Students demand USG to support a new Dream Center

The senate passed funding for wellness tote bags with a QR code to health resources.

Members of Improving Dreams, Equality, Access, and Success at USC demanded a new space for undocumented students. The senators said their ability to make a change would be limited by the end of the term on April 23. (Henry Kofman/ Daily Trojan)

Students representing Improving Dreams, Equality, Access, and Success at USC demanded tangible steps from the Undergraduate Student Government to support undocumented students at USG’s senate meeting Tuesday night.

In October, the senate passed Senate Bill 143-14, where USG expressed support for creation of a space for undocumented students on campus. The bill also asked the University to hold “UndocuAlly” training for staff.

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IDEAS advocacy liaison Heydy Vasquez called for USG senators to do a better job reaching out to IDEAS and asked senators to declare their position on creating a space for undocumented students at USC during the meeting.

“We understand that projects in USG tend to take time, but we have experienced a lack of support from USG to begin the foundation of such projects,” Vasquez said.

Several senators explicitly expressed support for the construction of a space, and all of the other senators who were present at the meeting expressed support for IDEAS’ continued advocacy but said the approaching end of the senate term — April 23 — limited their ability to make change.

“The biggest issue that Campus Activities says is that there’s not enough support behind this project,” said senator Bryan Fernandez. “On [the] senate’s part, we really just need to start showing up to events that IDEAS hosts.”

During discussion, president Divya Jakatdar shared takeaways from a meeting with the University in response to SB 143-14. She urged students to demonstrate engagement with the University’s resources, including a website with frequently asked questions.

Jakatdar also said that no space for undocumented students would be created until after the University’s task force had finished examining the campus and University properties for additional spaces, as the Student Union already had no more space. 

IDEAS hoped to leave the meeting with specific next steps, and, in that regard, was not fully satisfied.

“I think a lot of senators and people at USG and administration talk the talk, but when it comes to doing the work, they just stand in solidarity or say they’re in support but don’t really provide actionable steps to get the needs met,” said Kevyn Calleja, an executive board member of IDEAS, in an interview after the meeting. “I think we did well in vocalizing our needs, but I think there could have been a bit more time to idealize what comes next.”

Following two motions to extend the discussion period, vice president Michelle Lu asked the senators for a motion to adjourn the meeting. She said that the discussion period had ended because the discussion had reached five speakers. 

The senate split 6-5 against adjourning with senator Brandon Tavakoli absent from the meeting though Lu adjourned the meeting citing the USG bylaws.

Senators Bella Padilla and AnnaOlivia Schwedt — who both voted against adjourning the meeting — said they wanted to continue the conversation, given students in the audience had their hands raised.

During the meeting, USG also voted to allocate funds to create tote bags to connect students with wellness resources.

Committee on Wellness Affairs chair Brianna Sanchez said the bags would include a QR code to a Linktree with underutilized health resources. She also said the bag would contain medical and sexual health supplies such as ice packs, condoms, bandaids and deodorant.

Sanchez said the funding would buy 200 bags at $4.84 each. Though there is not a set distribution date yet, Sanchez expressed interest in distributing the bags at the Trojan Farmers Market. 

Earlier in the meeting, the senate also heard from chief of staff David Martinez, chief diversity officer Kaleb Stephens and speaker of the senate Rudra Saigal. 

Saigal promoted free sexually transmitted infection testing funded by USG and the Graduate Student Government through the end of March and additionally reported on his continued efforts to solicit feedback from students on a potential expansion of the Disabled Access to Road Transport.

Martinez reported that USG has so far received 1,000 votes in elections for senate and the presidency. He also said that a shaved ice truck — intended to appear on campus Tuesday to motivate students to vote — would instead come to campus on Friday. 

The pair also promoted efforts to create a centralized platform for reservation of classrooms. Stephens recommended that USG reserve roles for spring admits and transfer students.

Disclaimer: Heydy Vasquez is also an opinion columnist for the Daily Trojan. She is not involved in any coverage of USG meetings.

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