Meet the USG presidential candidates: Yoav Gillath & Monica Rodriguez

We interviewed each of the candidates about their positions and platforms. See what each pair said is the crux of their campaign.

USG presidential candidates Yoav Gillath and Monica Rodriguez pose back-to-back with their arms crossed.

Yoav Gillath, a sophomore majoring in political economy, and Monica Rodriguez, a sophomore majoring in quantitative bio respectively, are running a campaign that they say is about “getting things done.”

Their three main areas of focus include community outreach, mental health and restructuring USG funding and programming. Gillath and Rodriguez, who are running for president and vice president respectively, hope to utilize their diverse backgrounds and experiences to increase community engagement between USC students and South Central L.A. – a campaign promise that is close to the Rodriguez’s heart.

As a South L.A. native, Rodriguez already has established ties to the community, a connection she believes will be beneficial to the pair’s community integration plan. Rodriguez was a representative on South L.A.’s Youth Council, serving on the Youth Development Task Force and lobbying city representatives for the establishment of L.A.’s first Youth Development Department.

She says that these partnerships will prove invaluable in creating the Trojan Partners Program, a proposed initiative that pairs up registered student organizations to work on community outreach projects.

“I worked with a lot of these community-based organizations, whether it’s through social justice or philanthropy,” Rodriguez said. “I can provide those resources to clubs and organizations to tailor to whatever they’re looking for.”

Gillath emphasized the need for these community partnerships and increased the External Affairs Committee funding.

“There’s this red brick bubble that so many USC students live in,” Gillath said. “It’s something we’ve got to break. We’re not just in the South Central community – we’re a part of it. It’s about time we start acting like it.”

Both Gillath and Rodriguez are well-seasoned in their roles at USG and have advocated for personal initiatives that are important to them.

Gillath has proposed initiatives like facilitating a project to distribute boxes of sunscreens to the homeless population on Skid Row and permanently implementing the dining dollars program where individuals can directly donate their unused dining dollars at the end of the semester.

Rodriguez, who currently serves as chair of the External Affairs Committee, has orchestrated projects like the South L.A. restaurant crawl, an initiative that encourages students to venture outside of USC’s campus and try local minority-owned restaurants in the community. She’s also worked alongside DPS and Transportation officials to increase transparency and education for students, according to Rodriguez.

One major platform point for the candidates is prioritizing mental health services. They’ve proposed the idea of Mental Health Monday, a day dedicated to education and activities promoting student well being, and they hope to expand access to long-term mental health resources as well.

Rodriguez said she hopes these programs remind students to take a step back and take care of themselves.

When asked about overcoming challenges when working with university officials and USG, Gillath and Rodriguez said they’re prepared to handle any obstacles that come their way.

“There’s always pushback when you’re working with USG, whether that’s from administration, or from fellow members,” Gillath said. “I think for us it’s just been about persistence and keeping at it.”

Gillath is the founder of Trojans Give Back, a program that uses leftover meal swipes to donate food to unhoused individuals on Skid Row. When USC’s meal plan changed, he pivoted to a pilot program in partnership with USC Basic Needs which has since supported 32 food-insecure students and donated over $41,000 of food.

As for their plans moving forward, Gillath and Rodriguez hope their work both in USG and in their own communities speaks for themselves.

“There are a lot of candidates; there are a lot of promises,” Gillath said. “We’re not running on promises, right? We’re running on track records. We have a track record of getting things done and meaningfully helping people. We just want to keep doing that and appreciate the support to do so.”