More than 80 students gathered around Tommy Trojan on Monday as part of the USC Walkout for a Safer Campus, voicing their concern about sexual violence at USC in the wake of the obscene email that circulated in early March.
The walkout was organized by the Coalition for a Safer Campus and Community, a group of students who came together in response to the issues raised in the Kappa Sigma email, and included representatives from Men Care, USC College Democrats and USC Women’s Student Assembly, among other organizations.
The walkout not only addressed the Kappa Sigma email which has made national headlines because of its offensive content, and the administrative response, which some students feel was insufficient, but also aimed to raise awareness of what organizers called a sexually abusive atmosphere women are pressured to join while they attend USC.
The walkout, which lasted from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., began with participants circling Tommy Trojan and chanting, “One, two, three, four, we won’t take it anymore, five, six, seven, eight, end the violence, end the hate,” and, “our bodies, our lives, our campus, our rights.”
Participants also held signs reading “we demand a rape-free campus” and, “safety first, image second.”
Everett Jellinek, a senior majoring in mathematics and East Asian languages and cultures, attended the walkout because of his outrage toward the Kappa Sigma email. He said he wanted to show not all men behave in the manner described in the email.
“I was horrified by the Kappa Sigma email,” Jellinek said. “There are [more respectful] guys out there.”
At the walkout, USC College Democrats offered participants the opportunity to get their pictures taken with various signs including one that read, “I [heart] women’s health.”
Ximena Velázquez-Arenas, vice president of USC College Democrats, said it is important for students to be conscious of their rights and to vocalize when they are being restricted.
“When it comes to your rights, you have to keep a constant watch on them otherwise they can vanish quickly,” Velázquez-Arenas said.
After about an hour of chanting, participants assembled in front of Tommy Trojan for an open mic and were encouraged to express their opinions about the Kappa Sigma email and the social atmosphere at USC.
Speakers at the open mic included both professors and students. Emilia Ana Cosma, director of the USC Women’s Student Assembly, spoke about the importance of the Trojan Family in responding to sexual violence on campus.
“As a member of the Trojan Family, you are all my family,” Cosma said. “An attack on one of you is an attack on my family.”
Heather Larabee, assistant dean of students and director of Campus Activities who was present at the walkout to ensure the event went in accordance with organizers’ plans, said the administration is still investigating the Kappa Sigma email and that overall campus safety is the larger issue.
Members of the National Lawyers Guild, including several USC graduate students at USC, were also present at the walkout to protect the students from possible interference by the administration, according to Míchel Angela Martinez, a graduate student studying political science and a legal worker member of the National Lawyer Guild’s Los Angeles Chapter.
“It is important that the National Lawyers Guild attend protests like the walkout because students are not necessarily aware of their rights,” Martinez said. “The administration has been hostile with protestors in the past and we [were] here to make sure the administration remained hospitable.”
Also present was James Lafferty, the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles Chapter.
Marissa Honda, a senior majoring in music, said she participated in the walkout because she believes the Kappa Sigma email does not represent the views of just one individual.
“It is important that regardless of what change occurs, that there is always a group of people who think the email was not just one guy being funny, but a culture that needs to be changed,” Honda said.
Alicia Lu, a senior majoring in sociology and neuroscience who organized the walkout, was very satisfied with the turnout and the energy of the participants.
“This was by far the biggest demonstration I have seen at USC,” Lu said. “People who wanted to make change were here; we are energized.”
Michael L. Jackson, vice president for Student Affairs, said in an email that USC officials stand by students and faculty in denouncing the content of the email.
“USC’s principles of community clearly state that, while a scholarly community must acknowledge the value of free expression, we will not allow instances of prejudice and discrimination to go unchallenged,” Jackson said.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Jane Lafferty was the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles Chapter. His name is actually James Lafferty. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.