With the USG elections only one day away, Undergraduate Student Government President Rini Sampath and Vice President Jordan Fowler reflect on their time in their respective roles and the legacy they hope to leave, marked by increasing campus inclusivity and college affordability.
Last February, Sampath and Fowler made history as the first all-female presidential ticket to be elected at USC.
“Whenever people ask me, like, what was the best moment? When you found out you won? And I always say no, it was actually the moment before … I looked around the room and it was just filled with people we love and people who care, people who will stand out on Trousdale during days when it was blistering hot; they were willing to stay up with us, anything, you name it,” Sampath said.
The nostalgic Sampath and Fowler recall the day they won their positions in USG.
“It just made me realize the power of unconditional love and friendship during those weeks,” recalled Sampath said about her former campaigning days.
As they reflect on the group effort required to win the election, the support and dedication provided by fellow classmates marked that day for them. Just as they sought to increase student involvement within their original campaign initiatives, they have continued to advocate on issues such as expanded student inclusion.
Sampath and Fowler have made use of the year, delivering on the promise initially made while campaigning: real results. While incorporating their plans to enhance equity, diversity and inclusion into each project, they have gauged student responses to guide their approach.
“Last semester was a really pivotal time in student activism and student advocacy given everything that was going on at college campuses across our nation,” Sampath said. “We played our part as the student government and the student community by hosting forums for students where they could speak out about their own experiences with bias and prejudices on our campus.”
These forums gave students a space to openly address topics needing explicit discussion, such as inclusion. Using the voices of students as a driving force, Sampath and Fowler have led an effort this past
improved awareness for underrepresented students on campus.
Sampath and Fowler spearheaded the Campus Climate Resolution that the USG Senate presented in November asking for a $100 million fund to support underrepresented students and tenured faculty positions for underrepresented minorities. As Fowler indicates, understanding diversity requires a new approach to how students are educated.
“Diversity doesn’t necessarily need to be seen in the ways that we think … it’s so important that diversity, equity and inclusion are included in all parts of our advocacy efforts” Fowler said.
Their vision for the remainder of their term involves more communication with students. In November, USG presented the college affordability and transparency resolution, employing student feedback to account the needs of the everyday Trojan. The survey, which received 1,903 student responses, includes a number of lengthy responses from students depicting extreme financial challenges.
“It was really touching, and some of it was heartbreaking too, hearing from students that they are skipping meals and starting a GoFundMe to afford tuition here, especially given the increase that occurs every single year,” Sampath said.
As the USG campaign season begins, Fowler believes she and Sampath are leaving USG in capable hands.
Fowler said she was impressed by both USG presidential tickets’ dedication.
“I think when it comes down to it, I have really had the chance to work with Edwin [Saucedo] and Austin [Dunn],” Fowler said when asked which presidential ticket she supported. “Since my first days on this campus, Austin has been my delegate, so I have been a huge supporter of him since the very beginning. I really do believe in him, and I see them being greater leaders for this school.”
Although Sampath has not publicly endorsed any candidates, she did highlight that this is the first year USG has allowed for USC leaders to be able to publicly endorse a candidate.
With a 120-person cabinet, the Sampath-Fowler administration called for a tuition freeze — an action not implemented by the administration — lobbied to increase awareness for mental health and sexual assault prevention, supported new sustainability practices alongside Provost Michael Quick and funded student trips such as for the a cappella group the SoCal VoCals who sang at the White House to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in January.
Despite their term coming to an end, Sampath and Fowler express optimism more than anything else. For them, work continues as usual.
On Feb. 24, they are introducing a resolution calling for a fall break to the Faculty Senate, bringing in health professionals to aid their discussion.