LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Women’s Student Assembly plays partisan politics

This letter is in response to the Sept. 22 article entitled “WSA director speaks at USG senate meeting” that ran in the Daily Trojan.

As a senator representing the largest constituency in the student body, it is my duty to see that unelected bodies in Undergraduate Student Government, like the Women’s Student Assembly, remain mindful of the message they send to the public. Besides tuition, the student programming fee has also increased. Like tuition, students may not opt out. Issues arise when this mandatory fee is used to cover organizations that engage in outright partisan activity. The WSA stands among the top five Program Board assemblies that saw their funding increase the most from last year, receiving funding equivalent to one full year’s worth of USC tuition. Having the “privilege” of their resources to focus solely on the very pressing and crucial issues of sexual assault and domestic violence, the WSA has admitted on record to establishing relations with Service Employees International Union — a labor union known in California for going on the record and threatening our legislators into unconditional support of union policies, none of which bear direct relation to issues affecting our student body. Furthermore, while viewpoints throughout the spectrum are welcome, it is not constructive to unleash fighting words against an entire “oppressive patriarchal capitalistic structure of power,” which stands as a very vague and abstract concept at best. It is, however, clearly partisan, like SEIU. A senator is left wondering: Is the goal of this organization — with over $40,000 in funding — to take practicable, brainstormed measures against assault, or to engage in divisive politics?

The issue at stake here is one of radical political propaganda. It has become clear that there is a very partisan undertone underlying its goals. This political approach was even verified by the WSA’s director during the Sept. 22 senate meeting. This stands in stark contrast to what was said in an internal, USG-wide presentation the WSA made during the summer. In that presentation, the WSA claimed the actions it takes are not partisan. Ironically, this was a claim made after having presented its leadership’s antagonistic opinions on capitalism and economics as a professional field and academic discipline.

Furthermore, the WSA has student-funded resources that are, in one way or another, allowing the WSA to spend its valuable time correcting the spelling of words like “history” to “hxstory” and “women” to “womyn” and also to spread the libelous message that their dissenting peers form an “unholy alliance” that “exploit irrational fears about women’s sexuality” like it did in a 2012 newsletter. That newsletter directly targeted evangelical Christians and certain politicians for disagreeing with their views. Certainly, that is not conducive to the “safe spaces” it claims to support.

No one is taking a position against sexual assault and domestic violence prevention and awareness. The question here is if the WSA is wise in mixing partisan politics with what should be a nonpartisan goal, especially while claiming to represent all USC women in its very name. It is more a matter of philosophy than empirical fact when we generously choose to link a theory about “oppressive patriarchal capitalistic structures of power” to the real-life applications of helping and counseling victims and preventing future abuse. These conversations — which are indeed very engaging — can be explored by any independent student organization on campus, protected under free speech. But, when an official and unelected USG organization is entrusted with as much funding as USC charges in tuition, there is a degree to which it owes the diverse student body to remain reasonably above the partisan fray. Two organizations that live up to this standard are USG’s Wellness Affairs and USC’s Center for Women and Men, which are both aptly qualified to tackle the serious, nonpolitical health issues of assaults on campus and could make very good use of $43,000 in funding.

Giuseppe Robalino

USG Residential Senator

16 replies
  1. Rachel R. Carroll
    Rachel R. Carroll says:

    A few quick things…

    1. Guiseppe wants to call WSA out for wasting time by changing the spelling of words by ONE LETTER, yet doesn’t think that writing an entire article trying to silence women and the people advocating for them is a waste of his time. Interesting…
    2. He’s a classist moron (his facebook profile picture literally used to say “I’m part of the .0000003% that will no longer tolerate the whining and crying of the 99%” before he deleted it when someone shared it in an attempt to show USC students exactly who’s “representing us”) and he tries to say that no students here are affected by unions even though many of us have working class parents in unions…
    3. And he has the audacity to call WSA out for our “fighting words” at a school where our motto is LITERALLY “fight on.”

    tl;dr – this guy is a baby who’s whining about people sticking up for themselves when the issues they’re taking on don’t actively help him

  2. Giuseppe Robalino-Constante
    Giuseppe Robalino-Constante says:

    I would like to let everyone in this conversation know that before writing this article, I made sure to make internal consults before writing my piece. For that reason:

    1) I never stated that any USG WSA funding goes directly to SEIU. This was made clear to everyone in senate and can be found in senate minutes. I only alluded to an economic fact: opportunity cost. WSA has funding that allows to run its on-campus programs, and as such, has the “opportunity” to engage in such partisan affiliations. In effect, USG has provided a subsidy that allows WSA to engage in partisanship.
    2) Unelected, here, refers to unelected by the whole student body. The context in this article is how WSA relates to the student body as a whole, therefore “unelected” is used in that context.

