The Daily Trojan endorses Fernandez and Sanchez

The Daily Trojan Spring 2024 Editorial Board interviewed and evaluated each of the four executive tickets.

(Henry Kofman / Daily Trojan)

At a time when the lack of communication and clarity between the student body and the Undergraduate Student Government is a significant issue, the responsibilities and obligations of the body’s leadership are more important than ever. The USG president and vice president must act as fierce advocates for undergraduate students and conduits of the largest concerns within the student body. It is thus imperative that they possess a myriad of skills related to communication, sensitivity and leadership.

In the upcoming USG election, running from Feb. 20 to Feb. 23, students can vote between four different tickets to determine undergraduate student body representatives for the 2024-25 academic year. Results will be certified March 6.

As the paper does yearly, the Daily Trojan has convened an Editorial Board for the Spring 2024 semester. The board includes editors and staffers from across the paper’s sections and lies unaffiliated from the rest of the paper’s impartial coverage of news. Given the pragmatism, experience and candor that have shone throughout their campaign, the Editorial Board has decided to endorse Bryan Fernandez and Brianna Sanchez for USG president and vice president, respectively.

Candidates’ perspectives and platforms

The Daily Trojan Editorial Board interviewed the four executive tickets on their platforms and perspectives; though the tickets’ values greatly differed, they all emphasized a desire to strengthen the current subpar communication between USG and the student body. However, certain tickets lacked a fundamental recognition of what plans for change are realistically feasible within the confines of a single executive term.

Julianna Melendez and Klarissa Palacios focused on transparency and openness between USG and the student body. The ticket championed prospects of a town hall, newsletter and advocacy liaison to connect students and USG on issues like financial aid. However, many of their propositions miss the mark in addressing the issues that truly plague the USC community presently. For example, a town hall seems redundant, an unnecessary additional bureaucratic process, while town hall-style senate meetings already exist to provide the same channel for students. The Melendez-Palacios ticket’s emphasis on communication is certainly attractive on paper but lacks the concrete solutions that should accompany it.

Sam Stack and Christian Shaw presented a plan based on service, spirit and connecting with the Row by bridging the alleged gap between most USC students and members of the non-USC-affiliated University Park Interfraternity Council. The duo seeks to strengthen methods of communication with the student body through avenues like mass emails, Instagram and project trackers — all of which have already existed throughout their experience in USG.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dacity and Abitha Nunis are the quintessential anti-Greek ticket, seeking to further connect USC to the surrounding community and severing University ties to “problematic histories” — both by taking down controversial statues and symbols, and divesting from many University partners. They want to bring a fresh vision to USG and believe their experience as students without previous internal USG affiliation will allow them to do just that.

Fernandez and Sanchez are far more realistic in their propositions and place importance on successfully communicating with student organizations and addressing significant inequity issues on campus. The ticket intends to provide clear updates on the pauses placed on newly recognized student organizations and funding and make housing, professional attire and health care more affordable for students.

Experience in USG

A point of contention in the build-up to the presidential/vice-presidential election has been the question of previous experience in USG and its influence on the candidates’ ability to properly operate in a theoretical presidency.

Most tickets boast time spent as members of USG. Shaw, Melendez and Fernandez all cite their experiences as senators. Collectively, they voted on a slew of University policies, but as individuals, Shaw focused on EBT projects, Melendez focused on projects addressing affordability and addressing student’s needs, and Fernandez focused on internal affairs.

Despite not being senators, Sanchez and Stack have each garnered experience in USG. Sanchez began as a member of the Wellness Committee before becoming the committee chair in Fall 2023. Stack started in USG as a funding delegate before becoming director of philanthropy and, most recently, director of creative services in communications. We believe that familiarity with USG’s operational practices is essential to a successful presidency — as well as the completion of executive goals and promises.

Conversely, Dacity and Abitha not only lack experience in USG, but celebrate their detachment from it. The ticket believes its outside perspective as students who have had little to no affiliation with USG in the past will help them reflect the perspectives of the student body. However, we are skeptical of this approach, because navigating USG is nuanced and challenging, meaning understanding its processes is important to enact efficient and positive change within the organization.

Transparency with RSOs and the student body

It is undeniable that USG’s lack of communication with both RSOs and the student body has bordered on indolent  — to the point that many undergraduates fear their needs will continue to fall on deaf ears. The University’s recent shutdown of RSO acceptances is a cause for alarm and, for many, inadvertently reinforced the narrative of indifference toward supporting student organizations. Though all tickets expressed a level of commitment to bridging this gap, the Fernandez-Sanchez ticket readily offered the Editorial Board concrete, achievable solutions to the problem, keeping their goals grounded and realistic.

