LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Women’s Student Assembly is more than partisan politics

This letter is in response to Sen. Giuseppe Robalino’s letter to the editor, published Sept. 30, entitled “Women’s Student Assembly Plays Partisan Politics.”

Sen. Robalino repeatedly attempts to diminish the work WSA does by accusing us of engaging in abstract theory and partisan politics. What the senator fails to understand, however, is that patriarchy isn’t an abstract theory, but an ideology that manifests itself in very real ways.

WSA engages in politics because the personal is inherently political. To reduce that to partisanship or to call it “a matter of philosophy” is to ignore the real- world applications of these forces on the lives of our constituents.

Sen. Robalino refers to WSA as an “unelected body.” The directors of WSA are in fact directly elected by our constituents. Sen. Robalino’s inability to understand the structure of our organization certainly does not inspire much confidence in his ability to understand our programs or the mission of our organization.

In fact, Robalino has fundamentally misunderstood our mission, stating that WSA has the “privilege of resources to focus solely on sexual assault and domestic violence.” WSA programs a diverse variety of events such as Body Love Week (which is coming up Oct. 5 – 9) , a week about empowerment, healing and body positivity. Yes, we do program around the issue of sexual assault and domestic violence, because these are two important issues in our constituencies; however, it would be short-sighted and ignorant to imply that these are the sole concerns our constituents have.

On the topic of sexual assault and gender-based harm, Robalino seems to, again, misconstrue WSA’s job. The Women’s Student Assembly is part of Program Board. It is our job to program.

The Center for Women and Men, an organization we work with closely, provides crucial resources on campus and is absolutely necessary to combat sexual assault. But our jobs are not the same. Furthermore, to characterize preventing sexual assault and aiding survivors as “nonpolitical health issues” is to ignore the root causes of sexual assault, which includes rape culture and victim blaming.

Robalino also claims that WSA has established relationships with the Service Employees International Union and is, therefore, a clearly partisan organization. WSA has invited SEIU to participate in a panel, giving students the opportunity to engage in a dialogue around the Faculty Forward Campaign. This is not an issue of partisanship. It is an example in facilitating discussion and debate.

Finally, Robalino attempts to demean the work WSA does by accusing the assembly of spending “valuable time correcting the spelling of words like ‘history’ to ‘hxstory.’” He is clearly not concerned with our time, here, but rather with maintaining the status quo. WSA chooses to spell words differently to bring attention to inherently patriarchal values in our language. We challenge these values not only in our words, but also in our programming, which uplifts the voices of those who are systemically silenced. Robalino purposefully ignores these programs in his letter.

This is not the first time Sen. Robalino has called into question student organizations in Program Board. During the Senate meeting on April 28th of this year, Robalino attempted to block the funding of Program Board on the grounds of “political biases” in the Academic Cultural Assembly and Speakers Committee, two organizations dedicated to sparking dialogue in a balanced manner. He has consistently shown that he would rather use his position to silence student voices rather than listen to them.

We would encourage you, Senator, to take a good look at the constituency you represent. Rather than accusing WSA of wasting our valuable time, perhaps you should use your time to engage in a dialogue around what USC students actually want and need. Because we shouldn’t have to remind you that your stipend is also paid for by the student programming fee.

Shyann Murphy

Executive Director, Women’s Student Assembly

Lena Melillo

Assistant Director, Women’s Student Assembly