USG senate postpones vote on diversity resolution
“We want the vote! We want the vote!” chanted a large number of students and visitors present at last night’s Undergraduate Student Government Senate meeting some minutes after Sen. Darian Nourian, who is also sports editor of the Daily Trojan, presented a motion to postpone the vote for the campus climate resolution, which eventually passed with a majority vote.
The move came after a long and heated discussion in front of a packed room in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, one that lasted an hour and half past the usual Senate meeting end time. Walls in the back of the room had to be moved to make more space for the dozens of students who crowded the floor. A student carried a sign that said: “This is silly & you should feel silly.” Others had signs with the hashtag: “#diSCriminationliveshere.”
During the meeting, the senate and members of the audience debated postponing of the resolution, the resolution itself and the amendments to the resolution.
One of the amendments that generated the most discussion dealt with university courses’ curricula, which, according to the resolution’s authors, should incorporate diversity, inclusion and equity components.
Supporters of the amendment argued that the subject matter of their courses is written, in its majority, by “old, white males” and not the minorities often explored and taught in these subjects. Opponents of the amendment argued that course material should be determined by professors and that students are free to voice objections during class.
Giuseppe Robalino, residential senator, was one of the first to oppose the amendment.
“Take charge of your own learning, raise your hand, speak up,” Robalino said. “To what degree are we asking the hand of legislation to take the place of the empowerment coming from within the students?”
Sampath, one of the amendment’s and the resolution’s key authors, responded.
“Giuseppe, how does a room full of almost a hundred students not speak to you to the point that students are here speaking up? I don’t understand,” Sampath said. “It is 7:56 p.m., and students are still here because their voices aren’t being heard in classrooms … And the reason why you and these other senators have a job is because these students are showing up and putting a resolution on the table.”
Another amendment that proved polemic dealt with the establishment and use of the proposed $100 million fund to support underrepresented students and tenured faculty positions for underrepresented minorities.
Sen. Jacob Ellenhorn was one of the first to criticize the amendment, arguing that it would make tuition increase.
“I rise in strong opposition [to] this resolution,” Ellenhorn said. “USG, at the beginning of this year, set a standard for what they hoped to accomplish at the end of the school year. And that was focusing on tuition hikes and tuition increases that we all experience … This bill is not clear as to where the funding for all these extra administrators will come from.”
Sampath responded, arguing that USC has no shortage of funds and the issue is allocation of spending.
“We feel that there is a lack of prioritization in where the money is going right now,” Sampath said. “We all know that there is a $650 million University Village being built right now … there’s going to be a Trader Joe’s, a Sprinkles Cupcakes and a Target… Frankly, we don’t need another Sprinkles Cupcakes when we’re pretty salty.”
The final section of the extended meeting involved a discussion on the prolonging of the resolution vote.
Sampath mentioned that this decision, if passed, would be in keeping with the administration’s indifference to previous USC initiatives.
“This is not about conversations anymore — it is about action. Pushing this two weeks out makes zero sense when we’re talking about the advocacy work and voices of thousands of students on our campus,” Sampath said. “I don’t see how this is going to solve anything when it further perpetuates cyclical advocacy work with absolutely no answers.”
Robalino argued that he could not vote on the newly amended resolution, as he had not had enough time to examine on it.
“I have had class today, I am sure all the other senators have had class today. So what we owe to the student body is to make sure that this is written well, so we can push forward with the goal,” Robalino said. “I understand that a lot of people have labored a lot of time, and effort, and blood and tears, and we are doing [this] out of respect for them.”
The resolution, presented a week ago, became a unifying issue for many student assemblies, which mobilized students to attend last night’s meeting. The Senate will vote on the resolution in two weeks with no further chance of extension. The resolution has already been passed by the Graduate Student Government and the Faculty Senate.
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