With a new academic year ahead of them, President Rini Sampath and Vice President Jordan Fowler shared their upcoming plans and goals for the Undergraduate Student Government with the Daily Trojan. These include, among other things, addressing students’ mental health concerns, the rising costs of college tuition and USG’s accessibility.
Sampath — the co-chair for a national mental health working group with the National Campus Leadership Council, a nonprofit which connects student body presidents with each other — said the team plans to explore possible strategies to combat student mental health issues.
“Mental health matters because we go to a beautiful university where students seem like they have perfect lives, but beneath the exterior, there’s a lot of internal issues everyone grapples with,” Sampath said. “We have to end the stigma on mental health, and we plan to devote this year to doing so. Our USG Academic Culture Assembly and Wellness Affairs committee will run mental health campaigns, programs and advocate for improved resources on campus for all students to benefit from.”
Alongside mental health, the other two major issues both Sampath and Fowler plan to tackle are sexual assault and college affordability.
“Mental health, sexual assault and college affordability are three big areas [where] we are going to focus our advocacy efforts,” Fowler said. “We have already begun setting up meetings, working on programming and researching these issues more so that, come fall, we have great momentum to really create real results.”
Sampath added her thoughts on the rising costs of college tuition, which she claims could affect current and future Trojans.
“I’m particularly excited about college affordability and taking a look at the rising cost of tuition at USC because it’s a problem which will affect current and future generations of Trojans — especially ones who come from lower or middle-class families and are doing everything in their power to continue attending USC,” Sampath said.
Other upcoming USG projects are the creation of a textbook advisory committee, a student events security fee, a relocation for the disability services office, gender neutral bathrooms, increased funding for recreational sports and a shuttle to LAX during holiday breaks.
Sampath said that a key method in making these changes is to look at the solutions other universities have implemented.
“I always keep my eyes and ears open for news stories,” Sampath said. “I love researching what other universities do in order for us to improve our own campus. I’m constantly scouring the internet or newspapers to see what Stanford, Georgetown, Yale or other campuses are up to.”
This summer, Sampath and Fowler traveled to Washington, D.C., for the NCLC Presidential Leadership Summit, where they met other student leaders and shared ideas for campus policy.
“Many students at other universities experience similar situations and, as a result of that conference, we have a network of people who are also passionate about creating the best university experience for students,” Fowler said. “We are already sharing presentations, proposals and guides and using each other as springboards to universally activate change.”
Sampath said that USC’s national presence this summer should not be the exception, but the rule.
“USC’s student government hasn’t exactly played this role at a national level before. We want this to be the standard from here on out,” Sampath said. “This is one of the reasons why we are hosting the PAC-12 Leadership Summit this fall, which will host the student government leaders of PAC-12 schools. We want to bring the minds devoted to improving student life together to learn from each other.”
Overall, Sampath and Fowler emphasized the accessible nature of their student government.
“I don’t want to prioritize one group of students over another group of students or some needs over other students’ needs,” Fowler said. “Every student on campus is different, and there are enough of us in USG to be able to delegate roles and get everybody’s voice on campus heard.”
Sampath voiced her advocacy for those oftentimes overlooked by USG.
“I said this in my inauguration speech, but I really do care about the invisible Trojan,” Sampath said. “There are students on campus who don’t feel like they are heard or don’t feel like USC cares about their voice, and we want to speak up for them. We need to make them visible.”