Supporters of USC Forward, an organization that aims to change the University’s spending policies, gathered outside Bovard Auditorium on Friday to protest rising tuition costs, low faculty wages, high executive salaries and the University’s impact on the surrounding community. The demonstration included students, faculty and representatives from community organizations such as the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, faculty of USC Forward, the Clean Carwash Campaign, the Communications Workers of America, the Service Employees International Union and the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation.
More than 50 demonstrators circled Bovard, chanting slogans such as “put people over profit,” before gathering outside the office of President C. L. Max Nikias to deliver a letter explaining the organization’s demands. A spokesperson from the president’s office assured protestors that Nikias would receive the letter.
According to its website, USC Forward is “a coalition of students, faculty, alumni and community fighting for a better USC.” The organization’s goals are to increase transparency and to direct funding back towards students, faculty and the local community and away from executive compensation.
Maria Rodriguez, a member of SCALE and a student organizer of the demonstration, explained that one of the core issues USC Forward is trying to address is the amount of money that the University spends on management and administrative costs.
“We are asking the administration to really consider where the tuition dollars that we are spending [are] going,” Rodriguez said, citing this year’s nearly $2,000 tuition hike. “We’re holding them accountable, and we need them to know that students here, faculty members, community members, religious leaders, want to know where that money is going, because it’s not going into the hands of the faculty members that teach here.”
Event organizers set up Halloween-themed booths and handed out bright flyers to passersby; signs listed the difference between executive and faculty salaries, ending with the question, “WTF are we paying for?” According to USC Forward, administrative staffing has increased 306 percent since 1987, and the president receives an annual salary of $1,942,935.
Faculty members involved in the demonstration focused on the low salaries and lack of job security that they face while working at USC. According to Andrea Parra, an associate professor in the department of Spanish and Portuguese, non-tenure-track faculty have to take on increasing amounts of administrative tasks, which leaves them working greater hours without significant pay increases. Parra, who has worked at USC since 1999, believes that these working conditions could ultimately impact USC students if these issues are not addressed.
“Living in Los Angeles is quite expensive, and trying to make ends meet on USC’s starting salary is quite difficult,” Parra said in an email to the Daily Trojan. “At one time, faculty often taught at other colleges to supplement their incomes, but then the University prohibited teaching elsewhere altogether, leaving contingent faculty between a rock and a hard place.”
Members of ACCE, meanwhile, addressed the impact that University activities, such as the building of the University Village, have on the surrounding community. Martha Sanchez, a member of ACCE who spoke at the demonstration, said the construction and other USC land purchases have forced out community residents, while the University’s lack of hiring in the area has left the neighborhood with a dearth of jobs.
“For the last 16 years I have witnessed how this institution has been eating away at community businesses, affordable housing, and many other retail stores that used to serve people living in this community,” Sanchez said. “USC has built walls and placed guards on every street corner. We are outsiders to this campus.”
Nikias did not respond to requests for comment.