Senate votes to form VKC name change committee

The Undergraduate Student Government Senate voted unanimously  Tuesday in favor of creating a task force to address issues of inclusivity on campus including the recent petition to rename the Von KleinSmid Center. The center is named after former USC President Rufus Von KleinSmid, who was a eugenicist. Three bylaw amendments were also introduced in the meeting, which the Senate will vote on next Tuesday.

Senator Preston Fregia (center right) proposed the resolution to create a committee to change the name of the Von KleinSmid Center and evaluate inclusivity and diversity on campus. Yuwei Xi | Daily Trojan

Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler Matheson emphasized that the resolution does more than merely examine the VKC name as an isolated case. He said it involves a larger discussion regarding the University’s values, which will be moderated by a task force.

“It’s not just removing the name,” Matheson said. “It has a larger impact on what we value as a community on campus, what we see to be the standard of what is OK and what is not OK.

It’s about creating a task force to help solve these problems. I wanted to make it clear that this resolution is much bigger than the VKC name change.”

Senator Preston Fregia, who spearheaded the movement to change the name of VKC with the petition and introduced the resolution, spoke about how harmful the name of VKC is to the atmosphere of diversity and inclusivity at USC.

“I think that what it does is it takes a part of our history and says some of us might not be as important as our traditions,” Fregia said. “[Von KleinSmid’s] views are still something that some cherish here.”

After the passage of the VKC name change resolution, Senator Katie Bolton and Co-Director of Service Student Assembly Alec Vandenberg presented a modified version of an amendment that was rejected by the senate five weeks ago.

If passed, the amendment would add a new external affairs director position to the advocacy branch of USG in order to promote political awareness and involvement among undergraduate students. The initial version of the amendment was rejected by the senate primarily due to concerns that the position could politicize the non-partisan USG. Bolton and Vandenberg trimmed the stated role of the new director by removing its involvement in programming events in order to address these concerns.

Two more bylaw amendments were each proposed jointly by Director of External Affairs Mai Mizuno and Steve Helmeci, a senior adviser to USG President Austin Dunn. The first of the two amendments aimed to make proposing referendums more accessible.

Helmeci explained that the purpose of this amendment is to allow for more referendums to appear on student ballots while maintaining reasonably high standards for the passage of referendums. The amendment would specifically lower the minimum number of required signatures from one-tenth of the undergraduate population to 1,000 for a referendum to appear on the ballot while maintaining a requirement that 25 percent of students vote affirmatively for its passage.

The final proposed bylaw amendment was brought forth in the spirit of safeguarding student autonomy over student organizations, particularly in light of the University’s decision to fire the Norman Topping Fund director. The amendment aims to achieve this goal by recognizing broader authority of the Chief Diversity Officer and requiring more administrative accountability in the form of requesting reports from student organizations to the USG Senate.

The vote on the bylaw amendments will take place next Tuesday.