The Daily Trojan endorses Feighery & Ka
CORRECTION – Thursday, Feb. 16, 4:27 p.m. PST
The original version of this piece incorrectly asserted that candidates Divya Jakatdar and Michelle Lu had failed to respond to the Editorial Board’s question regarding sustainability, writing “the Jakatdar-Lu ticket did not address sustainability in any fashion — off-putting, since our interviews included a question directly about the subject.” In fact, though the Board intended to ask each ticket the same set of questions, it mistakenly neglected to ask the Jakatdar-Lu ticket its question about sustainability. Since publication, Jakatdar indicated to the Editor-in-Chief that she and Lu would have discussed sustainability had they been asked to or had their interview not overrun the Board’s allotted time. Though this correction does not change the Board’s endorsement decision, voters should be made aware of this mistake, and should refer to the ticket’s complete platform on the USG website for more information. The editorial staff sincerely regrets this error.
Responsible for representing the student body’s opinions and bridging the gap between students and administration, the role of Undergraduate Student Government president and vice president is no small job.
Last election, the Daily Trojan broke tradition by choosing not to endorse a USG presidential and vice presidential ticket. The Spring 2022 Editorial Board — a diverse, sequestered panel of Daily Trojan staffers and editors not affiliated with the paper’s impartial news coverage — wrote that, after interviewing each candidate, they found none able to offer concrete plans toward improvement.
This year, the Spring 2023 Daily Trojan Editorial Board was satisfied to find a ticket that would represent not only the core values of the student body, but also the desire to improve how USG functions internally. For these reasons, the Editorial Board has decided to endorse presidential candidate Aidan Feighery and vice presidential candidate Ashley Ka.
Candidates’ Perspectives & Platforms
In separate interviews with the Daily Trojan Editorial Board, the five executive tickets shared their perspectives on the responsibilities of their roles and explained their platforms in greater detail. The candidates — Miko Mariscal and Andrew Taw, Devin Ayala and Navya Singh, Aidan Feighery and Ashley Ka, Yoav Gillath and Monica Rodriguez and Divya Jakatdar and Michelle Lu — all seemed to acknowledge USG’s institutional flaws and inconsistent relationship with the student body. However, some responses were more lackluster than others.
The Mariscal-Taw ticket was the first to be interviewed. Before being asked, the ticket addressed the Editorial Board’s concerns regarding the USG budget. Taw questioned the challenges that come with accessing resources, emphasizing the ticket’s desire to “eliminat[e] all of that yellow tape surrounding how to access [funds].” With Mariscal and Taw both expressing a strong passion for community outreach and holding a variety of roles within campus organizations, the ticket was a strong contender for our endorsement.
Mariscal, a South Los Angeles native, described the impact USC had on her community; teaching assistants, she noted, would visit her schools and provide her the opportunity to tour universities across California. Mariscal and Taw explicitly showed their care for the Trojan community as well as the surrounding South L.A. area, but the Editorial Board was left unsatisfied with the scope of their proposals. Beyond “support, support, support,” what did the ticket possess that pre-existing RSOs aren’t already providing? Shouldn’t the role of USG president and vice president be about more than just support?
The Ayala-Singh ticket spoke on initiatives that stemmed from their motto of “Equity, Transparency, Advocacy” — or ETA. But despite being able to consolidate their platform into an acronym, their platform can only be described as unfocused and incomplete. Many of the main goals for their campaign were restoring old initiatives such as a 24-hour Starbucks, or suggesting projects that already exist on campus — such as an LAX shuttle — rather than creating new ones.
Out of the five tickets, Feighery and Ka possessed the most realistic, rational and believable platform. Many of their proposed policies, were they elected, seem feasible and would have measurable outcomes. Their communication in explaining their thought process was also clear and concise: “We also think that USG should really be a body that reaches out actively to different RSOs to actively get student feedback,” Ka said. “Rather than being a system where RSOs have to go to USG to apply for funding, we want to implement a more effective RSO outreach program.”
The duo’s chemistry and sincerity throughout the interview stood out among the five tickets, catching the Editorial Board’s attention and giving the Board a bit more optimism that policies would truly be carried out.
Gillath and Rodriguez felt that they were most equipped to bring back the single-rider Fryft system, and also wanted to expand Fryft into new areas like Koreatown and DTLA. While it was a nice gesture, and one that many would enjoy, it doesn’t seem feasible. In contrast, the Jakatdar-Lu ticket claimed that they are the only presidential ballot to have worked on reverting back to the single-ride model for Fryft.