The ticket recognizes and regrets the stark issues in communicating with students and RSOs. Fernandez-Sanchez expressed great concern for USG’s reluctance to communicate effectively with the student body about ceasing RSO acceptances. Fernandez-Sanchez strongly emphasized the use of social media, emails and any other platform that disseminates media to the student body to provide updates with relevant information regarding decisions that would concern RSOs and the student body at large.

Beyond informing students about changes that will happen at administrative levels, Fernandez-Sanchez intends to explain why such changes are being made. They said they understand students’ distress when it comes to collaborating with USG through RSOs, and said they intend to expand avenues for students to understand USG representatives’ decision-making. Additionally, unlike the majority of other tickets, Fernandez-Sanchez noted their determination to close the gap in funding between RSOs.

In terms of financial transparency, Fernandez-Sanchez is adamant about increasing the discernibility of fund allocations throughout USG. As do other candidates, they recognize pre-existing USG Project Trackers. They contributed an edge in their analysis of the Project Trackers by identifying flaws in the consistency of updates to the trackers and the extent to which those trackers provide transparency.

Sanchez led wellness committees and STI testing projects in which she directly engaged with students and RSOs and used digital platforms to track whether her projects reached the student body. She also provided detailed feedback regarding the effectiveness of each aspect of the wellness projects. From her experiences, Sanchez evidently values the measurability of goals, transparency of projects’ successes and maximization of funds.

Out of all of the candidates, the Fernandez-Sanchez ticket has taken the most action to use tools that measure the progress of and use of investment in USG projects. They intend to reinforce the use of the Project Trackers, so the pre-existing USG projects are properly implemented — which proved to be a consistent goal throughout their platform discussion and interview.

Although each of the candidates mentioned reinforcing financial and project transparency with the USG Project Trackers, Fernandez-Sanchez was the only ticket to suggest concrete means of enhancing the trackers and keeping them up-to-date.

Student wellness

Fernandez-Sanchez asserted the strongest commitment to enhancing and understanding the wellness of the entirety of the student body. Most notably, Sanchez has backed up this commitment by investing the majority of her time with USG in the Wellness Committee. Sanchez has led wellness days and STI testing initiatives on campus and aims to improve the accessibility of these programs, reduce the stigma surrounding student health and promote greater investment in student health.

Fernandez-Sanchez conveyed a wealth of knowledge regarding wellness programs that have already been established at USC. Rather than rushing to make new programs, they want to help students maximize the resources already available to them through stronger communication. To make pre-existing wellness programs more effective and accessible, they proposed holding workshops to navigate health insurance and the CalFresh program, expanding Wellness Week and enhancing MySHR’s user-friendliness.

Global issues affecting the student body

Considering how the outbreak of Israel’s war in Gaza has influenced the student body and campus environment over the last five months, the Editorial Board deemed the candidates’ intentions to provide students with support programs and opportunities to voice their opinions to be of high importance. Unfortunately, none of the candidates offered a direct response to such concerns. Instead, they offered assurance that they would listen to the student body in some capacity.

Call to action

The four tickets hold divergent views on aspects of USG they believe should be prioritized, reimagined or reinforced. There exists a widespread desire to increase USG’s transparency when allocating funds, as well as an expressed commitment to forge methods of communicating USG actions effectively and to as many students as possible. The Daily Trojan eagerly awaits an administration that is devoted to serving as a powerful liaison between the University and the demands of the student body.

Limited efficiency and transparency and failures to fulfill ambitious campaign promises have been consistent issues within the organization, and we urge students to consider supporting a candidate with extensive experience and straightforward goals that are actionable and attainable. Although USG does not hold the greatest influence over the University, the organization is granted large stipends to maximize the reach of University programs and adequate resources to effectively communicate with the student body about University policies. We believe the Fernandez-Sanchez ticket has outlined goals that will uphold these values to a great extent throughout their prospective term.

We derived our endorsement from extensive research, in-depth reviews of the candidate platforms and interviews. We encourage students to research and analyze each candidate’s platform and message. We also urge students to note in their decision-making process that the board decided upon this endorsement prior to the USG debate Tuesday night.

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.

Disclaimer: Two members of the Daily Trojan Spring 2024 Editorial Board are also members of the Undergraduate Student Government, and have thus recused themselves from this endorsement. Also, some of the candidates were previously affiliated with the Daily Trojan. Dacity was the digital managing editor at the Daily Trojan in Spring 2023, and Klarissa Palacios wrote two articles for Opinion in Spring 2023. Dacity and Palacios are no longer affiliated with this paper.

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