Prior to the Undergraduate Student Government Senate’s vote in two weeks, I would like to take this time to affirm the Senate’s genuine commitment to addressing issues of diversity and inclusion on campus. As I stated on the Senate floor, our goal is to pass a resolution that is responsive, responsible and reasonable in calling for sustainable diversity initiatives. As written, the resolution would not have passed had we taken a vote last Tuesday. Therefore, please understand Greek Sen. Darian Nourian’s approved postponement is a good faith effort to reach a compromise, rather than a move to shut down the efforts of all who labored tirelessly in drafting the resolution. Like Graduate Student Government and the Faculty Senate, we welcome diverse students and faculty. However, we do not want to increase costs for future Trojans and neither do we want to increase debt for students that would have otherwise been covered by USC. We need to consider this resolution calls for $100 million to be spent and used for things like expanding administrative overhead and hiring expensively tenured faculty. President Rini Sampath made it clear she know how funding works. Yet, last Tuesday was not the first time Sampath has gone on the record to say that her focus is not on the numbers. Sampath has said in the past that “we can’t get stuck on the numbers,” and that she objects to “putting things into such a quantitative level,” when discussing financial issues.
Education is society’s greatest equalizer. Sen. Sanjay Mahboobani was quick to research and find information on scholarships like the Jewish Leadership Scholarship, LGBT, Latino and Black Alumni Associations, the Norman Topping Aid Fund — not to mention additional aid available per individual school, as well as a University Grant that can kick in when the Cal Grant does not. The Senate wholeheartedly supports bolstering these scholarships. However, the original resolution was not clear in whether it would use this existing infrastructure in place, or spend that money to also create a new system. This is the type of clarity that Sen. Eric Dubbury and I campaigned to demand from USG’s initiatives. Furthermore, the resolution did not demonstrate knowledge of how an endowment functions. As a student who interns for the Endowment Office, I share that only 5 percent of its current market value may be distributed back to USC for spending. This is a constraint we must recognize.
Though the resolution has somewhat readjusted the language that would have otherwise called for racial quotas, the unfair demands to control course curriculum in violation of academic freedom remain. Requirements to prioritize the critical race and queer theories over other relevant, yet dissenting scholarly perspectives in their fields reveals a bias in the Sampath administration’s goals.
The attacks the Sampath administration launched at the Senate meeting and over social media have been numerous. It is much more difficult to craft a responsive, responsible and reasonable resolution when the Senate is called “absurd,” or said to be in the same league as “old white men.” Framing certain concerns, such as those introduced by one of the greek senators and myself over the proposed curriculum reform, as insensitivity toward victims of sexual assault is distracting and hinders productivity.
Additionally, please understand senators have always been prepared to fund cultural resource centers and support Title IX initiatives, and these initiatives were never questioned.
It became increasingly troubling at the meeting that the Sampath administration led a rapid politicization of ethnicity. Supporting calls for impeachment and vehemently claiming that senate was derelict of its duty is not just constitutionally incorrect, it is also unprofessional. The Senate has the authority to postpone voting and to open negotiations with USG executives as an independent body; we are not yes-men ready to rubber-stamp anything from the executive.
We sincerely and respectfully ask Sampath to abandon the political bullying and engage in productive conversation, very much in the spirit of building upon progress already being made between two of our greek senators and resolution writers Sen. Sabrina Enriquez, Sophia Li and Shyann Murphy. We understand that Sampath has recently come out to state “constructive input is not only necessary, but also a vital part of our work.” We hope that Sampath will join us in staying true to that goal.
This post has been updated for style and clarity.