The Undergraduate Student Government Senate passed the Campus Climate resolution, postponed two weeks ago and introduced nearly a month ago, at its meeting Tuesday night. The passing vote was nearly unanimous, with Sen. Jacob Ellenhorn voting against, and ended with a resounding “Aye!” from Sen. Alec White.
The Rosen Room in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center was filled with posters placed by enthusiastic students, such as “I FIGHT ON TO SEE CHANGE,” “CHILDREN OF THE RESOLUTION” and “#diSCriminationLivesHere.” The room was also packed to the point that some students had to be moved to another room to watch the procedures livestream.
USG President Rini Sampath, who was an active participant during the evening, said that this victory is by no means conclusive.
“This is just step one of a larger advocacy process,” Sampath said. “We’re making sure that our University is able to implement these diversity initiatives and make our campus climate better.”
Sampath said that the next step will come on Nov. 23, during a scheduled meeting with Provost Michael Quick that she hopes will be “productive” and “beneficial for the student body.”
The intricate process of passing the resolution took place more in the offices of USG than at the actual meeting, during prolonged meetings in which senators and USG directors debated and compromised on each of the amendments.
Right before the vote, Sen. Bulk Lao commented on the effort that went into this initiative.
“We worked really hard,” Lao said. “We went to a meeting at 10 p.m. all the way to midnight on a Sunday, working on this resolution. So people have put a lot of time and effort into this.”
The vote on the resolution was preceded by heated debate.
One discussion focused on the proposed $100 million to be allocated for scholarships and tenured faculty positions for underrepresented communities. Sen. Giuseppe Robalino wanted to change the amendment in an effort to remove this specific sum from the resolution.
“Today, actually, I was at a scholarship luncheon … and I had the opportunity to meet my donor of my scholarship,” Robalino said. “I shared with him the particular provision in this resolution regarding the $100 million. His response was … that the number was not an appropriate number and that it was too high, and this is someone who is donating millions of dollars to USC.”
Sampath responded by mentioning George Lucas, who has recently donated $10 million to the School of Cinematic Arts for diversity-related scholarships.
“There are other donors. If you ask George Lucas, he’s probably going to have another perspective,” Sampath said. “I don’t think that the argument of donors having an issue is really going to strike this down as it stands, because it is pretty evident that we do have donors and trustees that are ready to invest in the diversification and the strengthening of our underrepresented communities at USC.”
Another point of argument was a provision of the resolution that asked for greater enrollment of minority faculty and students. Sen. Chris Fong had an issue with the wording of the amendment, fearing that the word “enrollment” could lead to racial quotas and affirmative action.
“I do agree that we should recruit underrepresented students, and [for] the ones we do have we should make an effort to retain,” Fong said. “But by saying you will ‘enroll, hire and appoint’ based on race, I think that that’s where we have these implications of racial quotas and affirmative action.”
Director of Community Affairs Brianna Thorpe responded, arguing that there are de facto quotas in place and that removing this provision from the resolution would maintain the status quo with few underrepresented minorities in positions of authority.
“After that diversity ‘quota’ is met, then who gets the job?” Thorpe said. “If you are between a black male who has just as [many] qualifications as maybe the white heterosexual male, who is going to get that job? And we know that answer … there aren’t a lot of blacks and Latinos that are in these high positions.”
Other points of contention were the creation of vice deans of diversity in different schools and the increased funding of resource centers. The main argument against these measures from senators and members of the floor was their financing. In every case, those in the majority argued that it could be accomplished given the University’s successful fundraising campaign and the possibility of better allocating resources.
The Senate also unanimously passed the College Affordability, Student Service Assembly and Bicycle Coordinator resolutions.