The Graduate Student Government introduced a resolution at its meeting Monday night, calling on the University to adopt policies that would “effectively measure and improve the diversity, equity and inclusion climate on USC’s campus relevant to ethnicity, gender and sexuality.”
Typically, GSG votes on resolutions one month after they are introduced, but the senate voted unanimously with one abstention to hold an expedited online vote on the resolution next week.
“Students have been organizing and have been active on these issues for years, and yet our administration has failed to provide a comprehensive and strategic plan,” GSG Vice President Christina Gutierrez said at the meeting. “Administrators have instead promoted a reactive tool aimed at reporting incidents of bias rather than working to prevent them.”
Undergraduate Student Government President Rini Sampath, one of the principal authors of the collaborative resolution between USG and GSG, echoed this frustration.
“Students have been doing this work for years and years now and we’ve gotten no real response from the administration, no real plan of action to tackle these issues other than the bias discrimination report system and the Together USC campaign [to be] launched by Student Affairs,” Sampath said. “I think we need to take a look at the systems we have in place and the policies we have in place that foster this kind of intolerant environment.”
In her remarks, Gutierrez cited an incident on Sept. 19 involving Sampath in which a fraternity member yelled “You Indian piece of s*it!” and threw a drink at her, calling it “xenophobic hate speech on campus.”
“Unfortunately, what happened to Rini isn’t an isolated incident — it is evidence of a larger problem at USC,” she said at the meeting.
Gutierrez further noted the ongoing Title IX investigation at USC, student reports of bias on the “I, Too, Am USC” Facebook page, the recent campus climate survey in which nearly 30 percent of female undergraduates who responded said they had experienced sexual assault and a forum held by USG on Sept. 30 that discussed the issue of diversity as examples of the larger problems with the campus climate.
“With the incident that happened to Rini, and her publishing it and it getting national media attention, I think USG and GSG and leaders from student organizations recognized that we have a unique opportunity with this national media attention to continue to further urge our administration to act and this is the first time that USG and GSG have collaborated on this kind of campaign and initiative,” Gutierrez said in an interview with the Daily Trojan.
Gutierrez said that the current mechanisms in place, namely an online form for reporting incidents of bias, are insufficient and that the administration has not followed through with its promises to increase student awareness, distribute educational resources and collaborate with students and cultural assemblies.
“What the administration has presented to our student body have been reactive measures to report incidents after they happen but nothing really focused on how we address the culture that allows these incidents to persist,” Gutierrez said. “We’re looking at how we address that culture and [how to implement] preventative measures.”
The resolution calls on the administration to hire a vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion to develop a strategic plan to improve campus climate. The vice president would then work with the academic deans of each academic division or school within the University to hire a vice dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. The resolution asks for undergraduate and graduate students to be involved in all of the hiring processes.
“We’re really calling on our administration to put together a comprehensive and strategic plan to address these issues rather than pointing us to a kind of piece-meal, after-the-fact kind of resource,” Gutierrez said.
The resolution further asks the administration to increase access to demographic metrics for students, faculty and staff, and increase transparency and accountability for reports of bias incidents and Title IX complaints.
In addition, the resolution requests the University develop a plan for addressing diversity, equity and inclusion within a year as well as to significantly increase the number of underrepresented students, faculty, staff and trustees to reflect national demographic levels by 2025. The resolution calls for the creation of a $100 million fund to support underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students and tenured faculty positions for underrepresented minorities.
Finally, the resolution calls for the University to redefine and recommit itself to diversity, invest additional resources in cultural centers, and create a space for dialogue about campus issues. It also seeks mandatory diversity and cultural competency training for graduate students, student leaders and faculty.
Sampath feels the list of demands is necessary to elicit action from the University.
“We have tried asking for some things, and those requests haven’t been met in the past so the mentality we have right now is dream big,” Sampath said. “We know that we can’t resolve issues of discrimination overnight, but we need to set the standard.”
Sampath pointed out that UCLA, a public university, has a vice chancellor for equity and diversity.
“It’s something so reasonable to ask that our university invest its resources and reprioritize its resources when it comes to issues of how students are feeling on this campus as a whole,” she said.
Gutierrez said resources are already in place, citing the example of the Center for Urban Education within the Rossier School of Education, which has developed an equity scorecard tool for equity analysis and has implemented this tool at universities around the country, but not at USC.
“We have the resources, we have the support in place, it’s just a matter of the administration really valuing and taking this seriously and utilizing those resources to address the problem.”
The resolution is supported by several organizations including the Black Graduate Student Network, Awujo House, the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation, the Asian Pacific Graduate Student Association and the Black Alumni Association.
The resolution will be presented at the weekly USG Senate meeting Tuesday night.
“[The resolution] is what students have been asking for years now, but it’s something that we’re now as a student collective writing down and putting it on one document where we can say, “This is what we need to see in terms of change happening at our University,” Sampath said.