LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Conversation on diversity resolution must be constructive

Social media has lit up in the last 48 hours regarding the Campus Climate Resolution, and after taking some time to collect my thoughts, I’ve decided to weigh in as a member of the student body who cares about seeing change on this campus.

On the whole, the resolution is unquestionably a good thing. Discrimination is alive and well at USC. And this bill is a step in the right direction.

Providing increased funding for cultural resources as well as scholarships and fellowships is undoubtedly a good change. Some have expressed concerns about the cost, especially the eye-popping $100 million endowment target. Though I think this is ambitious, I also can think of nowhere better for endowed funds to go than directly toward student resources and undergraduate scholarships. Moreover, ensuring that there is a clear avenue for Title IX reporting is a good thing. Holding the University accountable for its analytics and reporting on diversity is a good thing. And requiring improvements on our recruiting, yield and retention of disadvantaged students are all good things.

I do have concerns regarding the resolution as well. First, with respect to funding, it’s hard for me to ever argue that dollars should ever get in the way of proper resources for students. But when USC continually underpays its employees, underfunds Student Affairs and hemorrhages talented, dedicated staff members at a rate so alarming that I don’t recognize a single face in Student Affairs from when I came here four years ago, I believe a larger conversation needs to be held. That’s not to say that expanding cultural resources or installing a vice dean in each school is by any means a bad thing — however, without a clear funding source and a larger conversation about student affairs funding in general, I am reticent to expect meaningful action by President C. L. Max Nikias or the Board of Trustees when the resolution is presented.

Second, the language of the resolution mandating enrollment of underrepresented populations to be competitive with peer institutions raises questions not because of the goal — which I wholly support — but because of its language. On any issue that runs tangent to affirmative action or admission quotas there are a litany of laws and Supreme Court decisions to consider. Granted, this is a complicated legal issue which and one that may be better left to the University’s General Counsel as this resolution moves up the chain of command. However, as it is such a complicated and semantic matter, I am more than willing to excuse the senators who wanted a little more time to research it.

And at the end of the day, I believe the majority of hesitation to this resolution comes down to semantics. And that’s OK. Semantics matter, and they aren’t a reason this resolution should never be passed. But they’re a reason it’s OK to tap the brakes and take a week or two to pore over the language. After all, this resolution is monumental. This resolution is making change at USC, and this resolution should be scrutinized. That’s a good thing. It means it matters.

On this note, a lot of criticism has been thrown at Undergraduate Student Government senators for opting to push a vote until their next meeting. This frustration is understandable — many are angry about the current state of affairs and excited about change. But so too is a desire on the part of the senators to make sure they agree wholeheartedly with every letter of a document they are permanently stamping their name and seal of approval on. A vote to push the bill is not a cold calculated filibuster, but rather a desire to perfect a resolution that will — hopefully — change USC for the better.

Finally, I would like to turn my attention to the calls for impeachment of both USG President Rini Sampath and the senators. I am frustrated by the complaints that the senators are elected unopposed. That’s true, but when students decry them for voting with their beliefs, they also indict every single undergraduate who decided not to run. Senators put in hundreds of hours a semester to make this University a better place, and a call to impeach them now is an admission that the rest of campus failed to take elections seriously in February.

Similarly, while I certainly didn’t appreciate President Sampath joining in on chants to impeach the senators Tuesday night, any calls for her impeachment are equally childish and unmerited. The student body was loud and clear in electing Sampath, and she has done nothing but advocate for students. It is refreshing, after watching the University administration use smoke, mirrors and town halls to create the illusion of change, to have our USG president take an issue head on and create policy rather than rhetoric.

In the coming weeks, our campus will be alight with conversation about the resolution, and rightfully so. It’s time to make change, but I am hopeful that the conversation will be constructive and civil rather than stubborn and held via Yik Yak. I look forward to the Senate drafting a version of the resolution they can pass and the student body backing them in that effort.

Ehren Elder

Senior majoring in economics and philosophy, politics, law


This post has been updated for style and clarity.