USG approves special diversity committee

Senators Michaela Murphy and Meagan Lane speak at Tuesday’s senate meeting. USG unanimously approved a special committee to amend the diversity fund after student groups felt that the fund lacked accessibility. (Emily Smith | Daily Trojan)

The Undergraduate Student Government met Tuesday to move forward on one of this semester’s pressing issues: amending the student government diversity fund.

In 2015, the different cultural organizations at USC, including the Black Student Assembly, Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment and several others, pressured USC to endow the fund, which promised $50,000 a year to address issues regarding diversity and inclusion on campus.

Last month, the Daily Trojan reported on a USG Senate meeting, during which the amendment was first proposed. Many senators — along with various groups including the SAGE, BSA and the Environmental Student Assembly — felt that the fund lacked accessibility in its current state and required an amendment in order to address their concerns.

The first meeting resulted in a long, combative debate, so the senate tabled the issue for a later date. The senate had proposed a special committee that would that would help craft the new bylaw amendment. During Tuesday’s meeting, in a sharp contrast from the debate two weeks ago, the senate unanimously approved a committee, though in a slightly different form.

A few changes to the structure of the committee played into its smooth approval. The authors of the bylaw amendment, Sen. Michaela Murphy and former USG leader Mai Mizuno, will now preside as committee’s co-chairs. It will also have seats for members of the USG advocacy branch.

But the composition of the committee’s mandated members, USG Senator Michaela Murphy said, is the most important change in sealing its approval.

In the original committee proposal, “there were people who had explicit seats at the table who might not necessarily have as nuanced an idea of the different needs of different marginalized groups on this campus,” Murphy said. “The people who are mandated to be there are the key stakeholders in these conversations.”

USG Vice President Blake Ackerman said that aside from the committee’s structural changes, a major roadblock to approving the committee was transparency about the committee’s purpose. This time around, “there was a lot more communication between everyone that needed to be involved in the conversation,” Ackerman said.

“A lot of the hurdles were just conflict resolution,” Murphy said. “People on all sides after that senate meeting [two weeks ago] … felt like they weren’t being listened to. The biggest thing was making sure people felt healed.”

The committee will hold its first meeting sometime before Sept. 21 and it will be open to the public.

“If issues get to a point where no one else is supporting these [diversity] initiatives, [USG] will take on that responsibility,” Murphy said.