USG proposes spring budget, new Accessibility Fund

The USG budget, created by Chief Financial Officer Zach Taymuree, has a total allocation of $642,610, and determines the funding for USG-affiliated assemblies and committees. (Michael Melinger | Daily Trojan)

Undergraduate Student Government Vice President Trinity Moore introduced the Spring 2021 budget, used to fund several USG needs as well as various University-wide programs, during Tuesday’s Senate meeting. The only scheduled new business on the meeting’s agenda, USG’s semester’s budget has a total allocation of $642,610, with a majority being allocated to the Concerts Committee.

USG Chief Financial Officer Zach Taymuree constructed the budget with the assistance of other executive level staff and extensive consultations with organizations considered for budget allocations.

Prior to the budget’s formal introduction, discussion erupted regarding the allocation of funds to various programming committees such as the Concerts Committee. On the proposed budget, the Concerts Committee is slated to receive $175,000, an increase from $95,000 last semester and the largest line item on the budget.

Last fall, the Concerts Committee had a portion of their budget reappropriated due to rising need elsewhere and a smaller USG budget, but maintained a strong demand for the funds, citing expensive production costs despite the pandemic.

However, students such as Alyssa Delarosa, were quick to express discontent at this line item, bringing up the inappropriateness of these allocations in light of a time where students are subjected to tuition increases and financial aid reductions on top of other potential hardships due to the coronavirus.

“We’re in a pandemic. We’re all online right now, so we just don’t understand all the money [going] towards concerts,” said Delarosa, a junior majoring in psychology. “That doesn’t make any sense. We just really want transparency on where that money’s going.”

Samantha Gibbs, Concerts Committee co-director and a senior majoring in communication, said that the committee expects to use “a large sum” of the budget and any unused funds will be returned back to USG. 

“It is always an issue of optics, regardless of the fact that we are currently in a pandemic,” Gibbs said. “Concerts [Committee] gets a lot of money, a lot more than other people … but anyway we can support the other committees and support them in their endeavors, we’re also willing to do so.”

While Concerts Committee’s funding will increase with the new budget, several other organizations will receive no additional funding, including the Queer and Ally Student Assembly, Service Student Assembly, Performing Arts Committee and Speakers Committee. This move comes largely after one-on-one conversations between all programming organizations, several specifying no need for additional funding. 

A new Accessibility Fund was also added to the budget. Taymuree, who created the fund, said he hopes USG uses a portion of the money to aid students in need of DACA renewals, something he claimed workers from the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life have paid for out of their own pockets in the past.

“Accessibility is a very broad term,” said Taymuree, a junior majoring in mathematics and economics. “We purposely made it that way. It’s really how you interpret it; it could be institutional access or it could be literal access.”

The Spring 2021 budget will be open for formal senatorial debate next week, and a vote will follow. It is expected to pass without any major amendments.

“The budget is constructed in a way so as to create a maximal impact on the student body in the ways the executive cabinet sees fit,” Taymuree said. “People have their experiences defined by the things we fund at USG.”

Following the budget introduction, Thuwati Aung, a senior majoring in business administration and accounting, made a statement regarding the political coup in Myanmar and its effects on USC students. According to the Associated Press, Myanmar’s military gained control of the state Monday, during it’s one-year state of emergency and with reports stating the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior politicians had been detained.  Aung explained the need to consider several accommodating policies, including potentially providing affected students with disability needs, class accommodations and mental health support.

“We want USC to make a public statement to raise awareness around this issue, just something saying they care about their Burmese Trojans,” Aung said.