Native American Student Assembly officially incorporated into USG, pair of resolutions passed

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Undergraduate Student Government also passed the Divest SC resolution to continue the environmental organization’s campaign to urge USC to divest from fossil fuel energy and reinvest in clean and renewable alternatives. (Nayeon Ryu | Daily Trojan)

The Undergraduate Student Government voted to pass the Native American Student Assembly vote of confidence results during Tuesday night’s Senate meeting, thereby officially incorporating the assembly following a successful trial period that ran over the course of the fall semester. USG also passed the Transfer Student Assembly Resolution, which formally incorporates the assembly pending a successful trial period and vote of confidence, along with the DivestSC Resolution, which calls on USC to publicly commit to a transparent and rapid divestment from the fossil fuel industry. 

NASA’s incorporation into USG has been years in the making. USG was first asked to consider incorporating the new assembly in 2018 but opted not to because the prospective assembly lacked the five umbrella student organizations to operate underneath the assembly that were needed to qualify for incorporation. Last spring, a resolution was passed that allowed 50 undergraduate student signatures for NASA to qualify for incorporation. 

Now, following a successful trial period and a vote of confidence from both the programming board and Senate, NASA’s directors are ready to expand on the progress they’ve made.

“[We want to] expose the greater USC community to Native American culture, the diversity of it, the richness of it,” said Kolton Nephew, a junior majoring in journalism and NASA co-director. “Basically, just to educate the greater community of who we are, where we come from and what we stand for.”

Maracea Chase, a junior majoring in cinema and media studies, co-directs NASA along with Nephew and emphasized the significance of the assembly’s incorporation into USG. 

“So many [Native Americans] don’t get the opportunity to go and get a higher education, they don’t get the opportunities that we do for multiple reasons,” Chase said. “Just being able to sit here and say that we advocated for something and we have a space that students can look forward to — that they can get off the reservation, they can come and get higher education, they can attend the prestigious university like USC and they have the community behind them to support them while they’re there — I think it’s amazing.”

Aside from the tangible programming opportunities that the assembly will now be able to provide, its incorporation also grants a sense of acknowledgment to USC’s Native American students that both Nephew and Chase believe is incredibly important. 

“When people don’t acknowledge your existence, they don’t acknowledge the rest of you as a whole,” Nephew said. “I’ve had occurrences with my peers and fellow USC faculty that lead into little microaggressive things just because they did not understand and even acknowledge that we even still exist … being in a community, in an environment that does not acknowledge your existence plays into the different stereotypes and different microaggressions as a whole.”

The Senate also voted to pass the DivestSC resolution, which, in addition to calling on USC to divest from the fossil fuel industry, also calls on University administration to reinvest clean technologies and renewable energy while considering climate risk in its investment strategy. 

DivestSC is a student-led campaign that pressured the University to disclose its $277 million investment in the fossil fuel industry last January. For years, the campaign has urged USC to be more transparent with its investments in the industry and adopt cleaner investment practices. The campaign also hopes to get the resolution passed by the Graduate Student Government and the Faculty Senate as part of a broader effort to persuade USC to divest.

“The resolutions themselves are designed to just affirm support,” said Nathaniel Hyman, a senior majoring in public policy who co-chairs Divest SC. “We just want the faculty, the undergrads and the graduates on the record in support of this ask. It makes it more likely that the University will have to actually grapple with the issue and we believe that if they grapple with it, they’ll see the logic in the ask.”

In response to potential concerns regarding whether or not USC should prioritize divestment in light of other pressing issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, a senior majoring in psychology who co-chairs DivestSC with Hyman, said that focusing on divestment need not come at the expense of other pressing priorities. 

“USC has a lot of money … which means that how it chooses to invest that matters and that it affects all of the other aspects of our life, from health, to equity, justice,” Shaw-Wakeman said. “So therefore, it’s not that divestment and  reinvestment is [more important than] working on solving these public health crises or instead of working on matters DEI. Instead, it matters in conjunction with those things — it’s all related and that it’s all connected.”

The 2021 elections code for the upcoming election cycle was presented at the end of the meeting. No new articles were added to the code, however, some changes to the code were made. Among these changes were the Wellness Initiative Pact and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiative. The Wellness Pact requires candidates to attend an hour-long wellness workshop hosted by USC Student Health Center prior to election season. The DEI Initiative requires candidates to attend a workshop and sign a pact recognizing their responsibility to “create and advocate for a more equitable and inclusive environment that benefits the entire student body.”. 

All forms of physical campaigning will be prohibited — including handouts, stickers, T-shirts or any physical items endorsing a candidate or ticket — but digital campaigning will be allowed.