USC’s Undergraduate Student Government inaugurated its newest group of leaders on April 7.
Twelve senators, along with the President and Vice President elects, were sworn in via a Zoom conference with President Carol Folt.
Folt started off the conference by praising the resilience of the 140th senate class, as well as USG President Truman Fritz and Vice President Rose Ritch.
“The creativity and the compassion I see makes me so proud and I know that we’re going to be stronger and better having faced this challenge together and I couldn’t have better partners,” Folt said during the inaugural address.
USG’s senate class read their oaths with their right hands raised. Oaths of office were led by Chief Justice Trenton Le Fever, who began by swearing in the 12 senators, then Ritch and Fritz.
Ritch said this class of senators is different from previous years.
“I think every Senate is a unique group of students,” Ritch said in a phone interview with Annenberg Media. “I would say this Senate, the 140th class, is really unique because it is predominately students who have no experience within USG.”
Inauguration this year is different than from previous years. Besides happening online, this was the first time a USC president joined USG’s inauguration ceremony, according to Fritz.
Although an online ceremony did not detract in a significant way from the special moment of the the inauguration, Fritz admitted that it is a greater honor to have the ceremony in person. He said a mock ceremony is expected to take place in Fall 2020.
“[We want to] give that experience to the senators and everyone else who’s elected [and] give that opportunity to check in at the beginning of next semester,” Fritz said.
During the inauguration, Fritz acknowledged that USG has a vital role to play in restoring the voice of the students all throughout the university’s administration. He said the organization would focus on the discussions about health, diversity and the environment.
“We will hold administrators accountable to their oaths and their actions, and we will fight to protect our collective future by slowing our environmental impact and decreasing our carbon footprint today, tomorrow and beyond,” Fritz said.
Ritch believes an inclusive community is at the core of what USG and the university is aiming for.
“I have identities that don’t have a space on campus and I can recognize the challenges of not being able to have the same opportunity to grow and to share those experiences,” said Ritch. “I think it’s a crucial part to strengthen that identity for yourself and also build a community on campus that is really, truly inclusive.”
Fritz said holding meetings on Zoom while classes are online has allowed him to be more efficient with his time, but that will change once in-person classes resume.
“We can really go from meeting to meeting pretty quickly, so my schedule will become a lot more full [when in-person classes resume],” Fritz said.
The new USG president is confident about uniting everyone despite the influence of COVID-19.
“We are able to still bring people together whether it is virtually or in person,” he said.
In the next few weeks, USG plans on creating a new executive council of student groups to provide direct channels of communication with student leaders. Fritz said this would include a speaker series and town halls.
“I think people are looking for a sense of connection and a sense of community right now,” Fritz expressed.
Ritch wants to see where their gaps are as an organization and try to fill them. She wants to ensure that USG is reaching as many students as possible so they can help foster community.
“Building that community and building relationships will be behind every communication decision we make moving forward,” Ritch said.
Since the process will all be done online, Fritz said there is an added challenge.
“[We need to] figure out how to get people on board to our processes and to our projects, transitioning out the old organization and bringing in the new,” he said.
In the academics sphere, USG is going to check if the faculty and students are adjusting to the online environment. In particular, they want to ensure that the faculty are recording lectures, as students practicing remote learning might need such academic accommodation.
Before going on to approving the agenda during the Zoom conference, Fritz stressed what it means for the USC community to fight on.
“It is with optimism and courage that we will once more brave a great enemy and once more endure a great challenge,” Fritz said. “Our community is strengthened, not weakened, by times of hardship, and we will lean into this with candor and brilliance just as we have in years past.”