When they begin their term in April, Undergraduate Student Government president-elect Trenton Stone and vice president-elect Mahin Tahsin will take on the responsibility of guiding the student body amidst administrative changes at USC.
Stone and Tahsin will enter their term during a series of changes at the University’s administrative level. Last May, former University president C. L. Max Nikias resigned following the Los Angeles Times’ investigation of former campus gynecologist George Tyndall’s alleged sexual misconduct toward students, which eventually led to the appointment of Interim President Wanda Austin.
“[The greatest issue needing addressing] would be not only the administration but just largely the transition period USC is in right now,” Stone said. “We’re not only missing a president, but we’re going through VP change, cultural changes and overall a renewed look at how this University operates day to day.”
Stone, a sophomore majoring in philosophy and cognitive science, and Tahsin, a junior majoring in business administration and economics, have both worked for USG’s funding department for a few years.
“Mahin and I are used to small organizations,” Stone said. “So moving up to that larger scope will be an interesting perspective to be able to continue the effectiveness of an organization when it’s just much larger.”
Stone says his and Tahsin’s experience as funding directors has enabled them to acknowledge the University’s needs through a more comprehensive lens.
“The funding directors get to see the ins of USG but also the outs of USC,” Stone said. “We get to see what’s going on across campus with a few hundred student organizations … but also get to spend 16 hours in the office every week and see what’s happening in USG.”
Prior to being elected, Stone and Tahsin said that their experiences working in the funding department has helped them cultivate their working dynamic today.
“That momentum will just continue naturally between the two of us,” Stone said. “We understand each other really well, and that’s why we chose each other.”
Stone and Tahsin said they plan to advocate for more student input on a University-wide level by developing a communicative relationship with the administration.
Like current USG president Debbie Lee, Stone said he plans to serve on various University boards and initiatives, such as the new Task Force on University Nomenclature, to ensure student voices are represented.
“There’s a lot of changes going on, and I think right now is such a critical moment for student voices,” Stone said. “Not only to be heard, but to have the opportunity to create a long term commitment to engaging with students and having students on these important decisions.”
As the University continues its period of transformation, the two said they’ll focus on establishing initiatives as permanent fixtures in USC’s structure, including promoting student input, rezoning DPS officers and creating a platform to assist students in accessing University resources.
“Students don’t know how to look for or appropriately utilize [the resources that are available],” Tahsin said. “I think that’s something USC really could, in a very transitional period, make sure [is] enacted well so that it can be a good resource for students moving forward.”
One of the main platform points in Stone and Tahsin’s campaign was establishing a centralized system that enables students to submit questions online and receive answers detailing the resources the University offers, including services, building locations and other miscellaneous information students may need.
“Say an international student can’t find the International Student Resource Center,” Tahsin said. “They can look up ‘where is the International Student Resource Center?’ and it’ll be a like a little answer [such as] ‘it’s in TCC’ or ‘the Student Union.’ ”
Once they start their term, Stone and Tahsin said they will increase funding allocated to student organizations and initiatives. According to Stone, student groups have been denied funding because there were budget cuts to the professional and academic board this academic year, as the demands on USG’s funds often exceed the board’s $60,000 budget.
“I had a couple students that were going to go to Harvard [to] present, and they had to cancel their trips” Stone said. “USC is losing a valuable spot at these conferences. This is just one small example.”
Stone said he plans to address this issue by reallocating USG’s budget. Areas in USG budgeting, including the “few thousands of dollars” spent on USG retreats in the fall and spring, may be reduced and reallocated to other areas that directly serve the general student body, he said.
During their term, Stone and Tahsin said they’ll also push for a rezoning of DPS officers to reach areas students reside in that are not already covered, so that all students living off-campus will be guaranteed safety.
“If you go to Vermont and 37th St., you can never find a DPS officer there, and there’s students living there, as well,” Tahsin said. “I think it’s important to reevaluate where students are spread out around campus … and how they need DPS support to feel like they have a safe space within this USC vicinity, as well.”
As of now, Stone and Tahsin have been creating applications for students to fill their administration, including positions such as the treasurer, chief of staff and senior director of communications.
“I’m really excited to hire the next student body representatives because I think that’s what makes USG,” Tahsin said. “That’s what kept me coming back for three years. I’m hopeful to hire people that will create that experience for more people.”
While Tahsin said taking on the roles of vice president and president will be time consuming, she said she believes her and Stone’s commitment will push them to continue working toward their goals for the University.
“Our campaigning itself has very much demonstrated our work ethic and how we … hold ourselves accountable,” Tahsin said. “I don’t think that will in any way fade over the course of the year because that’s very central to who we are. That’s why we work so well.”