While the three USG presidential candidates debated via Zoom last week, an even more heated debate was taking place in the comments.
Students watching the virtual USG presidential debate on Feb. 5 called for presidential candidates to address concerns about racism and lack of COVID-19 safety in the Greek life community. Viewers participated in an intense discussion of their own on the Zoom chat section with hundreds of messages. The debate itself focused on important issues surrounding USC’s student body including DPS, the pandemic and mental health.
The presidential candidates are USC juniors Alexandra Gill, Alexis Areias and Shreya Chaudhary. All were represented at the debate with their vice presidential running mates. Commenters voiced support for various candidates, and some called out candidates in the chat on remarks they did not agree with.
Students started commenting on the need to increase advocacy for minority students, which quickly progressed to talking about the barriers of Greek life. Many students spoke out their frustrations with USC Greek life and how they see it as being embedded in racism and privilege.
“The real barrier to greek life isn’t cost it’s racism. Would love to hear someone address that,” wrote Jaya Hinton, director of the Black Student Assembly.
“Greek life needs to be abolished and I really don’t want to be how that isn’t feasible when students are being hurt and traumatized,” wrote Alyssa Delarosa.
Other students stated that USG has no authority to “abolish” Greek life and has no control over what occurs in the community. They argued for what they saw as more feasible solutions.
“It’s virtually impossible to abolish Greek Life. Creating safer spaces and making Greek Life a more socioeconomically diverse space is attainable in my opinion,” wrote Andrew Chan.
Other students sided with the debate moderators, who encouraged students to wait until the end of the debate to ask their questions.
“Yall, I think we should just wait till the end to address our issues, and to hear them all out to the end before we jump to conclusions,” wrote David Fuentes.
Still, some viewers thought there was a need for a better forum and more constructive discussion.
“Let’s get better platform points and actually talk about things we can change,” wrote Hinton.
People also chimed in with their opinions on the connection of Greek life and lack of COVID-19 safety.
“How are we going to keep people safe on the row? Because as it currently exists, it’s only safe for some people,” said current USG President and senior Gabriel Savage in the chat.
The chat was very active throughout the debate, to the point of even getting disabled for a few minutes. Viewers had mixed opinions on how the chat functioned in congruence with the debate. Some thought it was necessary for students to have their own discussion over subjects that were not fully addressed by the candidates. Others tried to quell comments and focus attention on the speakers.
“I can say that at times I thought the chat was counterproductive,” Savage told Annenberg Media in an interview after the session. “It kind of got caught in circles, bordering on some toxic conversation. At other times, I thought that there were things that really needed to be said. And so it’s tough. You get a little bit of both.”
A disconnect seemed to form between the candidates’ debate and the spectators’ chat. Many students felt that the speakers did not directly address the bulk of the university’s problems during this debate. Some thought that candidates’ efforts should be focused on more plausible changes.
USC junior transfer student Alyssa Delarosa said, “Put down the scripts. Put down the pre-written soft questions. Stop writing everything and just get real. Let’s get on one page here and actually talk about real issues instead of this fluff. I know that that will be a great first step towards this year.”