USG discusses commuter hub

Tommy Nguyen stands in front of a screen that displays his projects.
Senator Tommy Nguyen introduced his main project of the semester, a hub for commuter students that would provide a space for them to rest. (Lilly Tung | Daily Trojan)

Content warning: This article contains references to sexual assault and violence.

The Undergraduate Student Government discussed a new commuter hub project and advocacy efforts, including making business attire more accessible to students and reviving the Trojan Food Pantry, during the senate meeting Tuesday.

In his presentation, senator Tommy Nguyen introduced his plans to create a hub for commuter students on campus that will provide them with a private space to rest and stay overnight, as well as a storage space. 

“There’s a large portion of USC students that are commuter students, and the pandemic has really redefined what it means to attend college,” Nguyen said. “A lot of students have decided to take the route of being a commuter student, and they should have the same access and rights of students who live on campus in terms of … having a space for themselves to decompress, relax and find community.” 

Nguyen met with Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs Emily Sandoval last week to discuss the project, which is modeled after UCLA’s Bruin Hub — a program created for “students with long and extreme commutes and students experiencing housing insecurity,” according to the Bruinhub website.

Nguyen said their “main priority” is to create an overnight pod space for students next semester.

Nguyen also discussed the “consulting, supportive role” USG has taken in assisting the Middle-Eastern North African Student Association in pursuing recognition as a student assembly. 

“There’s a lot of benefits to being an assembly. Funding is a big one, and also recognition on behalf of the University,” Nguyen said. “They’re absolutely an important community that we want to feel supported and acknowledged, so that’s the plan for next semester, for them to go through the recognition process and be approved.” 

Senator Hunter Hinson also provided updates on his advocacy projects, including a push to provide business attire to students in need during the fall semester. Hinson said that, although the Career Center and JC Penney offer a reduced price sale on business attire in the spring, there is no equivalent during the fall semester. 

“For students in the fall, when they’re really coming into campus and they have interviews and recruiting or other things, [the spring sale] may not necessarily be super beneficial for them,” Hinson said. “We’re trying to set up a lot of different avenues where we can address this gap in accessible and cheap business attire.” 

Hinson also mentioned the Trojan Food Pantry, which has faced “some difficulty getting up and running” following a lack of staffing and physical space. The former Trojan Food Pantry’s physical space was renovated during the pandemic, and will not be finished until 2022, Hinson said. To remedy this, Hinson is looking to implement other solutions, including reaching out to USC Hospitality to provide a long-term option for food insecure students. 

“Right now, Student Basic Needs is providing emergency meal swipes to students,” Hinson said. “I don’t think it would be a huge burden on [USC] Hospitality for them to add a few students who are food insecure and really need food assistance.” 

Hinson then discussed his actions in response to reports of sexual assault and drugging at the Sigma Nu Fraternity house and other fraternities, including attending student-led protests, holding conversations with friends and other members of USG and conducting research on sexual assault at USC and at other colleges. The Department of Public Safety reported seven incidents of sexual assault and drugging – six at Sigma Nu and one at an undisclosed location – on Oct. 20. Since then, multiple additional reports of sexual assault and drugging have been reported at other locations on and off the Row. 

Hinson encouraged meeting attendees to go to an upcoming protest led by Concerned Faculty and the Student Coalition Against Sexual Violence. The protest, scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday, will take place in front of Bovard. 

Nguyen also mentioned his desire to work on an initiative towards dismantling toxic masculinity following the reports. 

“I believe that [toxic masculinity] is very intersecting with sexual assault and sexual violence that is happening not only at USC but in college campuses and everywhere around the world,” Nguyen said. “It’s an important conversation and something that hasn’t really been discussed, and something that I really hope we can implement.” 

Chief diversity officer Kavita Rai also provided updates on her projects, including incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion questions on end of semester course evaluations and creating a centralized reporting system for the University.

“I’ve been able to meet with [Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer Christopher] Manning and have been having some really cool meetings about what centralized reporting could look like, collaborations with [Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Services], so I’m really excited to get involved with that,” Rai said. 

After the presentations, the senate approved the hiring of Alexis Gosselin Escamilla, a junior majoring in communication, and Jesse Zhang, a senior majoring in biochemistry and philosophy, to the Elections Commission. 

The commission also provided updates to the Elections Code for the 2022 cycle, which begins with intent to run applications opening Nov. 19. 

At the end of the meeting, chief financial officer Adenike Makinde announced the nomination of Juliana Badra, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and technology commercialization, for assistant director of the performing in visual arts, cultural fund and startup fund. The senate will vote on Badra’s nomination at the next meeting.