USG aims to create welcoming culture

Chief Programming Officer Jessica Minsol Kim presents in front of the USG Senate at the meeting Thursday.
Chief Programming Officer Jessica Minsol Kim announced updates related to the USG programming branch. (Sasha Ryu | Daily Trojan)

During Tuesday’s Senate meeting, the Undergraduate Student Government discussed upcoming assembly and committee social events, including a service festival and a voter registration event, and confirmed their new advocacy liaisons.

At the beginning of the meeting, Chief Programming Officer Jessica Minsol Kim introduced efforts to keep USG’s in-person events compliant with coronavirus policy. 

“A lot of our students are looking for any ways to get involved, so our events are always over capacity,” Kim said. “Not a lot of our events have contributed to spreading [the coronavirus], so we are going to just go ahead and do as [much] outdoor programming as possible.”

During her presentation, Kim announced the Black Student Assembly’s new SCiblings mentorship program for the 2021-2022 school year. Any incoming Black freshmen, transfer students or spring admits who have spent less than two semesters at USC are able to apply to be paired with a “Big SCibling.” 

Kim also discussed the Asian Pacific American Student Assembly’s plans to co-host a mixer with the International Student Assembly next Tuesday. 

In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Kim said she and the other members of APASA hope to continue to use their platform to provide a “healing experience” to Asian and Pacific Islander students coming onto campus in the wake of rising anti-Asian hate crimes that took place throughout the past year. 

“Our whole assembly was definitely grieving for the good part of the year, but it was the most fortunate of the unfortunate situations because we had each other to talk about these things with,” Kim said. “We raised so much money. We connected with so many organizations in [Los Angeles] that are doing things to combat these hate crimes. We posted so many things to help. It was a very heavy semester, but I couldn’t have been more glad that I got the chance to do something, because if I didn’t do all these things, I would just be sad.” 

Sens. Nivea Krishnan and Hunter Hinson also spoke to the Daily Trojan about their plans to create a more welcoming environment for new students on campus. Krishnan and Hinson both sit on USG’s Committee on Affordability and Basic Needs and are currently working with the USC Bookstore and the Student Basic Needs department to launch a textbook aid program for students in need. 

Hinson said he was inspired to work on the project because he experienced difficulties affording textbooks when he first attended USC. 

“[The pandemic] was really hard for my family,” said Hinson, who is a Federal Pell Grant recipient. “I just remember freshman year, having a professor who wrote the textbook himself … and was forcing us to spend $120 each to buy his own textbook, and that seemed like a conflict of interest in a sense, and also a huge chunk of money out of our own wallets that could be used on things like food or clothing or housing. If you can’t afford it, that shouldn’t be something that sets you back, apart from your peers.” 

In addition to working with Hinson on the Affordability and Basic Needs Committee, Krishnan also serves on USG’s COVID-19 and Return to Campus Taskforce. Currently, Krishnan is working to “make student hybrid accommodations in classrooms accessible” and figuring out how to train teachers and teaching assistants. 

“[Teachers and TAs] don’t like waiting for ITS to come and help them with everything, so that’s the main project,” Krishnan said. “I’m trying to get in contact with people at ITS to try and go through them to see if that type of training is feasible and [if] we’re able to construct that.” 

The Senate also unanimously confirmed the nine advocacy liaisons, a brand new position within USG who represents various assemblies within the organization’s new advocacy department. 

“The purpose of advocacy liaisons is to make sure that the type of advocacy and activism that happens outside of USG and within these multicultural assemblies and identity-based assemblies is being heard and represented … in all the legislative and advocacy work USG does,” Chief Diversity Officer Kavita Rai said. “It really is to give a voice to the assemblies and make sure that we really are meeting community needs by having them actively participate in that conversation as it relates to all of our USG advocacy work.”

USG is currently working with the Pacific Islander Student Association, IDEAS at USC, the Environmental Student Assembly and the Native American Student Assembly to recruit four students for available advocacy liaison positions by the end of September.