high school water polo team.
“Not only did I embrace the teasing and mockery sometimes, but I also did things that pushed me,” Geragos said.
Ginsburg, USG’s director of Campus Affairs, said his weight also made him feel uncomfortable. Ginsburg said he lost weight before the election.
“I used to be 35 pounds heavier,” Ginsburg said. “I know what it is like to be in that pool also and not want to take your shirt off.”
Offei said he experienced feeling like an outsider after he moved from Italy to the United States because of his accent.
“It feels like, again, I’m the outsider,” Offei said. “I always try to go with the flow, just respect people as much as you can, be yourself and everything will be fine.”
The forum was held by the Asian Pacific American Student Assembly, the Black Student Assembly, the International Student Assembly, the Latino/a Student Assembly, Women’s Student Assembly and the Queer and Ally Student Assembly.
Cody Vu, a junior majoring in biological sciences, said he felt the candidates’ answers were too broad and did not address specific groups.
“They tried to address everyone as a whole rather than get to specific points about anything,” Vu said. “They didn’t go much beyond just that diversity is important.”
Voting for USG elections begins Tuesday and will continue until Thursday. Preliminary results will be announced Tuesday, Feb. 21 and final results will be released the next week.