Occupy Wall Street, a protest that began in New York in September, has ignited protests across the United States. Students in cities like Boston, Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles have joined the cause, yet the USC campus appears to be missing the excitement.
Two USC students, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests, staged a sleep-in in front of Tommy Trojan on Monday, but their fellow Trojans were nowhere in sight.
This trend is not unique to the USC community, according to Daniel Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute. Though young people are often the force behind political change abroad, as demonstrated by the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan revolutions, in the United States, older people have taken the reins.
“Unlike the anti-war protests about Vietnam, which elicited a broad base of college student support, today’s wave of protests are focused towards an older generation,” Schnur said.
Schnur suggested most protests seen in this country, such as the Tea Party demonstrations, pertain to an older demographic and therefore have little impact on the USC campus.
“This is not to say that USC students won’t be involved in the future, but right now the issues seem to be targeting other people” Schnur said.
Schnur suggested USC students find other ways to become involved in political and social movements.
“Since I’ve been at USC, I’ve seen students volunteer in community-based activity, which is just as accurate an indicator in political involvement as voter registration and protests,” Schnur said.
USC and its affiliated institutions administer 260 community service programs. These programs serve more than 600,000 people and provide volunteer opportunities for more than 22,000 USC students, faculty, staff and alumni each year. Volunteers contribute more than 900,000 community service hours annually, according to the USC Volunteer Center.
Bertrand Perdomo, a senior majoring in public policy, management and planning, has protested against issues such as the passage of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, which requires immigrants residing in Arizona to carry proper documentation. Perdomo, however, does not consider himself to be politically active in a traditional sense.
“[Protesting] is not our style, as a school and sometimes it’s looked down upon,” Perdomo said. “USC has a great culture of having discussions and panels and I think their approach is discussion-based.”
Perdomo said there are ways to get USC students more involved through open dialogue.
“We need to encourage a dialogue,” Perdomo said. “People need to have an OK environment to say, ‘Hey, look, this is how I view the world.’ I know it’s not that popular among the people here, but this is how I view it and this is why.’”
Perdomo said being on campus can make it seem like national issues don’t affect students.
“USC can sometimes feel cut-off from the outside world,” said Tanja Venstad, a junior majoring in international relations and psychology. “The university is so invested in its own backyard that it is easy to get wrapped up in the USC community and forget about what happens beyond it .”