The two tickets, while seemingly having so much to say regarding their policies, often failed to directly answer the Board’s questions. They lacked the ability to explain — and critique — structures and processes within USG, and instead seemed more interested in providing promises of expensive projects like fingerprint ID cards and medical vending machines (ideas of the Jakatdar-Lu ticket) or performative initiatives such as giving sunscreen out to those at Skid Row (an idea of the Gillath-Rodriguez ticket).
Student Outreach & Community
A primary focus of Feighery and Ka’s campaign was the prevention of sexual assault in the USC community. In the wake of several fraternities choosing to disaffiliate from the University this year, Feighery and Ka want to implement more extensive affirmative consent training modules as a part of freshman orientation and better amplify Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention trainings as a resource for all organizations that throw large social gatherings.
The pair admitted their limited power in reversing the University’s move to a shared Lyft model, which had been a single-ride system over the pandemic until the beginning of this semester. To improve the current program, which has seen many users experience delays in rides, the duo aims to propose a $150 credit to be distributed to users for single rides to complement the unlimited shared rides that the University offers.
In an effort to reach out to the student body, Feighery and Ka propose to reform USG culture so that there is more open communication between USG and the student body. The ticket also wants USG to actively reach out to different RSOs to collaborate in getting feedback from students since they are more likely to voice concerns to their respective RSOs. The ticket believes that by working in good faith, they can promote a more inclusive USC community.
As an editorial board, we believe that USG’s decision to dismantle the Green Engagement Fund was a grave error. Our endorsement for Feighery and Ka reflects much on Feighery’s dissenting position and accompanying statement condemning the broken system that disallowed senators to garner enough information to be able to take action on such an impactful change. Mariscal and Taw, the only ticket without a senatorial background, also expressed their ability to speak on the intersectionality of the matter. While they acknowledged the subject, the Ayala-Singh and Gillath-Rodriguez tickets left room for growth in their responses.
Working within a broken system
We believe that USG lacks transparency in maintaining the Legislative Branch Project Tracker listed on their website. For example, if a project is incomplete, students deserve a meaningful explanation as to why. More details should be provided in order to create a process in which students — involved in USG or not — can engage with projects.
Regarding budgeting, we ask for more transparency during the process of RSOs completing funding requests. We believe Feighery and Ka will do their best to ensure funding becomes more transparent and dispersed equitably.
USG should maintain more awareness of the vast breadth of USC’s student body; not every student can allocate extra time to engage with USG. In addition to weekly office hours, USG should create internal structures which encourage — and perhaps require — representatives to check in with different communities. But this only works if representatives actually show up for students. The responsibility lies upon USG leaders to reach out, not the students themselves. No group on campus should be left in the dark.
With Ka bringing an outside perspective, this Editorial Board hopes that the attitude in USG will shift, as new input will be available from a candidate not shaped by previous semesters as an official.
Call to action
Among all five candidates campaigning for the election, it was made evident that there is a unanimous desire to reform the way USG serves the student body, and every ticket discussed a major restructuring in the way the organization approaches making change. Candidates spoke of hostile working environments within the organization that has corrupted its focus on serving the student body at large. The Daily Trojan hopes the coming administration will remember their role within the University and not let interpersonal relationships derail efforts in creating meaningful change.
A lack of efficiency and effectiveness has remained an issue within the organization, and we hope students consider a candidate with clear, outlined goals that are attainable and realistic. We understand that USG has limited power over University action, but their hefty stipend suggests they should be getting more work done. We believe that the Feighery and Ka ticket outlines an appropriate amount of attainable goals for their prospective term.
While our endorsement was decided upon after extensive research and interviews with each of the candidates, we urge the student body to conduct their own research and critically analyze each candidate’s platforms. This endorsement was decided upon prior to the USG election debate at 7 p.m. Thursday (tonight, at the date of publication), to which we urge students to closely pay attention in their decision-making process.
The Daily Trojan pledges to hold whoever is elected accountable for campus-wide problems and any shortcomings upon which they seek to improve — and those they create themselves. We are only aware of each candidate’s executive aspirations; it will be up to those elected to prove themselves through actions, decisions and behaviors that are worthy of the appointment.
The Spring 2023 Daily Trojan Editorial Board — composed of three managing editors, three senior editors and three staff writers, all of whom represent various identities, disciplines and years at USC — conducted interviews with each of the five executive tickets. Members of the Editorial Board did not participate in any news-related coverage of the USG election cycle, nor are directly involved in the Spring 2023 news section’s impartial coverage. The Editorial Board framed each interview around the same questionnaire composed of questions on timely topics at USC, with follow-up questions allowed afterward.