Two USC administrators seized the opportunity at yesterday’s Take Back the Night rally to address the recent scandals that have rocked the USC community.
Provost Elizabeth Garrett, the first woman to hold the office of provost at USC, kicked off the rally in front of Tommy Trojan by saying she is proud of how students have come together in the wake of the viral Kappa Sigma email that referred to women as “targets.”
“We have here a commitment to free speech and robust discourse, but also a commitment to power, safety and civil discourse,” said Garrett, whose appearance at Take Back the Night was unannounced. “What happens in a university that can sometimes be difficult is when these commitments come into tension. We’ve seen that over the past few days because of a repugnant, objectionable and vile email that goes against our commitment to respect.”
Garrett said students’ true strength was shown in their ability to stand together in opposition to misogyny and disrespect.
“What we’ve seen on this campus over the past few days has been how we deal with this tension,” Garrett said. “We combat the objectionable, the vile and the repulsive speech through our community by speaking out. We delegitimize it, we ensure the safety of our comrades and we fight ignorance and intolerance with reason, solidarity and a stronger community — a community that is led by strong women and men who respect strong women.”
Garrett expressed her pride in the work of the Take Back the Night project, including the hundreds of shirts painted with messages speaking out against sexual violence.
“I’ve looked all week at the clothesline project, and as I’ve looked out at that I’m so proud of the power that it represents, of the emotions that they represent, of the experience and the history that they represent,” Garrett said.
Lauren Dawson, associate director of Take Back the Night, said seven T-shirts have been taken from the clothesline project in Alumni Park.
Dawson said one T-shirt has been returned, but she doesn’t know who took that shirt or the others. A report has been filed with the Dept. of Public Safety.
Vice President of Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson also spoke at the rally, echoing Garrett’s sentiment that throughout the recent controversies at USC, students have displayed a remarkable sense of community in standing up against what they see as degrading and harmful conduct.
“I’m really proud that we have come together to speak out against hatred, that we have men and women who are like-minded and like-spirited, that we have men who are willing to stand up and encourage their brothers to look within their own hearts and take that affirmative step when they see somebody being abused,” Jackson said.
Jackson also stressed students should not feel they have to take action alone. He said in addition to all of the hard work being put in by students, staff and faculty members are also willing to stand by them in solidarity.
“I’ve dedicated my entire career to helping students be successful and trying to create environments where men and women can have healthy relationships,” Jackson said. “We are all together in fighting sexual violence, misogyny and victimization of people in our communities.”
Most students in attendance felt the rally was effective in drawing attention to issues of sexual violence on a college campus.
“It was very moving because even if not many people think about it, these are issues that need attention,” said Salma Nigar, a graduate student studying electrical engineering. “Rallies like this are absolutely important in drawing that attention.”
Rachel Smith, a senior majoring in cinema critical studies, agreed such rallies are essential in educating people about issues they might not be paying attention to, such as sexual violence on college campuses.
“It’s very eye-opening,” Smith said. “A lot of people aren’t really aware of how much of a problem this might be. Everyone rallying together encourages more people to not only pay attention but also take action.”