Areias, Warren, new cabinet sworn into office

: Concerns were raised and discussed over the newly-appointed Chief of Staff, former Senator Max Gomez, after alleged misuse of his senatorial office during the 2021 USG presidential campaigns.  (Michael Melinger | Daily Trojan)

Alexis Areias and Lucy Warren were sworn as the 2021-22 Undergraduate Student Government president and vice president, respectively, at Tuesday’s Senate meeting. Their tenure begins just over a month after they won the election with 53.9% of the vote. 

Chief Justice of the USC Judicial Council Ben Morain also swore in the 12 newly elected senators alongside Areias and Warren. 

Areias and Warren did not deliver an inaugural address, opting to share a video statement at a future date. When making the announcement for not delivering an address after being sworn in, Areias cited the length of the final 140th Senate meeting, which ran about an hour and a half.

During the final open forum of the 140th Senate on April 6, several students expressed concerns over the newly appointed chief of staff, former Sen. Max Gomez. Antonio Okeke, who ran against Areias and Warren, spoke out against Gomez’s nomination to the position, saying that he misused his senatorial office by communicating with 2021 USG candidates. 

According to the USG Elections Commission’s hearing verdict Feb. 18, the case — brought on by Safal Mengi, campaign manager for the Shreya Chaudhary and Okeke ticket — alleged that Gomez and Sen. Ruben Romeo used their senatorial platforms to influence students to vote for the Areias and Warren ticket. The case further alleged the winning presidential candidates knew of the infraction. Gomez was found to have violated election code IV.E.1. and sanctioned by the Commission, including recusing himself from USG election matters during his former senatorial term.

Okeke’s concerns were first addressed by Alyssa Delarosa, a junior majoring in psychology, who ignited the discussion on this topic during open forum. 

“[The student body doesn’t] trust someone who was gifted such an incredible opportunity and privilege as a USG senator and then decides that their position doesn’t even matter enough for them to uphold basic integrity, basic honesty and integrity,” Delarosa said about Gomez’s election violation.

Anna Rodriguez, a member of the Elections Commission, responded to these claims, saying that the sanctions implemented by the Commission were “to prevent Senator Gomez from impacting the 2021 USG elections any more than had already occurred.” 

“The intentions behind our original sanctions were not set in place to prohibit Senator Gomez from seeking future office in USG, as that would be a clear violation of our goals to act with fairness and morale,” Rodriguez said. 

The concerns raised against Gomez were further addressed during the USG Cabinet Officer appointments during Tuesday’s meeting. Delarosa and Okeke were yielded time by senators to speak again on Gomez’s actions during the election and his appointment to chief of staff. Areias and Warren both responded, with Areias acknowledging her friendship with Gomez predating USG.

“Alexis and I are two different people, and we’re both making [Gomez’s] nomination,” Warren said. “I really truly believe we’ve found the best candidates, and we will create the USG I know that we have preached through our time as candidates.”

Following discussion, the USG Cabinet passed, including Gomez’s nomination, with nine votes in favor and former Sens. Areias and Gomez abstaining. 

Unfinished business for the 140th Senate included addressing the Resolution for Dining Hall and Food Waste and the Gatekeeper Training Resolution, both passing unanimously after undergoing several clerical, grammatical and minor amendments. 

Following inauguration, newly elected senators began working on their first items of new business for the 141st Senate, including seven legislative branch appointments and the Kosher Dining Resolution, which looks to offer an equitable kosher dining plan to USC students.