Letter to the Editor: USG Elections, the only time of year that Black students matter

Taylor Clanton currently holds office as the Black Student Assembly’s Advocacy Liaison for the 2022-2023 school year. These are her opinions as an individual, not the opinions of the USC Black Student Assembly nor the Undergraduate Student Government. 

The Undergraduate Student Government proves once again that Black students only matter when candidates are vying to be elected. 

For those who do not know, the USG Legislative Branch has an Advocacy Department. The department holds 15 advocacy liaisons, each one a representative of a different cultural assembly. But, this department is also the reason why there is a fallacy of diversity within USG. 

One change to the Advocacy Department this year was more collaboration with the Legislative Branch, which is composed of senators and committee chairs. In order to do this, each week, advocacy liaisons and senators were tasked with organizing coffee chats with each other. The point was to discuss projects, let senators hear what our communities wanted or needed and just get to know each other. 

It is important to note, though, that a majority of the time the responsibility for scheduling these coffee chats has fallen on the advocacy liaisons rather than the senators, as they refused to reach out to advocacy liaisons — especially most of the senators currently running in the 2023-2024 USG election. Most of the time, coffee chats did not happen if advocacy liaisons were unwilling to take on the uneven burden of reaching out to senators. Oftentimes when advocacy liaisons did reach out, they were met with no reply at all or delayed replies that only led to the meeting being canceled. 

Sadly, the majority of the senators that truly put in the work to communicate with advocacy liaisons and hear about their projects are not running for executive positions. But, at the end of the day, where did that work really lead us? I never met with each of those Senators more than once, and none showed interest in helping the projects that required heavy lifting for the Black community. 

Fast forward to the Presidential Debate on Feb. 16. We got a chance to hear the candidates talk about a range of different issues — issues that affect the Black community — but each seemed to miss the intersectionality of these topics. They talked about sexual assault and fraternities, but there were no conversations on how this disproportionately impacts Black women. They talked about food insecurity, but there was nothing about how Black students are disproportionately impacted. There were comments on affordability, sustainability, funding and much more but it took explicit questions to be posed about the Black community for candidates to talk about them. 

It begs the question, did candidates not talk about the issues facing Black students because they are unaware or because they just did not care? If they did not know about them, all it would have taken was a conversation with me — or really any member of the Black Student Assembly — to shed some light on these issues. If it was the latter, and they simply do not care, then that is even more concerning, as all the candidates except one slate reached out to BSA to campaign to our members. 

Each slate embodies the performative action USG has consistently taken to support the Black community. Almost all of these slates asked for and were granted the opportunity to come to BSA to present their campaigns on Feb. 13. For each, this was either their first or second time coming to BSA. For those with two times under their belt, both were campaign-related. 

At the Presidential Debate, when specifically asked about how they have supported Black students on campus in the past and how that would transition into their support as President and Vice President, none of the candidates were able to provide substantive answers. Almost every answer incorporated some extent of listening to the Black community, but their actions and relationship with BSA prove otherwise. They are interested in “conversations” a week before voting starts, but it all goes radio silent once voting closes. The slates boast about the feedback and conversations they have had with Registered Student Organizations, but this only makes me more concerned. Is BSA not worth receiving the same attention? Is it because Black students on this campus are an extremely small number? Is it because BSA cannot endorse candidates? 

The candidates that are not currently serving as USG Senators scream and shout that other tickets should not use BSA as a means to win the election, but are implicitly doing the same thing. They talk about uplifting the Black community through attending our events, yet lack actual steps to make Black students on this campus feel more welcome — or even safe. All the candidates threw around the phrase “Black Lives Matter” without any actionable steps to make this school better for Black students. It’s disheartening to say the least.

A message for all the slates: The Black community does not solely exist from 6-7 p.m. on Mondays. It is not just the CBCSA. And it, for sure, is not only a community during election season. With your lack of communication and action, you have illustrated that you do not care about the Black community, but rather see us as a way to get elected. 

We have seen this neglect in most of their senatorial careers. We see it in how they answer questions. While it is crystal clear to me, I fear the USC community does not see this performative action, and I fear the candidates themselves do not see it. The only people that probably see this are Black students that constantly deal with these issues. 

Are any of these candidates willing to do the inner work to change this? Are they aware of their own biases to even keep it in check? To recognize their part in hurting Black students on this campus? Or will this get swept under the rug again as we elect our next USG President and Vice President?