Students gathered in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center Wednesday night for the Town hall Forum on Campus Security, a debate on issues of campus security, sexual violence and racial profiling at USC.
The debate was moderated by Assistant Provost for Student Advocacy Lynette Merriman and included an eight-person student panel. The students all had expertise in the subjects discussed.
The event was hosted by USC Program Board, Political Student Assembly, Black Student Assembly, Latino Student Assembly, Women’s Student Assembly, USG Advocacy, the Trojan Debate Club, College Republicans and College Democrats.
Kyron Richard, of the Political Student Assembly, Peter Wyche, of the Political Student Assembly, Stephanie Aristakesian, director of the concerts committee and Jeff Salamone-Callahan, of the Trojan Parliamentary Debate Club defended the university’s current practices and protocols as necessary and appropriate.
Melissa Villafranco, one of the co-directors of the Women’s Student Assembly, Sam Couch of KXSC, Makiah Green, of the USC Change Movement and Kaya Masler, the other co-director of the Women’s Student Assembly argued that the current security practices and protocols both infringe upon the rights of students and separate the university from the surrounding community.
The panel addressed the question of whether or not USC security policies adequately address crime.
“The university policies have made campus safer, as there has been a 95 percent decrease in campus crime. The university has an obligation, first and foremost, to its students,” Wyche, a senior majoring in economics/mathematics, said. “After 9 p.m. there is little reason for non-USC students to be on campus.”
The other side rebutted that the problem with the security policies was that they were created unilaterally, without student input. This led to the discussion of the issue of whether the new USC security policies enable, rather than inhibit student life and involvement.
Aristakesian spoke the necessity for the increased security. She used her personal experience planning and executing Welcome Week concert to support her beliefs.
“It was one of the first times that it was absolutely necessary that we had fencing and CSC and DPS as well as paramedics on site,” Aristakesian said. “The crowd gets really rowdy, so it’s very necessary to have the officers there to moderate the crowd. Throughout the night there were one or two people who needed to be sent to the hospital, and without those extra officers and paramedics, students would not have received the medical attention that they needed.”
The opposing side argued that though the safety of students is important, the extra measures that are now mandatory for all student groups and events, such as the ones taken at the concert, create a financial burden.
Couch, a senior majoring in computer science, explained how the new security mandates create excessive monetary issues in hosting events.
“We think that, coming from independent student organizations that don’t receive guaranteed monetary support, it affects our ability to operate business as usual,” Couch said. “We don’t have the budget to comply and it seems unfair that the burden of the extra security is placed on the organizations.”
Kyron Richard, a sophomore majoring in international relations, argued that student safety should come before a perceived price tag.
“I’m pro-fencing [around the university],” Richard said. “When you see the numbers in reduced thefts and building incidents, you can see that not everyone on campus should have access to everyone’s living spaces and stuff.”
The student discussion that followed the debate focused on the issues of student experiences with sexual abuse and racial discrimination and how the university has dealt with these issues.
Villafranco emphasized that though USC has programming for freshmen during Welcome Week, which addresses sexual harassment and assault, the school does not continue that effort later in students’ time at USC.
“USC is doing a lot to address sexual assaults, but we need to make sure these conversations are continued throughout the year,” Villafranco said.
One audience member sparked a conversation about safety on campus in spite of perceived racial discrimination on campus. Several students shared stories of discrimination they had experienced on campus — from fellow students as well as DPS and LAPD officers.
“The USC community is safe if you get to know the people you’re living around,” Rayven Vinson, a senior majoring international relations and Spanish, said. “For my experience, I was one of those people on May 4 that was arrested, and while I was taken to the ground by LAPD officers, DPS just watched.”
This brought up the issue of the overall race-sensitive environment at USC.
“I love my school, and I would love to encourage more minorities to attend USC,” Makiah Green, a graduate student in the master’s of professional writing program, said. “But I can’t look a black student in the eye and tell him to come here because of the climate of discrimination.”
Overall, the debate and discussion sought to begin an extensive dialogue to discuss these and many more issues at USC. At the close of the discussion, the moderators concluded by instructing all listeners to reflect on the issues and think about further topics to bring to the attention of the USC community.
Correction: A published version of this incorrectly stated that Peter Wyche is a graduate student majoring in mathematical finance. Wyche is a undergraduate student majoring in economics/mathematics. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.
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