On Wednesday, the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation hosted a rally at Tommy Trojan for the 18 students that participated in a sit-in outside President Max C.L. Nikias’ office Tuesday afternoon.
The event, “Trojan 18 Rally: We Will Not Be Silenced,” consisted of testimonials from those who took part in Tuesday’s protest — a demonstration against USC’s continued business relations with JanSport, an apparel brand whose parent company, VF Corporation, SCALE claims is directly linked to numerous factory collapses and worker deaths.
The 18 students remained outside Nikias’ office for four hours, and at Wednesday’s rally, those who were inside expressed great discontent with how campus administration dealt with the situation.
“The thing that I learned yesterday was I have never been more ashamed of going to a university where our president refuses to listen to its students,” said SCALE member Julia Wang during the rally.
Those who participated in the sit-in yesterday noted that administrators threatened the students with phone calls to parents, revocation of financial aid and suspension. Francesca Bessey, a junior majoring in international relations, specifically called these threats as a blatant use of “scare tactics.”
“I had my parents called because I was ‘behaving badly,’ ”Bessey said at the event. “What we’re really dealing with is an intentional use of scare tactics to intimidate [us] and emotionally intimidate our parents.”
Bessey humorously recalled that the last time her parents were called for “bad behavior” was when she was nine years old, and that USC’s actions showed a lack of respect for the students’ maturity.
“This university does not think that we are adults — that they have to respect and deal with us and actually address [our concerns],” she said.
SCALE member Sarah Newell also offered her testimonial from the sit-in, and expressed hope for a brighter future where student’s voices will be heard.
“No student should ever feel ignored, no student should ever feel disrespected or feel like we don’t have a voice or the ability to make change — we’re not going to stand for it,” Newell said at the rally. “We will continue to fight until every student on this university feels like they have a voice.”
Following the testimonials, SCALE members left Tommy Trojan and walked to Bovard Auditorium hoping to deliver another letter to Nikias’ office detailing their requests. Upon the group’s arrival, the doors to Bovard were locked.
“You can’t get into a public building at our own university,” said Faiz Jaspar Abu-Jaber, a junior majoring in neuroscience. “For some reason, USC seems to think we are so terrifying, that we are so evil, that we are not allowed to enter the hallway outside of the secretary’s office outside the office of our president.”
In response to yesterday’s sit-in, Vice Provost of Student Affairs Dr. Ainsley Carry emailed a statement to the Daily Trojan detailing that the university does not work with licensed vendors in Bangladesh, and that opposition to current policies was led by a “relatively small number of students.”
“No USC licensed vendor is producing USC merchandise in Bangladesh,” Carry wrote. “A relatively small number of students have requested that USC use tuition money to support organizations and causes that have nothing to do with USC.”
After the rally, Newell told the Daily Trojan that SCALE has never accused USC of currently working in Bangladesh and that the things Carry wrote were explicitly false.
“Personally, we’re offended by [Carry’s statement,] because Dr. Carry has accused us of spreading mistruths in the past and now he seems to be doing it himself,” Newell said. “SCALE has never claimed that USC is currently working in Bangladesh … We are not asking USC to give money to any causes or organizations that don’t relate to USC — this is [about] Trojan dollars going to brands that kill workers and all we want is a stop to that pipeline.”
SCALE member Hannah Nguyen made it clear that this was not the end for the organization. She said they will continue efforts to work with USC in the future.
“I am absolutely hurt, I am absolutely disappointed [by the university’s actions,]” Nguyen said during the rally. “But I am also incredibly fired up for what’s going to happen next because we will be back … we have integrity, we have the truth, we have justice on our side and we will win.”