USG presidential candidates debate campus diversity

USC Program Board hosted a diversity debate among the presidential candidates on Tuesday to foster student discussion and awareness of various diversity issues on campus. The debate included questions from Program Board assemblies.

The presidential tickets, Rini Sampath and Jordan Fowler, and Providence Ilisevich and Ehren Elder, participated in the debate.

Program Board assemblies,  Asian Pacific American Student Assembly, Black Student Assembly, Environmental Student Assembly, Queer and Ally Student Assembly, International Student Assembly and Academic-Culture Student Assembly, as well as individuals representing the Student Coalition of Labor Exploitation, students of low socio-economic status and Disability Services and Programs, submitted questions about diversity issues of interest to them while Co-Directors of Diversity Affairs, Levi Powell and Skylar Dunn moderated the debate.

Many of the Program Board assemblies based their questions on specific programs the candidates plan to implement. These programs focus on creating stronger inclusion of minority groups on campus.

Sampath and Fowler expressed the need for more direct dialogue between Program Board groups and the administration.

Their platform is to provide gender-neutral bathrooms for LGBT students, cultural spaces for different ethnic groups on campus and an integration program that pairs international students with a Los Angeles native for a smoother transition into the USC community.

Sampath discussed the importance of not only having a diverse campus but also creating an inclusive environment which utilizes that diversity to benefit the university.

“USC can boost the most vibrant international student assembly and we can say we have the highest number of diverse students here,” Sampath said. “We can provide all these statistics to back up those declarations but, in all honestly it’s not a diverse campus if students don’t feel included in the conversation, if they don’t feel empowered and if they don’t feel they are accepted and understood. “

Ilisevich and Elder want to meet with student leaders and their respective organizations on a personal level and provide better methods of inclusion starting as early as orientation.

“Diversity and accepting diversity is about understanding, appreciation and respect,” Ilisevich said.  “Different experiences students have give them a value on this campus and we want them to feel that value.”

This was the third annual diversity debate, providing candidates with an opportunity to specifically address programs they feel are most important in terms of diversity.

USG feels the debate is necessary as candidates are representing the entire student body and many students expressed interest in knowing what the candidates plan to do to advocate for their specific groups.

Associate Director of Elections and Recruitment Kandace London has been working with Program Board to put on a smooth event as this election is already considered to be one of the most competitive in years.

“If you’re not from a particular race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or even gender you may not be aware of certain things because those are not the daily struggles that you face,” London said. “Regardless of whoever will win or lose, people are seeing that the candidates want to be engaged in campus and they want to make a change.”

Voting begins Feb. 10 and ends Feb. 12 at 8 p.m.

Voting can be conducted online or at any of the following locations: Tommy Trojan, Parkside IRC, Leavey Library, Lyon Center, Finger Fountain, Engineering Quad and Cultural Centers.