After weeks of lobbying and campaigning, the results of the 2021 USC Undergraduate Student Government election are in: Alexis Areias and Lucy Warren will be the next president and vice president.
It was a landslide victory for team Areias-Warren. According to preliminary election results released late Feb. 23, the campaign received 53.9% of the votes. Shreya Chaudhary and Antonio Okeke finished second (at 26.3%), and Alexandra Gill and Del Wood came in third (15.6%).
For some, the fresh student government marks an exciting chapter for USC. Others feel the new beginning is clouded in controversy — something not foreign to USC or its student government. Many students view this election cycle as another reason to question the integrity of USG.
On Feb. 18, the Elections Commission heard a case against senatorial candidate Ruben Romeo, Senator Maximilian Gomez and the Areias-Warren presidential ticket, regarding an alleged violation of Elections Code IV.E.1., which says that current members of USG are prohibited from using their status to endorse candidates in an election cycle. It was alleged that Romeo and Gomez used their positions of power to unduly influence students to vote for the Areias-Warren ticket. It was further alleged that Areias and Warren were aware of this wrongdoing, and did not report the issue.
The Elections Commission released its verdict on Feb. 21, two days after voting ended. The commission found Romeo guilty and gave him a warning. The case against Gomez will require further deliberation, due to his “complex role within this case,” according to the official hearing verdict.
Areias and Warren were found not guilty, but their acquittal hasn’t swayed some students from being hesitant to support the new president and vice president.
“We should have had the right to know that there was an investigation going on before we put our votes — we had a right to know,” said Alyssa Delarosa, a junior transfer. “And I’m not the only one that feels this way. A lot of students are really upset that this case came out so, so late and that we were not informed that there was an investigation going on. … Once again, trust has been broken in USG.”
Other students struggled with this election because they couldn’t figure out who to vote for. The all-virtual campaigning made it difficult for students to get a true feel for the candidates and their platforms.
Molly McCall, a freshman political science major, said she relied on some of the organizations she is involved in on campus — including Kappa Alpha Theta and Trojan Advocates for Political Progress — to help choose who to vote for.
“The organizations I am in made me trust [the Areias-Warren ticket],” she explained. “Everyone wants to make a better USC for their students, and I think their campaign is going to do that.”
Newer students simply didn’t know what to expect, causing some to abstain.
Fiona Popescu is a sophomore spring admit living off-campus. She has barely been on USC’s campus at all due to COVID-19, she said, and the fact she wasn’t able to experience in-person campaigning limited her knowledge of the candidates.
“I didn’t feel knowledgeable enough about the candidates or the issues to be confident enough to make a vote,” she said.
McCall has had a similar experience.
“If we are not on campus, people don’t even know that USG is going on,” she said. “If I wasn’t involved in these organizations, I wouldn’t even know that USG voting is happening.”
The lack of student presence on campus— a typically integral part of the campaign process— may have depressed voter turnout this year. USG reported that 3,529 students cast their votes this year, around one thousand less than in last year’s election. So while the students have indeed spoken — in this election cycle, it’s clear there weren’t too many students talking.