USG amends internal affairs office manual

Professional staff will review complaints alongside the chief diversity officer.

Students follow the meeting agenda on their laptops as the projector screen experiences technical difficulties. (Sara Ruiz / Daily Trojan)

The Undergraduate Student Government Senate met Tuesday night to discuss the amendment of SB 143-09 regarding the office policy manual on the Office Relationships, Conduct and Actions team. ORCA manages interpersonal conflicts in USG. The bill was presented by chief of staff David Martinez to address previous discussions regarding the involvement of members of pro staff.

A subsection of the previous manual required ORCA to notify pro-staff of their intended approach toward reviewing complaints. Senator AnnaOlivia Schwedt opposed the amendment and said the USG Bylaws and Constitution acknowledge that prostaff will be involved when processing reports but will only be involved after an initial review from the member of the ORCA team. 

Instead, Schwedt said prostaff should review these records from the beginning to ensure confidentiality and avoid implicit biases. Martinez said the pro staff is already involved in the handling of reports initially and thinks that amending the bill accordingly would be valid.

Senator Brandon Tavakoli said the composition of the ORCA team, which is made up of senior USG members such as the president, vice president, and chief of staff, can intimidate junior members when reporting concerns. This could create a conflict of interest, he said.

“It’s important when creating these types of human resource groups that there is a level of independence and separation and I don’t think that this rendition has that,” Tavakoli said.

Martinez responded to Tavakoli’s concern and said the structure of hierarchy within ORCA is there for a reason and separate procedures can be taken to address concerns with officers.  Martinez said he did not see the necessity for Tavakoli’s concern to be addressed through ORCA because the bill contains a clause that would recuse officers if concerns involve them. 

Vice president Michelle Lu said if there is a conflict with certain members of USG, there are other officers that students could go to in order to file complaints beside ORCA. 

“Involving more people could increase the chances of word getting out [or] a situation not being confidential,” Lu said. In response,Tavakoli concluded that no amendment was needed.

Schwedt shifted the discussion back to the original concern regarding the order of the process in which complaints are reviewed and wanted to potentially pose an amendment as “complaints must be reviewed by a member of pro staff prior to or alongside the chief diversity officer.” 

Schwedt also motioned to add another bullet point stating that “complaints must be reviewed by a member of pro staff alongside the chief diversity officer.” The amendment was then ratified with only one vote against it.

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