USC’s Undergraduate Student Government oversees a budget of approximately $2.3 million each year. The official governing body for 19,000 students, comprised of six branches and more than 120 members, holds tremendous influence over numerous aspects of campus life. During the past two academic years, USG has negotiated legislation to ban smoking on campus, extend the add/drop deadline for classes and partner with Uber to provide students with free rides.
In last year’s USG elections, only 3,162 students cast ballots — a measly 19 percent of the eligible voting population. Why do so few students seem to care about a governing system with such sway over their undergraduate experience? Our staff at the Daily Trojan sought to examine this and other pressing questions about civic engagement, political persuasion and diversity in student government at USC.
Could our governing structure be in need of a dramatic overhaul? We sought input on this question from our crosstown rival UCLA, a campus where student government politics far exceed ours in both intensity and vigor. Our lead story compares USC’s senatorial government with UCLA’s highly competitive slate system, exploring the pros and cons of each approach.
We went back in USG history for a timeline documenting President Edwin Saucedo’s administration, along with a story exploring the greek community’s significant role in elections. Despite USC’s long history of electing fraternity men to the highest position in student government, this trend has been on the decline as of late.
In the spirit of transparency and open understanding of politics, we wanted to find out what goes on behind the scenes of a successful presidential campaign. This curiosity inspired us to profile the campaign managers behind the three presidential tickets currently running for office. What we discovered was the passion that these students demonstrate for the candidates they represent, and the amount of work they are willing to dedicate to help the rest of the student body feel the same way.
Though students arguably are well aware of the impact that USG can have on their experience, many are unclear about the role of another organization: Graduate Student Government, the body that represents graduate students at USC. We spoke to GSG members to better understand the way this group works, and in the process found that one group of GSG constituents feels disconnected: students studying, working and living on the Health Sciences Campus. Our article explores how GSG representatives studying in the Keck School of Medicine of USC are working to help Keck students feel more in touch with the government that represents them.
At a highly consequential time in national politics, students must learn to exercise effective civic participation at the university level. We hope the stories in this issue inspire you to discover the power of governance in our own backyard.
Features Editor, Spring 2017