USG President Truman Fritz and Vice President Rose Ritch caught up with the undergraduate student body remotely in an “ask me anything” Zoom meeting on April 30. Ritch, living a “potato life” in Los Angeles, and Fritz, preparing for his return to Portland, Oregon, brought viewers up to speed with the university’s plans for next semester.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken precedence over many other goals the newly elected leaders were hoping to accomplish.
“We’re thinking about a lot of different things at the same time,” Ritch said. “What we may want to do may have to go on the sidelines because there’s more immediate and pressing needs.”
The duo have been busy participating in Zoom meetings with university administration, not only voicing students’ concerns in these new conditions, but also connecting to everyone as the new USG leaders and pursuing goals established in their running platform.
One of those goals is student representation on an administrative level. It was a major platform position for all of the candidates running for USG President and Vice President this year. Fritz said they have been in contact with Rick Caruso, the chairman of USC’s Board of Trustees, but have not made much leeway yet.
“I think the biggest issue right now is that the board at large is still disengaged from the student body,” he said.
Fritz and Rose are trying to leverage their connections with members on the board, given that they have direct contact with members due to their positions. Speaking candidly, Fritz believes their goal for student representation on the board will be delayed and won’t happen this upcoming year. He is still optimistic that in the long run, students will have some form of formal representation.
The discussion of tuition refunds is also on hold. Fritz responded to a student’s question about a possible refund by explaining the university is not willing to discuss that topic at the moment. He explained that a decision about refunds will be made after the decision to hold in-person classes in the fall is made.
“They are making the case that your education is continuing even if it is of decreased quality,” Fritz said.
In the State of the University address on April 29, President Carol Folt announced “Project Restart”, the university’s plan to reopen the school. Administration is considering delaying the start of the fall semester, doing hybrid in-person and online classes, and preparing to open facilities with social distancing guidelines.
Folt is pushing hard to have the fall semester held in person, Fritz said. He and Ritch have been meeting with Folt regularly. In these meetings, they have discussed forming an undergraduate student advisory council, the needs of international and DACA students and engaging the board of trustees.
“It’s all about paying attention, being accessible, and being communicative,” Fritz said. “As we move forward, we need to be united in how we respond to this pandemic.”
Ritch believes this unique situation exemplifies the motto “strength in unity”.
Although everything is currently on pause, the two shared that USG is planning many virtual events to build community in this time, ranging from online programming events to “master classes”. Moving forward, USG will be committed to providing for the needs of undergraduate students.
“We are part of history right now,” Ritch said. “Having that shared experience is inherently very unifying.”