USG finalizes spring budget, discusses mental health initiative

A photo of a Zoom screen in gallery view, with senators using the raise hand function.
The Spring 2021 Undergraduate Student Government budget is $642,610, and is divided among all of the assemblies and committees under USG. (Nayeon Ryu | Daily Trojan)

The Spring 2021 Undergraduate Student Government budget of $642,610 was approved by a near majority vote during Tuesday’s Senate meeting, making adjustments to the Concerts Committee fund and confirming the Accessibility Fund from last week. Senators also discussed ways to support students affected by the military coup in Myanmar.

Three thousand dollars of the Concerts Committee funds were transferred to the Performing Arts Committee for a sponsorship event, with the latter committee originally receiving no additional funds for the Spring 2021 semester. With the largest allocation of funds, the Concerts Committee is now set to receive $172,000.  

Last week, Chief Programming Officer Jina Hur announced that the Budget Committee met with various programming organizations that specified no need for additional funds. Concerts Committee Co-Director Samantha Gibbs confirmed that funds not used by the committee would be returned to USG and other organizations. 

Nine out of the ten senators voted to approve the amendment, with Sen. Dario Arganese as the lone “no” vote. Despite the opposed vote, the senators met the threshold of seven votes to confirm the amendment.

In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Arganese said his vote was based on ensuring that the Concerts Committee would be able to use the appropriate amount of funds to ensure their events, which are still pending, followed health and safety protocols during the pandemic. However, Arganese said he would have changed his vote had he known the transfer of funds was approved beforehand.

“If I knew [about the transfer] before, I probably would have voted yes,” Arganese said. “Mental health is number one, and I’d love to see any sort of initiative to have some sort of entertainment for students at USC.” 

Speaker of the Senate Ruben Romeo also presented his proposal to address the mental health crisis on campus. One of his solutions included USG and recognized student organizations to use To Be Honest Mental Health, a third party vendor to serve the mental health needs of students. Romeo emphasized that the inclusion of TBH would incentivize recognized student organizations to make student programming more impactful and approachable by prioritizing student well-being “based on identity and lived experiences.”

“[Students] will be paired into sessions with coaches or clinicians … They really get into the application of mental health and thriving in real time,” Romeo said.

Romeo also mentioned the coup crisis affecting Myanmar and encouraged those in attendance to find ways to be helpful, including asking his fellow peers to donate to the “Support the Civil Disobedience Movement in Myanmar” on GoFundMe, created by Civil Disobedience Movement Myanmar. The military coup began Feb. 1, when the country’s military launched an overthrow of and took over the newly elected government and leaders.

USG members have noted the importance of supporting students from inside and outside of Myanmar affected by the situation. Due to the shutdown of financial transactions and the military control of the Internet, students from Myanmar have difficulty paying their tuition statements and doing class assignments.

“Please keep the publicity around the Myanmar crisis that’s happening right now,” Romeo said. “Myanmar is trying to fight for democracy. They won 80% of their election to the party that won, and that person [of the winning party is] detained right now; that democracy is being threatened and people are having trouble fighting against the violent military when they’re protesting peacefully.”

Other members also shared sentiments in solidarity with Burmese students, including Sen. Lennon Wesley III. He noted students who dealt with stresses of college while also being impacted by the situation.

“Anyone with a heart would feel for everything that’s going on in Myanmar, especially students at USC,” said Wesley in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “We’re having to deal with that at the same time. USG has really done a good job being aware and understanding of that situation. And not only having an interest in that issue, but also just kind of making plans to help.”

Vice President Trinity Moore announced that she and Chief Financial Officer Lucille Warren met with the Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX to discuss ways that the office and its services can be “more palpable and more accessible to students.” 

“I’ve been working on the issue of misconduct report systems on our campus since I started my role,” said Warren in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “A lot of this time has been trying to understand the different options that students currently have. … I’ve talked a lot about making training modules part of compliance.”

After Moore’s announcements, Warren provided updates on her projects, such as the creation of a Religious Life Council, a resolution with the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation and a proposal for an Accessibility Cultural Center. She also proposed other initiatives including a Housing Policy Awareness Campaign and settlement promises related to the George Tyndall case.

“With the Tyndall settlement promises, the University made all this list of promises in response to students’ demands saying that these were things that they were going to do,” she said. “However, the transition to online. I think it’s been forgotten about … I think it’s taking a look at that long list and finding ways that we as students as USG can see through some of those promises.”

At the end of the meeting, Chief Communications Officer Shreya Chaudhary announced her nominations for the Spring 2021 creative services director, associate director and assistant director, due to the absence of a director currently. Chaudhary nominated Kros Day, a junior majoring in communication, Gloria Guo, a junior majoring in economics and art and Janelle Elise Hizon, a sophomore majoring in civil engineering, for the respective positions. The Senate will vote on the nominations at next week’s meeting.