With a staff of over 140 students and an annual budget of roughly $2.4 million, USC’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) had big plans for the 2020-21 year. However, with all of the changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the new USG staff, the budget and functioning could look different this school year.
On Aug. 26, former Speaker of the Senate Gabe Savage was sworn in as president and former Senator Trinity Moore was sworn in as vice president. This follows the resignation of former president and vice president Truman Fritz and Rose Ritch over the summer following accusations of microaggressions, racial insensitivity and being complicit in such behavior.
Most of USG’s annual budget comes from the undergraduate student programming fee, where each semester, a portion of a student’s tuition is invested into student programming events, according to the USG Funding Branch Guidelines.
In the 2019-20 school year, undergraduate students paid $64 a semester and graduate students paid $43.
Of the $2.4 million USG budget for the 2019-20 school year, nearly $1.4 million went towards programming allocations, which includes organizations such as the Concerts Committee, Trojan Pride Committee, the Black Student Assembly and Environmental Student Assembly.
The Concerts Committee is allocated the most funding by far – nearly $600,000– followed by the Speakers Committee at just over $100,000.
Without concerts happening for the foreseeable future, a lot of that money is in flux. Adding to the uncertainty, USG has yet to confirm a chief of staff, chief communications officer, chief diversity officer, chief funding officer (CFO) or chief programming officer for the 2020-21 term.
With so many vacant positions, crafting the budget this year is far from usual.
According to the USG Bylaws, the CFO is the head of the budget allocation committee and proposes a budget in conjunction with the budget committee, in the spring before their fall term.
As of Sept. 18, there is still no official budget, and the Senate still needs to vote on the confirmation of CFO nominee Zachariah Taymuree.
In a Zoom interview with Annenberg Media, Savage noted the changing needs of students because of an online semester, and what this means for the year’s budget.
“I think it’s going to have to be a full revamp of the budget which is unfortunate because it will be costly on time,” he said.
As for what that full revamp would look like, Savage expressed uncertainty.
“I don’t know what programming branch needs what amount of money, but it’s going to require sitting down with each and every one and saying ‘What are you planning for programming?’”
Savage and Moore both expressed a desire to put more money towards student advocacy if programming does not cost as much as it has in the past.
“I see this as a wonderful opportunity to transfer those funds to more student advocacy and student financial support,” said Moore in an interview with Annenberg Media.
While so much is up in the air, there has already been a change in the way that tuition is broken down. Instead of the $64 a semester undergraduates used to pay for programming, there is now a $100 “student services fee.”
Underneath this new fee, students will pay a $100 for “student services” in place of the usually separate programming fees, student health fees and Topping Student Aid fund. Last spring, student health fees and Topping fund fees combined totaled $374.
Given the reduced price that this combined fee offers, USG may be looking at a decreased budget size.
USG has not confirmed any changes to the size of the budget.
As for how Savage and Moore plan to approach all this uncertainty, Savage said “our hands are kind of tied until we get a Cabinet around us.”
They hope to have a full Cabinet by Sept. 22, when the USG Senate and Programming Board will vote to confirm Savage and Moore’s Cabinet nominations.
For now, it remains to be seen how the reallocated $100 and budget will shape out.