At 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 1, USC students and faculty enjoying Halloween all over Los Angeles received an alert asking them to take “shelter in place and avoid opening doors for unknown persons” because there had been a shooting on campus. Beyond the initial fear that students felt, a bigger question emerged: How did an armed person make it onto USC’s campus?
Last Wednesday’s shooting put a spotlight on the university’s open-campus policy, under which people of no relation to USC are free to roam the campus with access to most buildings. But the incident last week has led USC parents, students and administration to question the university’s open-campus policy. In order to improve on-campus security, a stricter policy needs to be implemented by the USC administration.
In a statement President C. L. Max Nikias issued the day after the shooting, he wrote, “In light of this and other events, campus safety and security has been a major topic of discussion at the highest levels of my administration.”
What’s concerning about this statement is that Nikias clearly notes that there were other events — incidents prior to last week — that should have raised more concern about who is allowed on campus.
Though many people will argue that the shooting is not USC’s fault (as the school simply is in an area with an elevated crime rate), this is no excuse for what happened within USC’s own controllable boundaries. With a closed-campus policy, DPS could be able to monitor who enters and exits the campus, potentially preventing serious crimes such as that of Halloween night. According to CLRSearch’s 2010 Crime Rate Indexes, the murder rate in USC’s zip code, 90007, is more than three times that of the state of California and four times that of the United States overall. With such potential risk surrounding campus, USC needs to be as cautious as possible.
Still, students cannot forget that USC has close ties with the surrounding community, which makes it unwise to close the campus completely. A compromise could be to implement a window of time every day when non-USC persons are free to enter and wander the campus, and then enforce a closed-campus policy after dark. During the day, with so many students, faculty and staff on campus, the chance of a serious crime occurring is lower — and it is a great time for non-USC affiliated persons to have access to our beautiful campus.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s website, crimes committed by offenders over 18 years old are most likely to occur during the hours of 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. -— prime hours for students to be studying at hotspots on campus such as Leavey or Doheny Libraries. Monitoring the premises after 9 p.m. could reduce the risk of these crimes occurring when many students are still on campus.
What happened on Halloween was a tragedy. Though a closed campus policy might not have prevented it from happening, it could have lowered the risk of such a crime taking place. Students and parents alike should urge USC’s administration to implement a more rigid policy for who is allowed onto campus — if only to make a solid attempt at improving on-campus safety.
Morgan Greenwald is a freshman majoring in neuroscience and health promotion and disease prevention studies.