The Undergraduate Student Government senate struck down a resolution this week in support of a federal bill that would allow tax-deductible donations for Greek housing.
The author of the resolution, Tara Campbell, a junior majoring in political science and broadcast and digital journalism, believes USG’s actions are indicative of a bias against the Greek community.
“The sense I’m getting is that people don’t like anything that benefits Greeks — they see Greeks as a privileged community,” she said.
Campbell is going to Washington D.C. to lobby in support of said bill, The Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act.
“Right now, if you give a donation, it’s not tax a deduction,” Campbell said. “This means many people who would ordinarily give a donation, don’t.”
The act currently has bipartisan backing in Congress. If passed, it would allow nonprofit organizations such as sororities or fraternities to receive tax-deductible donations from alumni or supporters.
Campbell claims USC has the funds and obligation to improve housing, but frequently, fraternities or sororities who are owned by national chapters do not.
“A lot of Greek houses at USC don’t have simple things like fire sprinklers,” Campbell said. “It’s a safety issue.”
Senators who voted against the bill, however, thought that Campbell’s assessment of the resolution as a “safety issue” was misleading.
“The main reason I didn’t support it is that the angle with which it was presented contrasts with the bill itself,” said Residential Senator Aziz Akbari. “There’s nothing in the actual bill talking about safety.”
The resolution claims that tax-deductible donations would encourage “charitable contributions,” which could be applied to safety systems. There is no stipulation, however, that this has to be the case.
In response to the concern that fraternities and sororities do not have adequate safety systems such as fire extinguishers, Akbari said that the amount Greek houses would gain from tax breaks would exceed the cost of repairs.
“Most of these renovations are one-time costs,” Akbari said. “And the tax breaks would be around forever.”
Another concern was that the benefits of such a resolution would extend to only a small portion of the student body.
Though USG has no obligation to support the resolution, Campbell believes that USC stands to benefit from it as a school with a relatively high amount of Greek students.
“I did extensive research — 9 percent of [the] student body lives in Greek housing and a quarter of students are Greek,” Campbell said. “Those are, quite frankly, outrageous numbers.”
Campbell went to USG two weeks ago to propose the resolution, and USG president, Andrew Menard, spoke briefly in support of it. Campbell said she was very optimistic about the resolution’s chances, and was surprised that it didn’t pass.
“I presented it [and] not really any questions were had,” Campbell said. “It seemed like [the outlook] was optimistic. I’m shocked and disappointed by the undergraduate senators.”
Campbell believes that the senators’ decisions reflect an unfair, anti-Greek bias.
“Even if you’re non-Greek, odds are you’ve still been to a party or eaten at a Greek house,” Campbell said.
Senators who voted against the bill contend that they did support the idea as well Greek students in general, just not the wording of the resolution.
“Safety is a big issue for us, and we support safety, but the worry is that the money from tax breaks would go towards other things,” Akbari said.
Campbell sees the USG Senate’s decision as indicative of a widening rift between Greek and non-Greek students at USC.
“I have a signature from the vice president of federal relations at USC in support of this bill,” Campbell said. “They are signing letters to our representatives. I would have been able to say, ‘My student government supports this,’ but now I can’t.”