Undergraduate Student Government orchestrated some of the most transformative and public initiatives in USC’s history over the past year. The University was at the epicenter of a highly visible discussion about diversity and inclusion, propelling the passage of the campus climate resolution. Sustainability 2020 provided the University’s first comprehensive proposal to tackle waste on campus and implement sustainable policy. And from these issues came some of the highest student engagement and activism that we’ve ever seen on this campus.
But some campus issues still demand attention. Commuter, transfer and spring admit students are still left out of crucial aspects of our Trojan Family. Tuition hikes threaten college affordability, and tuition conversations lack transparency. Students continue to find themselves on multiple-week-long waiting lists in order to talk to mental health professionals.
But USG presidential and vice presidential candidates Edwin Saucedo and Austin Dunn can seize the momentum that has manifested this year. Though both tickets for the USG presidency have served the student body, Saucedo and Dunn come with considerably more valuable experience. As Finance Director of USG, Saucedo oversaw a $1.3 million budget and exercised judgment to allocate funds, requiring close collaboration among student leaders that will shape relationships during a USG presidency. Dunn, as director of University Affairs, has mediated conversations between different factions of campus wellness. Compared to the other presidential ticket, Charlie Henriquez and Cole Pham, Saucedo and Dunn understand the inner workings of USG and can effectively lead the student body on a grander scale.
On sexual assault, both tickets advocate for a shorter response time and more effective prevention. Henriquez and Pham have brought up the point that the University Park Campus lacks a medical examiner. However, Saucedo and Dunn identified a more precise framework to achieve tangible results — focusing more specifically on decreasing response time for Title IX investigations.
On the issue of sustainability, however, Henriquez and Pham’s proposals more aggressively pursue goals to make campus greener. The platform has more innovative and concrete proposals — to decrease water consumption and implement more solar power. Both hope to increase sustainability projects at the University. Regardless, the upcoming presidency should work closely to hold the administration accountable for the recently passed Sustainability 2020 resolution, and it’s important for leaders to know the details of this important proposal.
All the candidates recognize greek life as an integral part of the Trojan experience. Nevertheless, Saucedo and Dunn admit that aspects of greek life are isolating and want to extend participation past Interfraternity Council and PanHellenic Council — greater incorporating multicultural greek councils in the fabric of greek life. Expanding the diversity conversation to all greek councils on campus is a smart approach to work to improve the inclusiveness of greek life, rather than remaining blind to the issues that persist within it.
To promote a more congruent campus life, both tickets are working with underrepresented student populations. As far as initiatives that cater to the support of the commuter, spring admit and transfer student body, the candidates realize the need for an increased number of festivities celebrating the integration of these students into the traditional USC experience. Saucedo and Dunn take these initiatives a step further with their proposed installation of commuter lounges and lockers to alleviate the pressures of commuting to school.
Following a year of unprecedented diversity advocacy, it is the responsibility for the next presidency to continue these conversations. Both platforms support expanding cultural resource centers, an important pillar to connecting students with community. And though the Henriquez-Pham platform puts forth commendable effort, for example in its advocacy for student leader inclusion training, the idea that a mobile application to connect students and resource centers could actually improve campus climate is out of touch with — and frankly insulting to — legitimate efforts for inclusion. On the other hand, diversity proposals of Saucedo and Dunn have a sharp focus — advocating for counselors within resource centers.
Knowing the value of student voices from USC’s multi-faceted population, Edwin-Austin seeks to collaborate with as many people as possible through personal interactions. They understand the current opaqueness of USG’s budget and seek to better support different student organizations by rerouting personal finances, such as retreat funds, to promote better programs. They also aim to come to the students as well, with greater availability for office hours. By making USG an integrative experience, Edwin-Austin take what worked in the Rini Sampath-Jordan Fowler administration and make it better.
Both tickets, however, seem to gloss over the issues of college affordability and mental health. Saucedo and Dunn’s affordability initiatives are small-scale but concrete — include improving USG budgeting, free laundry services and extending dining hall hours during breaks. Henriquez and Pham hope to advocate for a tuition freeze, but it’s unclear how they believe they will succeed in this advocacy when the Rini-Jordan administration has failed. However, both platforms should push not for an unrealistic tuition freeze but for greater tuition transparency — the first step to understanding why tuition is so high is understanding where it goes. Moreover, neither platform website even mentions the term “mental health,” let alone gives this issue the weight it deserves.
The past year has been a year of unprecedented progress for USG, and much of that has been symbolized by the advocacy of Sampath and Fowler — the first president and vice president duo that were both women, and women of color. As a first-generation college student, Saucedo continues to personify the kind of barrier-breaking that USG — and USC — is known for.
Edwin-Austin is the best ticket to represent student voices and continue the advocacy of the past semester. They bring extensive experience in USG as well as an achievable plan to address the pressing issues facing the student body.
Daily Trojan Spring 2016 Editorial Board
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect that Austin Dunn did not work to implement solar panels on umbrellas in the campus center. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.