All are now well aware of the fact that, over winter break, the university implemented several new security measures. The most visible is the construction of multiple new fences on the north side of campus, as well as a barrier on the south side of campus, across Trousdale Parkway.
Nevertheless, during the three weeks in which school has been in session, many have grown more and more worried over the effects this fence might have upon USC’s relationship with the surrounding community. Some students also worry that the fence serves as a symbol to those living around campus that the university believes them to be more foe than friend.
USC’s code of ethics explains how the university intends to “serve as a bright beacon for all peoples … by respecting the rights and dignity of others and by striving for fairness and honesty in our dealings with others.”
One can’t help to notice how, recently, that beacon burns less brightly.
On paper, these fences serve as a means to prevent agents not affiliated with the university from entering the campus and committing detrimental acts. The creation of these fences is an understandable move on the university’s part. In light of the Halloween shooting, many are pleased that the university has enacted more stringent security measures. The decisions to limit the entrances to campus and increase security presence after hours are both commendable on the university’s part.
But students and faculty alike question the construction of the fence across Trousdale and along the north side of campus. People understand that the fence is in place for campus security. But there is still a question of what the external cost of having such a visible barrier between USC and the surrounding community is. One must wonder what those in the surrounding community think and feel when they see the university intent upon keeping them out, especially considering that USC’s code of ethics also explains how “we nurture an environment of mutual respect and tolerance.”
The construction of the fence on the north side of campus — a side which, unlike the south, is directly connected with the surrounding residential areas — is an action which does not conform to the university’s policy of mutual respect and tolerance, in this case to our neighbors in the surrounding community.
Instead of showing that USC is a tolerant, accepting community, the fence shows just the opposite: that the university and its students are neither respectful nor tolerant of the surrounding neighborhood and view it as a threat that must be kept away.
The broad assumption that the surrounding neighborhood is filled with people who wish nothing but malice upon USC and its students could not be further from the truth.
Though it’s no secret that the communities surrounding the university are of a radically different socioeconomic makeup than the university itself, something many connected with the university fail to realize is that those who live in the surrounding neighborhood are people, like you and me, who are simply living their lives in peaceful coexistence with those affiliated for the university.
Crime certainly exists in the neighborhood, something those who live in it know too well. But crimes that occur on campus rarely come from sources completely independent of the university: Indeed, the most recent DPS incident resolution received on Jan. 27 regarding student property stolen from EVK and New North says “the suspect was not a USC student but was an invited guest of a USC student.”
The fence around campus represents a fundamental misgiving many have about people who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds than their own. Those who come from different (read: less affluent) backgrounds than our own are not to be viewed with the animosity that they so often receive. Difference, after all, does not equate to danger.
The effect of the new fence around campus, as well as other university developments into the near future, has on the university’s already tarnished reputation in the surrounding community needs to be recognized on a wider scale. Until it does, there will continue to be a certain irony in the university calling itself respectful and tolerant of difference — when clearly our neighbors are given neither.
Matthew Tinoco is a freshman majoring in international relations. His column “Mixing Colors” runs Mondays.