One of the most admirable actions taken by USC for the local community has been keeping its campus open to local residents so it can serve as a community as well as a student space. USC’s open-campus policy is one that celebrates the coexistence of the university and its neighbors, in spite of enormous differences in wealth, background and demographics.
Last week’s shooting outside the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, however, raised widespread concern among students, parents and administrators that allowing outsiders to come and go as they please puts students in danger.
The university’s amendments to the policy, announced Tuesday in an email from President C. L. Max Nikias, however, are not the solution to violence. Moving closer to a closed campus will devastate USC’s relations with the community and would fail to address the real issues at play in last Wednesday’s shooting.
The security issue, for one, arose not from USC’s open campus, but from the university’s own failure to enforce its regulations regarding after-hours social events.
A policy adopted this year disallows any social event taking place on a school night that involves loud music, serves alcohol or goes past 10 p.m. Wednesday night’s “Freak or Greek” party did two out of three.
Attendance at on-campus parties is also supposed to be restricted to those who can show a valid USC or other college student ID; however “Freak or Greek” was promoted by L. A. Hype as open to anyone 18 years of age or older.
The crowds, chaos and substance use at late-night parties justify the restriction of attendance to USC students, who are easier to identify and who can be held accountable under a specific code of conduct.
But the hundreds of local residents who pass through our campus each day aren’t here to party; nor are they here to do harm. They are avid readers hoping to take advantage of a library far superior than what their municipality provides. They are school kids looking to practice skateboarding tricks or take a safe shortcut home late at night. They are canvassers hoping to move students to social change. They are struggling individuals and families collecting recyclables in order to make a little extra cash.
Do we, who have so much, really need to suddenly cut off all these resources? Would kicking out all of these individuals peacefully enjoying our campus really make a difference for our safety?
In fact, it could have the exact opposite effect.
The new restrictions to the open-campus policy are not as harsh as they could be, but further alienating local residents could lead to resentment of USC’s presence in the community, particularly in the wake of widespread community disappointment in the potential gentrifying effects of the plan to redevelop the University Village.
If students, faculty and staff of the university become unwelcome in the neighborhood, the risk of violent incidents will go up, not down. History abounds with examples where the demonization of an identified “other” has led to extreme and often violent hostility between groups, from Los Angeles gang rivalries that seemingly arise over nothing to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Such animosity would not only jeopardize the safety of those in the USC community. It would also jeopardize their abilities to enjoy the surrounding area. ’SC students, for example, frequent stores, markets, Laundromats and restaurants owned and staffed by local residents.
What if hostility incurred by the exclusion of locals from campus made visiting these places a less pleasant experience? Would we see a drop in the number of student discounts or businesses that proudly sport a Trojan theme? Would students become even less likely to interact with their non-USC neighbors?
This would be a serious shame, as would losing the campus-community partnership the school has worked hard to cultivate for decades.
Though Nikias’ new policy of a closed campus after 9 p.m. doesn’t do as much damage as it could have, the consequences of alienating the community will still be reflected in miniature. Many locals still make use of the campus after dark and the sudden restriction because of an event which they had no control over is bound to sting a little. Social events might need reform, but by further building up the wall between campus and community, USC would do this university and the surrounding community a disservice.
Francesca Bessey is a sophomore majoring in narrative studies and international relations. Her column “Open Campus” runs Wednesdays.
Editor’s note: This is an alternate viewpoint to Tuesday’s article, “USC must reconsider open campus.”