USG prepares for meeting with Nikias and Quick
At last night’s Undergraduate Student Government Senate meeting, USG President Rini Sampath announced a forthcoming meeting with USC President C. L. Max Nikias to discuss past and future plans.
Sampath mentioned that for the past two weeks, she has consulted her executive cabinet and the various program board assemblies for the topics to be covered at the meeting. Sampath stressed the importance of this official meeting, which comes only once per semester.
“I’ve made it very clear that, in the coming year, any opportunity I have to sit down with an administrator is an opportunity for other students to have a seat at the table,” Sampath said. “I think that in the past, students have often felt disconnected with the administrators and I want to show that this is an opportunity for them to have their concerns heard through the USG leadership.”
Sampath then described the various issues she plans to cover during the meeting. One of the issues she will touch upon is mental health advocacy. Sampath stated that mental health is major issue on campus, and that the number of counselors is insufficient.
“What we find is that [the] Engemann [Student Health Center] … looks beautiful, but it’s probably not the most functional space,” Sampath said. “One student told one of our directors that he got on the phone with someone at Engemann, and the first question they asked him was, ‘Are you suicidal?’ That’s not how we should determine if someone should be seeing a counselor or not.”
Sampath said that the student was then sent an email and told that he would have a three-week wait time before he met a counselor.
“I don’t know if this is just one case, but I think that this is definitely happening to other students if it is happening to one student,” Sampath said. “I want to express to President Nikias that if we have a $6 billion endowment campaign, we need to be investing resources from that campaign to [be] fixing problems like this.”
Another policy point on the agenda, Sampath mentioned, will be sexual assault prevention. Francesca Bessey, assistant director of Wellness Affairs and a sexual assault activist on campus, drafted a two-page document on sexual assault prevention strategies with Shyann Murphy and Vanessa Diaz, co-directors of the Women Students Assembly.
“If all these activists are putting so much time and effort into events like Take Back the Night with the clothesline project at alumni park, we need to see some kind of response from our administration,” Sampath said. “We want acknowledgement that we have a culture on campus that disrespects women at times, but also things like increasing funding for programming these awareness events.”
During the meeting with Nikias, Sampath will also touch on proposals to establish sustainability efforts. She mentioned that Environmental Student Assembly Director Shawn Rhoads has been working to put together a sustainability plan.
“This is something that USG backs. If we want to be a leading university we need to be looking at sustainability efforts as well,” Sampath said. “The more we want to compete with these top 25 and Ivy League schools, the more we need to be the frontrunners and pioneers in things like sustainability.”
Lastly, Sampath will be discussing the Black House project and minority issues on campus.
“I really want to bring attention to the issues of marginalized communities on campus with our ‘I, Too, Am USC’ project, and I’m hoping to bring some of the photographs from that campaign of students expressing their discomfort on this campus,” Sampath said. “These are the tough conversations that we need to be having with administrators, especially if I have only one opportunity per semester to meet with people like President Nikias.”
When asked if this would be a symbolic meeting, Sampath answered that past meetings with Nikias have brought results.
“The last time that we met, President Nikias told us that he would be looking to waive security fees during events like Spring Fest, which lifts a huge burden from USG,” Sampath said. “That is just one example, but now I think it’s time to go in and ask him these requests that could make our students happier.”
On May 5, Sampath and USG Vice President Jordan Fowler will also meet with Provost Michael Quick to discuss future plans involving the Academic Affairs committee and Academic Culture committee.