Fact-checking the Undergraduate Student Government debate

Annenberg Media looks into the facts and false statements made by candidates ahead of the voting deadline.

[One-sentence description of what this media is: "A photo of a vaccine site on USC campus" or "Gif of dancing banana". Important for accessibility/people who use screen readers.]

This year’s USG presidential debate was anything but normal, with two write-in candidates shaking up a race that became uncontested after the other ticket withdrew. This story aims to clarify and fact-check some of the statements that candidates made during the debate for the benefit of the community as the undergraduate student body casts their ballots.

“USC Department of Public Safety receives a $50 million budget from the university.”

—  according to Rachel Lee, presidential candidate.

Annenberg Media Fact-O-Meter Check: True. As of Feb. 2021, the USC DPS budget was $50 million per year.

USC Forward held a car caravan protest calling for the reallocation of DPS funds.

“Sexual assault cases in Greek life can result in entire fraternities and sororities being punished, rather than just the individual at fault.”

—  according to Kyle Valdes, presidential candidate.

Annenberg Media Fact-O-Meter Check: Mostly true. There are currently four fraternities on interim suspension, one of which is on suspension due to several confirmed incidents of drugging and sexual assault. However, the individual in this fraternity confirmed to be a suspect in a sexual assault case was suspended from the university.

According to the university, perpetrators individually face a range of consequences from both USC and the justice system, and can be suspended from the university while EEO-TIX and law enforcement investigations are pending. Fraternities can also be held responsible for EEO-TIX violations, but may file appeals if they disagree with this decision.

“USG cannot abolish Greek life and this is a decision left up to USC administration.”

—   according to Hannah Woodworth, presidential candidate.

Annenberg Media Fact-O-Meter Check: True, although this would be unprecedented. Though the movement to abolish Greek life at USC has gained many student supporters over the past few years, the existence of student organizations at the university is ultimately sanctioned by the Board of Trustees and, in the case of Greek life, through Fraternity & Sorority Leadership Development.

Fraternities and sororities must abide by university policies in order to remain in good standing with the university. USC maintains a list of off-campus fraternities they no longer recognize. Several universities, including Amherst and Bowdoin, have banned Greek life outright in the past few decades.

A selection of photos from the photo story "PHOTOS: USC community confronts assaults in Greek life."

“The DPS Community Advisory Board cannot make hiring decisions and does not have the ability to influence policies or hiring decisions.”

—  according to Rachel Lee, presidential candidate

Annenberg Media Fact-O-Meter Check: True. The DPS Community Advisory Board, or CAB, is limited to gathering input and making recommendations.

“USG has not been effective at prompting change in many years.”

—  according to Rachel Lee, presidential candidate.

Annenberg Media Fact-O-Meter Check: False. A couple of USG’s recent major accomplishments include establishing the free Lyft program and instituting a fall break.

“Recognized Student Organizations have no minimum diversity requirements.”

—  according to Nivea Krishnan, vice presidential candidate alongside Woodworth.

Annenberg Media Fact-O-Meter Check: True. A Recognized Student Organization, or RSO, is a student organization recognized through USC Campus Activities. RSOs must limit their membership to students, faculty, staff and alumni of the university and must refrain from discriminating in membership decisions. However, there are no current diversity requirements for RSOs.

“The USG president receives a $15,000 yearly stipend and the vice president receives a $10,000 stipend for their work in student government.”

—  according to Kyle Valdes, presidential candidate

Annenberg Media Fact-O-Meter Check: Somewhat untrue. Both the USG president and vice president receive a yearly stipend, but according to USG’s 2021-2022 bylaws (page 84), each position receives $9,000, which is less than both of the amounts Valdes stated.

“Sorority women are disproportionately affected by sexual assault.”

—  according to Hannah Woodworth, presidential candidate

Annenberg Media Fact-O-Meter Check: True. Some studies show that women in sororities are up to 74% more likely to be victims of sexual assault.

Undergraduate Student Government Presidential & Vice Presidential candidates Rachel Lee and Collin Colson engage in the 2022 USG Presidential Debate (Julia Zara).

“I have Celiac disease.”

—  according to Collin Colson, vice presidential candidate alongside Lee.

Annenberg Media Fact-O-Meter Check: True. This was a statement made at the end of the debate when Colson, a white man, jokingly claimed he represented the university’s marginalized communities. Colson provided Annenberg Media with documentation proving he has Celiac disease.