Senate votes to go green

Undergraduate Student Government passed a resolution Tuesday night that will add a new assembly with a focus on environmental issues into Program Board.

Deliberation · Undergraduate Student Government Parlimentarian Justin Farshidi and Speaker Pro Tempore Matthew Arkfeld deliberate the addition of the Green Student Assembly to Program Board on Tuesday night. - Austin Vogel | Daily Trojan

Deliberation · Undergraduate Student Government Parlimentarian Justin Farshidi and Speaker Pro Tempore Matthew Arkfeld deliberate the addition of the Green Student Assembly to Program Board on Tuesday night. — Austin Vogel | Daily Trojan

The resolution, drafted by Residential Senator Sona Shah, Assistant Director of the Political Student Assembly Justin Bogda and the Director of university affairs and USG President-elect Christian Kurth, will recognize the Green Student Assembly as the ninth official assembly on the USC Program Board and will centralize the diverse environmental organizations at the university into one cohesive unit.

The eight other committees that fall under Program Board are the Academic Culture Assembly, Asian Pacific American Student Assembly, International Student Assembly, Black Student Assembly, Political Student Assembly, Latina/o Student Assembly, Queer and Ally Student Assembly and Women’s Student Assembly.

USG Vice President Vinnie Prasad said centralization can provide a solution to the problems that many organizations are currently facing.

“Right now we have several passionate environmental organizations on campus, but they don’t have a lot of visibility and are not funded as much as they are supposed to be,” Prasad said.

Groups such as Global Environmental Brigades, SC Outfitters and CALPIRG, for example, will be able to benefit by joining forces.

“A lot of them end up being smaller groups and not necessarily a cohesive unit,” Prasad said. “They just don’t have enough resources.”

SC Outfitters Will Getz, a junior majoring in chemistry and East Asian area studies, said GSA will give them a larger presence on campus.

“Being part of the assembly will give us more depth and involvement among other student organizations within Student Affairs and allow us to take a leadership role in the environment outside of the things we already do,” Getz said.

Prasad said the goal of competing with other Pac-12 schools also helped fuel the decision to draft the resolution.

“A majority of the schools we compete with have some sort of centralized organization for students that promotes sustainability efforts,” Prasad said. “We were kind of behind in that sense. For the last two or three years, people have been trying to find the best way to combat that issue on campus.”

Justin Bogda is confident that this unification will pave the way for an exciting future in sustainability projects for USC.

“There’s a real value in numbers and collaboration; environmentalism is all about unity,” Bogda said. “We won’t fix any environmental problems unless we get everybody in on the same initiatives and working toward the same common goal of cleaning up our environment.”

The GSA will receive funding from Program Board, which is supported by USG’s student-programming fee. Bogda said this extra funding will allow the GSA to reach new heights in on-campus sustainability efforts.

“The Green Student Assembly can plan and sponsor a variety of events working with both the community outside of USC and students in our community garden,” Bogda said.

Though many on Program Board expressed excitement over the newly formed assembly,  Christiana Morgenroth, a junior majoring in film and television production, said the centralization could lead to a decreased sense of individuality.

“I can imagine that, to put all these groups together to try to centralize them, certain goals that individual organizations may have wanted to achieve will fall by the wayside,” Morgenroth said. “Some compromise will be needed; larger goals will have a stronger backing [than smaller goals].”

Chapter Chair for USC CALPIRG Roshni Ashoj, however, said her organization is excited to collaborate with USC’s other green clubs.

“We at CALPIRG are really excited,” Ashoj said. “I don’t think [having different programs] will be an issue. All the organizations have similar goals. This will be more of a resource because we’re all working toward a sustainable and green future and we’d be helping each other out rather than taking away.”

Bogda said that financially, the groups within the GSA can maintain some independence. Within the GSA’s annual budget, which will  be used to plan events, member organizations can apply to receive individual funding. All the assembly’s member organizations can receive up to 25 percent of the assembly’s total funds.

Despite all the progress that has already occurred, both Prasad and Bogda acknowledge that more work needs to be done. Prasad said the trial program for the Green Student Assembly is slated to begin in the spring 2014 semester and be fully implemented in fall 2014.

Though it is still early, Bogda remains optimistic about the future of the Green Student Assembly and said it will infuse the campus with a new way of thinking.

“We will promote a culture of sustainability, of environmental awareness, both on campus and in the community,” Bogda said. “We want to change the way students think about the way they treat their waste, the way they consume product [and] the way they interact with the community around them.”

One of the Green Student Assembly’s first events will be observing Earth Week through a series of events beginning April 13. The series is dedicated to bringing environmental awareness to campus.