USG committee discusses diversity fund amendment

Senator Michaela Murphy (center) is the co-chair of the diversity fund committee. Murphy explained that there is no precedent for senate vetoes in other USG funds. (Krystal Gallegos | Daily Trojan)

The Undergraduate Student Government held a committee meeting Tuesday to discuss a potential amendment to a $50,000 diversity fund.

The fund, which was created to provide funding for events that would promote diversity on campus, has undergone a process to create an amendment that would make it more accessible to cultural assemblies at USC.

The first topic of discussion Tuesday concerned whether the senate should have the ability to veto a fund request that has already been granted. Senator Michaela Murphy, the co-chair of the diversity fund committee, explained that there is no precedent for USG senate vetoes in other USG funds.

“I don’t think it’s fair to make it seem like we don’t trust the discretion of the people who would be sitting on this oversight board when we haven’t given senate this discretion on any other fund in the past,” Murphy said.

Senator Meagan Lane said that in light of the Ben Shapiro event last week, there should be more checks to how certain events receive funding when they could potentially present harm to students.

However, she explained that the diversity fund would not endorse any kind of event that would risk people’s safety and well-being. She said that any complaints against the use of the diversity fund would come from outside of the senate, not from anyone within USG.

Speaker Pro Tempore Matthew Crane said he was concerned that denying funding to certain groups could lead to lawsuits from certain organizations. However, several cultural assembly representatives said that they have never witnessed such lawsuits at USC.

Co-chief Diversity Director Shaghayegh Ebadi said that because of the makeup of the fund’s oversight board — which includes the USG treasurer, the chief diversity officers and a representative from each cultural assembly — it would be unlikely for the diversity fund to pay for anything that would harm students.

“You have the most qualified, the most impacted communities that should know what’s good for them [and] should know what’s going to be of value to that community,” Ebadi said.

Murphy echoed this sentiment, saying that the oversight board is not at risk of funding anything problematic.

“The clear and most present and most explicit and most important stakeholders for conversations like these, for funding applications for different marginalized communities are not only present at the very beginning, but they are empowered at the very beginning,” Murphy said. “A senate veto is paternalistic … I don’t think that it’s important.”

The second part of the meeting delved into whether or not the language of the amendment should set $50,000 as a floor for the fund.

“Do we [as USG] want to get roped into funding things that admin should be paying for themselves, but now have an excuse not to fund them?” Murphy said.

Murphy said that if USG puts its own money toward promoting diversity, the administration will follow their lead. She said that because the administration is not funding certain diversity-based initiatives already, it is up to USG to start a trend with the hope that the administration will follow suit.

“If we use the belief system that … where we put our money is a reflection of our values, then that is a very strong statement to make to the USC administration to say that what we value is diversity-based initiatives,” Murphy said.