To date, this has been the most contentious opinion piece by the Daily Trojan Spring 2017 Editorial Board. We extensively interviewed each ticket for Undergraduate Student Government president and vice president, deliberated for hours and finally overcame a stiff gridlock in the editorial decision about which ticket best represents what we want to see in our student government. So this is by no means an easy endorsement to write.
We strongly believe that all three tickets running to be USG president and vice president are extraordinary campus leaders, have a wealth of experience and encompass what it means to be a student at USC. However, we believe that next year’s USG president and vice president should be Rachel Udabe and Rebecca Harbeck.
Last year, USG voter turnout dropped 39 percent. At a time in which national activism is at a crucial high, student involvement is at a crucial low. We have turned our tide from the energy and passion of administrations of past years to complacency and inactivity. Passion in students is there, but we need the right leaders to inspire it.
That is why we want to see change in USG. That is why we believe Udabe and Harbeck will bring the organization the fresh perspective it needs to ultimately change the trajectory of our campus’ political culture.
Transparency and accessibility are crucial issues not only within USC administration, but also within Undergraduate Student Government itself. Too many students feel disconnected with their campus representatives, are apathetic toward student government and lack awareness regarding the progress of administration initiatives and the part that they can play in the solution.
It’s true that all three tickets mentioned transparency in one form or another in their platforms. But we liked Udabe and Harbeck’s position on accessible external office hours for USG members. More than that, we thought that their diverse experiences and status as USG outsiders will open up USG to all students and transform USG into a more student-centered, activist organization — into what student government entails on many other college campuses.
Despite slow progress, pressing concerns including health services, sustainability, tuition rises, sexual assault, cultural expression and community inclusion still persist. With the advent of the Trump administration, many students worry about the impact of national policies and rhetoric and question how they can stand up for what they believe in. In the midst of these challenges, we believe Udabe and Harbeck can indeed, like their campaign promises, unite, strengthen and connect our campus.
With backgrounds as Orientation Advisors, Residential Assistants, tour guides and student workers at the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, Udabe and Harbeck know diverse aspects of their community well. These experiences and perspectives will elevate diverse voices and issues and allow USG to formulate policy that works for all students.
Moreover, at a time when greek life and sports often dominate the campus conversation, Udabe and Harbeck’s emphasis on supporting spring admits and transfer and international students through a mentorship program will ensure that some of the most forgotten populations of campus will have their voices heard.
But Udabe and Harbeck must take crucial steps in order to become effective leaders in USG. They face a steep learning curve. They must revise their platform points, some of which are infeasible and reflect a lack of deep research and understanding of policymaking at USC. The candidates must do better to incorporate those who do have the institutional knowledge about what USG can and cannot do. The candidates must use the next three months to immerse themselves in the ins and outs of student government and continue to gain greater knowledge of campus issues and solutions if they hope to hit the ground running in August.
They have great colleagues in their competitors. They should look to their opponents Austin Dunn and Morgan Monahan for their experience in USG and in policymaking hand-in-hand with the administration. They should look to their other opponents Daniel Million and Tim Vorhoff for innovative ideas, like the reassessing of the black house initiative and creation of a multicultural house to foster inclusion. In order to be the most effective leaders they can be, they will need to understand their shortcomings and work alongside their colleagues.
Our hope is that Udabe and Harbeck will meet our vision, but the Daily Trojan will, as it has done in the past for every administration, continue to hold them accountable for providing the transformative leadership they have promised.
We would be remiss if we did not note the symbolic significance of electing two women of color who have lived much of their USC career outside of the USG bureaucracy to the highest student-occupied office at USC. We are sending the message that we continue to embrace diverse leaders — in more ways than one — and that we continue to recognize their unique contributions to our campus.
If we want change on our campus, we need to elect the changemakers. That’s why we are supporting the Rachel and Rebecca ticket for USG.
Daily Trojan Spring 2017 Editorial Board