As the old saying goes, one step forward, two steps back.
When USC elected Rini Sampath and Jordan Fowler to lead the Undergraduate Student Government as the first all-female president and vice president ticket back in April, it appeared the University had taken a huge step in the right direction toward progress. Not only were they the first all-female ticket to be elected in Pac-12 history, but they were both women of color.
Despite these historic achievements, recent events highlight the fact that more must be done to achieve an inclusive campus for all members of the Trojan Family.
Last weekend, Sampath wrote a Facebook post recalling an incident at a fraternity house where a member called her an “Indian piece of sh*t” and threw a drink at her. Sampath has said she will take this opportunity to channel her efforts toward addressing racism at USC, whereas the University has been notably less responsive.
If the University is to truly confront the issue of racism at USC, it needs a strong administrative statement.
It took two days for the University to respond to the attack on its student body president. Vice President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry sent an email to the campus community which, though affirming that “there is no place at USC for intolerance and bigotry,” provided a solution in the form of redirecting students to a website to report incidents of bias. This letter was also published as an advertisement in the Daily Trojan. The fact that the response only came after Sampath’s post had garnered significant publicity also signals that it might have been a PR move to show support rather than an actual call for institutional change. And despite the language of support, administration response in the form of policy changes has been lackluster.
The University must make a bold move to finally ensure the safety of Asian Pacific American students, as well as students of all other minority groups, on campus. More specifically, it must create a vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion modeled after similar positions at UCLA and UCSD.
Moving diversity issues out of the current hierarchy of student affairs would indicate that fostering diversity and inclusion is a priority to the University and that diversity is more than just a core value or an abstract ideal.
Creating a vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion would also group together crucial services for minorities on campus — such as cultural centers, the Center for Women and Men and the LGBT resource center — and allow these resources to move out of separate sub-departments of Student Affairs and instead to a higher office which would allow for less red tape and the implementation of more important student programs to foster a climate of inclusion.
The University announced on Wednesday that administrators Anthony Bailey and Ainsley Carry were promoted to vice president of strategic and global initiatives and of student affairs, respectively. In the press release, the University stated that this action is indicative of “the expanded role their respective units play within the overall framework of the University.”
Since USC has already implemented two vice presidential roles and acknowledged the significance the departments they manage, in lieu of recent events, it seems to be the next logical step to create a vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion.
The incident with Sampath has made it abundantly clear that if any area of student affairs deserves an expanded role in the university administration, it is equity, diversity and inclusion. If USC is truly proud of our diversity and committed to forming a global community, then we need to give this issue the administrative recognition that it deserves.
Daily Trojan Fall 2015 Editorial Board