Though an on-campus shooting last week prompted a slew of new safety measures, many high school seniors applying to USC are not more concerned about safety on the University Park Campus.
USC Admissions did not respond to an immediate interview request, but the Frequently Asked Questions section address safety concerns by mentioning the Dept. of Public Safety patrol route, University Tram Service, Campus Cruiser, DPS’s pamphlet on safety called “Street Smarts” and crime statistics.
“On any college campus, the level of crime is affected by enrollment, geographic size, location and other factors,” the FAQ says. “USC’s University Park and Health Sciences campuses are among the safest in the country. They are located in residential neighborhoods that include major museums, historic buildings, local schools, fraternity and sorority houses, and family homes.”
Suzanne Rubenstein, a private college counselor in the Los Angeles area, said concern about safety tends to vary between families, but that students often reflect their parents’ concerns. She said campus visits tend to be a large factor in the perception of safety.
“The safety of the surrounding neighborhood is an issue for families, but not specifically to USC,” Rubenstein said. “I have had kids go to Berkeley who said they have walked down Telegraph Avenue and that it made them uncomfortable. It really just depends on the student.”
The shooting, which injured four, occurred at about 11:45 p.m. on Oct. 31 outside of a Halloween party in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center.
Many high school seniors said the shooting did not give them pause about applying to USC.
“I know that [USC] is not in the best of areas, but I know that the campus does an overall good job of security,” said Matt Lilli, a senior at Mountain View High School in El Monte. “It’s not a huge factor because there’s always the potential to not be safe wherever you go, so it’s up to you to have common sense.”
Hailey Carter, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy in Encinitas, also said she and her parents are not concerned about safety on USC’s campus.
“It doesn’t really affect my decision because, for the most part, I know USC is safe and has a lot of security,” Carter said. “If there’s a shark attack it’s not going to stop me from surfing because that’s rare. It’s the same sort of thing.”
Andy Tan, a high school senior in Taipei, Taiwan, said he and his parents are not concerned about safety at USC, though safety is a general concern when applying to schools. Tan acknowledged that USC is not in the best area, but said this did not factor into his decision to apply.
A parent in Manhattan Beach, Kathy Kernochan, whose son, Connor, is applying to USC this year, said the safety of her son is a concern when considering which college he might attend, but that USC doesn’t seem to be particularly dangerous.
“I know that [crime] can happen anywhere,” Kernochan said. “It’s certainly in the back of my mind, but I’m not going to dwell on it because you know it could happen anywhere.”
Students near Los Angeles tend to have a better idea of safety concerns in the area around USC. Gail Curry, a counselor at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, said she tells concerned parents to go to ope.ed.gov/security and view crime reports for individual campuses, though most of her students visit USC because it is nearby.
“[Mira Costa’s students] realize how safe it is because they can visit,” Curry said. “They see that if you’re on campus, there is security and it’s pretty safe, but realize that if you go too far off campus you might be in an area that might be unsafe.”
Pateese Terry, a senior at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago, said she has wanted to apply to USC for several years, and intends to visit USC’s campus at some point to determine how safe it is.
“When I heard about the shooting on campus, it came as a shock because I hadn’t heard of anything happening [at USC] and I didn’t think safety would be a concern,” Terry said. “Safety is very important to me. I want to make sure I go to a school where I can feel safe walking around.”
Madeleine Wright, a senior at Sacramento Country Day School in Sacramento, said safety is a concern for her and her mother, but that she understands some crimes are going to occur in urban areas.
“I know that USC has a reputation of being in a sketchier neighborhood, so when I heard about the shootings last year, I didn’t associate them with the university,” Wright said. “When something happens, it’s unfortunate, but I don’t think it’s the university’s fault. You go to a school to get a good education … Safety is a part of the equation, but it isn’t the basis of my decision.”