    I hope this clarifies there was no intentional erroneous information on my part. My goal here is to provide transparency to the student body as a whole (as that is my senatorial duty) and provide actionable and practical solutions to continue to improve USG as an organization–whereby I am seeking to build up and strengthen, not dismantle and destroy. I stand by my words. I welcome all respectful, constructive dialogue in this very serious issue we have before us.

    Giuseppe H. Robalino
    Residential Senator

    • Livey Beha
      Livey Beha says:

      You still wholly misrepresent the work that WSA is doing on this campus. Further, you fail to detail what the relationship between SEIU and WSA consists of. Student organizations and assemblies interact with, are sponsored by, and even sponsor the presence of partisan groups and individual on campus all the time. This week, ESA, two of USG’s Committees, and the Academic Culture Assembly are hosting lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (and many speakers) to campus for their event Know Tomorrow. Kennedy has a national, partisan political presence, yet, I don’t hear you worried at all about the money spent on that.

      You benefit from the structure of power WSA is working to breakdown. I have to assume that is why you seem so much more concerned about the nondescript ties WSA has with one organization, instead of realizing that the presence of WSA on campus does, in your own words, “build up and strengthen” a large group of your constituency through its programming.

  3. Sophia Li
    Sophia Li says:

    Hi Giuseppe. As a member of the Women’s Student Assembly and one of your constituents, I’m calling BS on your statements. First, the fact that WSA has “established relations” with SEIU has no bearing on the resources and space that WSA provides. None of WSA’s funding goes to SEIU. Also, you claim to not to take a position against sexual assault and domestic violence, and yet you want to defund the student organization that does the most out of any other student group on campus to support survivors. Don’t say you care about the people when you’re trying to screw them over. If you care so much about saving money, you should cut your own salary because you clearly don’t actually understand how funding in USG works, which makes me pretty sure you don’t know how to do your job.

    Tl;dr: You are garbage. Please resign.

    • ConcernedTrojan
      ConcernedTrojan says:

      Very typical. You don’t agree with what he says and then call in garbage.
      Sophia, I think the points that have been discussed in this article are very concerning. I, as a student, do not want my hard earned money going to an organization that claims it’s mission is to fight “oppressive patriarchal capitalistic structure of power.” Those ARE fighting words. I do think re-routing some of the funds from WSA to the Center of Women and Men would do great things. The CWM do much much more than WSA to combat sexual assault and rape on campus. I know, from personal experience, sadly, that WSA does close to nothing for sexual survivors on campus. CWM does much more, including a 24 hour hotline, transportation services to Santa Monica Rape Center, campus education programs, staff training, and administrative advocacy. CWM deserves those $$ more than WSA.

      • Sophia Li
        Sophia Li says:

        If you are a “ConcernedTrojan” then stand by your words and don’t use an anonymous account. The CWM is literally THE sexual assault resource center on campus, so yeah, I would hope that they do more than WSA to combat sexual assault. WSA is not meant solely to address sexual assault. If you think that gender-based violence is the only thing that women on this campus deal with, you are sorely mistaken.

        • ConcernedTrojan
          ConcernedTrojan says:

          Well, Sophia, you were the one that said that WSA was “the student organization that does the most out of any other student group on campus to support survivors.” Those are your words. You, yourself, just pointed out how baseless your comment was.

          I’m not saying WSA should be completely eliminated or taken off campus. I just think $43k+ in funding is absurd and perhaps some of the money should be rerouted to other orgs.

          Finally, I am concerned about the mission and vision of the organization. If WSA really cared about women, they would/should fight for a day-care center for single mothers who are students/faculty on campus. USC is one of the only major research university in this country that doesn’t provide childcare for female students/faculty. Maybe you can bring that up at your next meeting instead of talking about how to demolish “oppressive patriarchal capitalistic structures of power.”

