Earlier this month, President C. L. Max Nikias revealed plans to construct a new student-athlete center that will expand upon the already existing USC landmark, Heritage Hall. The price tag for the addition is set at roughly $70 million; the facilities will include new locker rooms, weight rooms, larger training rooms and more study spaces for USC’s student-athletes.
News of the renovations have been met with visible excitement and eager anticipation from both Athletic Director Pat Haden and the student-athletes themselves.
Many non-student athletes, however, are less than pleased, seeing the plans for new athletic facilities as just another example of USC’s emphasis on sports above all else.
One common argument is that creating a space designed with only student-athletes in mind perpetuates the separation between athletes and non-athletes rumored to be so prevalent at USC. To many students, the athletes on campus are seen as their own impenetrable class of students, and the construction of the center only solidifies this divide.
Moreover, the Ronald Tutor Campus Center was the university’s latest major construction project on campus, which replaced the old Commons and the Norman Topping Student Center, bestowing USC students with much-improved study spaces ranging from luxurious lounges to collaborative group rooms.
Another objection is that the facilities themselves are unnecessary. It seems as if the athletes are always given the best — the latest equipment, free tutoring, takeout boxes at the Galen Center. It is easy to be fooled by the latest Nike swag they sport, but consider that these come from an endorsement with Nike, not directly from the university’s pocketbook.
Besides, USC is a Division I school, and as such it is perhaps obligated to provide the best to its athletes — for many, this is the launching pad of their career. A biological sciences or chemistry major would not be satisfied with archaic laboratories circa 1998 — the same year the last renovations to Heritage Hall were made.
Another major objection is that the money being allocated to this project could be better spent, specifically toward scholarships and financial aid.
It is no secret that those critical of USC often use the acronym pejoratively to denote the “University of Spoiled Children.” Shouldn’t the $70 million be spent on recruiting intelligent students from a more diverse set of socioeconomic backgrounds?
It is important to consider the sub-surface financial interactions that make structures such as the new student-athlete center possible. Ventures like this can only occur with the generous contributions of external donation — often from corporations and alumni.
It is up to the discretion of the donors where and how the money will be spent. Plans for the center were thus likely thought of years ago, and the fact that they are just now being realized — construction is set to begin January and take 18 months to complete — is merely a reflection of finally raising enough money to make plans a reality.
That USC has what Nikias calls a “legendary athletic tradition” is often a double-edged sword. On one hand, the strength of the sports teams is often an attraction to prospective students and continued alumni loyalty alike.
On the other hand — especially in light of the recent O.J. Mayo and Reggie Bush scandals — USC is often accused of taking any means necessary to procure the finest talent, even if it means jeopardizing fairness and equality. The new buildings might be seen as just another example of this favoritism.
Still, the new student-athlete center — and the lounges in particular — should be seen as a space that is open to all USC students. USC does, for example, have libraries suited to particular majors and buildings that house certain academic emphases. These new buildings are not so different.
Perhaps it is time we had a little faith in our administration; that it is in fact acting in the best interests of the institution as a whole.
Deepa Ramprasad is a sophomore majoring in public relations.