USC’s past should inform students in this USG voting cycle

In light of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, let’s reminisce over USC’s ghost of impeachment past — or more specifically, the impeachment that never was. For those who’ve already forgotten: that of the former USG President Truman Fritz. 

Accusations had arisen on the @black_at_usc Instagram page, triggering a formal complaint launched by student activist Abeer Tijani and backed by thousands of student signatures via petition. On the day of his impeachment hearing, Fritz resigned amid numerous allegations of racist conduct. His vice president, Rose Ritch, found by a portion of the student body to be complicit in her colleague’s misconduct, followed him into disgrace just a month later. 

His impeachment was based on violation of USG ethics bylaws, and Tijani’s complaint was submitted following multiple attempts at communication with both Fritz and Ritch. Both resignations were announced via emails to the USC body, where both candidates shied away from any semblance of accountability, hiding behind shields of white guilt. 

Speaker of the Senate Gabe Savage and Sen. Trinity Moore filled the voided seats of USG president and vice president, respectively. And just like that, Fritz was able to avoid the publicity of the impeachment trial — allowed to slink away and his misdeeds to be sweetened by the forgiving honeyed flavor of time and memory.

Lucky for both him and his former VP, at USC there is no punishment for racism. If you think that’s a bold statement, recall the events of the past school year: Black and brown Greek organizations segregated during the 2019 Homecoming Tailgate, the racist meme targeting Latinx residents after the Fluor Tower flooding, the inflammatory messages scrawled on students doors in Nemirovsky and Bohnett Residential College and the administrative resistance against the student-led push for VKC’s name change.

This is not about Fritz, Ritch or even President Carol Folt. The past is dead, the future yet to be conceived. This is about the now. Voting is open today through Feb. 19. To my fellow students: Have you read the candidates’ statements? What are their platforms? Do you know who’s running? 

The last few years have seen a downward trend in voter participation. To combat voter apathy in the 2020 election, USG tried to incentivize students to vote with promises of In-N-Out. While this was an admirable attempt to engage voters, it is ultimately the responsibility of the students to perform their civic duty. 

Unlike the greater country, where voter suppression is a real threat, low voting numbers cannot be linked to systemic voter suppression. Last year, only 23% of the student body voted — look how that turned out. Such a low number, nowhere near majority representation, is almost laughable. Except that students are suffering from it.

USG is structured to mimic the U.S. national government: complete with an executive, legislative and judicial branch. However — unlike the real world — candidates don’t share their political standing — instead masking their ideologies behind keyphrases to get elected. Ultimately, they’re playing house; dressing up as politicians without engaging in actual politics. Let’s take this campaign season as a case study. 

During the USG Presidential Debate — held over Zoom on Feb. 4 — presidential candidate Alexandra Gill introduced herself as an outsider to USG, calling for an end to “career politicians.” This should sound familiar; it was one of Trump’s favorite phrases during his presidential campaign. Now, maybe it’s being unfair likening this candidate to the disgraced former U.S. president. However, I call it like I see it, and I see a reactionary Republican running for student president in response to Trump’s fall from power. 

Last year, the Fritz and Ritch campaign lied to the USC student body. They campaigned on honeyed promises of inclusion and racial awareness; yet in their personal lives, they actively perpetuated the discrimination they claimed to denounce. They might have escaped impeachment, but they must not escape our memory. As members of one of the most prestigious universities in this country, it is within the realm of students’ ability to actively and thoughtfully engage in the sphere of power which dictates the shape of our college experience.

USC is a a primarily white institution. Its structures and history benefit the white and privileged students who make its majority. If no one votes for change, it will not magically occur. Yes, college is a stepping stone, and we’re first and foremost here to get an education, but it’s a stepping stone you’re paying an arm and a leg for. So take advantage of it.