          • ConcernedTrojan
            ConcernedTrojan says:

            You obviously don’t know what CWM does.
            CWM is, indeed, a student group. CWM oversees the Voice program and other peer programs that are organized and led by students. They do receive funding from USG. They are student orgs.
            I’m beginning to sense a common thread among supporters of WSA. Is everyone that puts up some evidence against the group automatically “stupid” or “garbage?” How are ya’ll going to attract more sympathizers or supporters this way?

          • Natalie Nguyen
            Natalie Nguyen says:

            Do you know what a student group is?

            Here is a description on the CWM website to help you understand that this resource center is run by actual professional staff, not students.

            For added fun, I highlighted a section that mentions the CWM’s supportive relationship with WSA.

          • Natalie Nguyen
            Natalie Nguyen says:

            Also, I’m not a politician so I’m not interested in padding my words to keep up an image. I don’t need your tone policing.

            I’m a student with a voice. I can say what I want.

          • Vanessa Diaz
            Vanessa Diaz says:

            The Center for Women and Men is a Resource Center, not a student organization. Check out their website by looking up “The Center for Women and Men”. I think it’s pretty erroneous that you don’t know the different between a resource center, such as, for instance, El Centro Chicano, and a student assembly, such as the Latino/a Student Assembly. The CWM is a space that seeks to not only provide counseling to students who have experienced gender-based harm, but it also does preventative work in terms of educational outreach. It is thus both a Resource Center that WSA works very closely with, and a counseling center that is severely understaffed. It also just launched VOICE, a peer outreach program, which I’m really glad that you brought up because the sessions have begun and these kinds of programs are really needed at USC. Becuase CWM is not a student organization, nor under USG, they do not receive USG funding, and thus neither does their VOICE program. The program was organized by both students and staff members in CWM, and has been a long project for sexual assault advocates, but while students helped organize curriculums and missions, they program itself is being run by CWM staff. And finally, I will agree with you and say that CWM needs more funding, but that funding is never going to come from USG, because that’s not how money works at USC — they are two separate entities. All resource centers need more money, but that’s not going to come from USG. And WSA supports so much of CWM’s work that it would be difficult for them to function without the help of students, especially from WSA, so to invalidate the need for WSA by emphasizing the need of more resources for CWM is also contradictory.

          • SequentialArts
            SequentialArts says:

            There’s a difference between providing the kinds of services you mentioned that are upheld by professional staff vs. providing space and support, which WSA does provide and that is dismaying to hear you don’t recognize as someone with personal experience.

            $43k in funding is also relatively moderate compared to other assemblies and groups under Program Board, not to mention student government itself. For the article to assert that student programming fees going up is correlated to the WSA budget alone is absurd, not to mention putting it in conversation with a broader tuition hike.

            Your last point also does not negate or discredit the organization’s goal or mission, or position a lack provisions for single mothers as contradictory to the purpose of providing space for women on campus in the ways that WSA already does.

      • SequentialArts
        SequentialArts says:

        The very idea that CWM and WSA are competitive entities as opposed to co-constitutive resources for students illustrates how little you know about either. Both work very closely together and are supportive of each others’ work, not to mention that the funding streams are completely distinct from one another. Additionally, as a branch of Program Board run by students (not professional staff), it’s not within WSA’s capacity to uphold services like a 24-hour hotline or transportation services; this is not a redundancy or an oversight.

  4. Natalie Nguyen
    Natalie Nguyen says:

    This is a fine example of how this institution fails to educate its student leaders on relevant issues, thus highlighting the very importance of the programming that WSA has to offer.

    • Caitlin Tran
      Caitlin Tran says:

      Hi Natalie. The collective body of Program Board was as disappointed as you probably were when we saw this seriously misinformed and erroneous letter written by a member of USG’s Legistlative branch. While we already take it upon ourselves to educate USG’s members on our programming and its importance, we simply can’t get through all the time, as seen in this case. I thank you for your support and similarly echo your sentiments of a vision of a more educated study body.

      Caitlin Tran
      Co-Director of Program Board Marketing

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