Undergraduate Student Government held a town hall meeting on Tuesday in conjunction with Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council and Division of Student Affairs.
The forum, which discussed alcohol consumption and social events at USC, was held with the purpose of gathering student reactions and opinions regarding solutions on how to sustain USC’s active social life in a safe environment.
More than 200 students attended the event mediated by Vice Provost of Student Affairs Ainsley Carry.
“This is a night that we have a chance to pivot our university in a real and important way,” Carry said.
Carry also emphasized that the forum was a meeting for the Trojan Family and that the event was a student-organized initiative.
USG Senior Director of Communications Olivia Diamond said that the university wanted to hear from the student population and incorporate their input into a plan that would address the growing issue of excessive alcohol consumption.
“We’ve had forums on many different issues, and these are really beneficial for students to have their voices heard,” Diamond said.
The Q&A format of the discussion allowed students to provide insight and inquiries that were then discussed by the audience and Carry.
Though the audience was encouraged to speak openly during the forum, there were also anonymous notes with questions and comments that were presented and debated over.
The main issue discussed during the meeting was the excessive consumption of alcohol at USC social events as evident by the increasing number of student hospital transports on the weekends.
USG President Christian Kurth spoke about the need to understand that the purpose of the town hall meeting was to discuss and understand the cultural issue of drinking.
“I think the main point is that this isn’t a policy meeting. This is a USC-wide cultural issue, and tonight is about finding out why this is the culture here,” Kurth said.
Ofek Lavian, president of the Interfraternity Council, also spoke about the culture of drinking at USC and the need to address overconsumption.
“Number one, college students drink. We’re not here to change that. We’re trying to find healthy ways to do so, safe ways to do so. There has to be a line drawn when fellow Trojans are at risk,” Lavian said.
The issue of excessive alcohol use led to a discussion of Greek life and its role in the social aspect of USC.
An anonymous note read during the forum presented an alternative to imposing bans on The Row as a whole.
“Why doesn’t the individual fraternity or sorority get a social ban when a member of their group is transported instead of punishing the entire Greek community?” the note read.
Carry and student organization leaders at the event, however, emphasized that the issue was not isolated within Greek life at USC.
“This is not a conversation only about Greek life,” Carry said. “I’m hoping to continue to hear from other students as well. I believe Greek life is important at USC and that’s why I want us to talk.”
The issue of the university’s rules and regulations on Greek life elicited strong reactions from students in the audience.
Oliver Mittelstaedt, a senior majoring in economics and history, said he believes the university’s true concern is avoiding negative publicity.
“We’re so worried about covering our own backs that we come down with these draconian policies that really don’t work,” Mittelstaedt said.
Another anonymous note addressed students’ perspectives on the administration’s apprehensions about the university’s public image.
“We’re seen as a liability because we hurt the university’s image and that affects donors’ and prospective students’ perspectives. They’re afraid that something is going to happen and they’re going to get sued,” the note read.
Carry addressed this perception of the university in defense of the administration.
“This is not about covering our butts, this is not a publicity stunt. We’ve got a chance to pivot this community to create a place that’s fun, to create a place that’s safe,” he said. “The notion that students are units and this is about your tuition dollars is hurtful and untrue.”
Students at the discussion were strongly in favor of continuing this model of town hall meetings to promote student contributions to university policies.
Though many were in favor of these open forums, some students also expressed their concerns about the need for university administrators to take action in response to these meetings.
“Having these meetings is great, and it’s really nice to have the opportunity to give our opinions, but it also matters how they go about following up with action,” said Caroline Cannan, a sophomore majoring in social sciences (psychology).
Others, however, said real change would come only if the administration used the discussion as an impetus for action.
“Whether the administration acts or not is going to be a big signal of if they’re ready to make a positive change,” said Aaron Soskin, a junior majoring in business administration.
Next Saturday, Carry will meet with 14 student organization leaders to think about the ideas presented during the town hall meeting and come up with new solutions for the issue of excessive alcohol use.
Carry concluded the meeting with a comment on his concern for USC students as individuals.
“You are far more than units to me,” he said. “Fight on.”
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