I chose to answer this question with every intention of devising some heartwarming and profound revelation as a convenient conclusion to this column. When it came time to brainstorm my answer, however, I found myself stymied, unable to conjure up the gooey feelings of devotion to my future alma mater that would have wrapped up this blog with a lovely cardinal and gold bow.
Lately, people have been asking me how I feel going into the last couple weeks of my undergraduate education. I am increasingly sad at the prospect of separating from my friends, who are some of the most admirable, good-hearted people I have ever met. But I am absolutely apathetic about leaving USC, the institution. Excited, even.
The biggest surprise of my college experience has been my ultimate lack of pride in being a Trojan; truthfully, I didn’t always feel this way. Coming to USC as a freshman, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was so proud of my school. I even non-ironically used the phrase “FTFO” (classic freshman move).
Immediately upon my arrival in the dorms, I learned that everyone was rushing, and I should too if I wanted to have a thriving social life. “Are you in a house?” was a question regularly asked within the first five minutes of meeting someone new, facilitating a divide between greeks and non-greek “Goddamn Independents,” known more colloquially as “GDIs.” Living among freshmen on campus, I learned that many people drank at least three nights a week — Wine Wednesday, Thirsty Thursday, Friday day-gers, Saturday registers — and that our administration just slapped some wrists for the regularly scheduled hospital transports of alcohol poisoned partygoers. At some point during my college career, USC Athletics even encouraged its students to #turnupSC.
Persistent generic notions of “coolness” at USC include routine blackouts, hazing and flaunting wealth. Things that don’t seem cool include whistleblowing and holding opinions contrary to the prevailing groupthink constructed by the administration and perpetuated by the students — that being at USC was better than being a plebeian at any other school. As a less malleable (and much less self-conscious) upperclassman, I know better than to strive for “cool.” This newfound maturity has led me to see beyond our retrogressive social norms, and has resulted in my frustration about persisting tepid sentiments toward social progress on our campus.
This year has included frustrating conversations with peers that didn’t believe USC needed the Campus Climate Resolution, and with friends who did not feel comfortable walking out of class to #StandwithMizzou. The administration has continued to infuriate me with inadequate action on Title IX and our ugly sexual assault epidemic, infidelity to environmental sustainability by means of unholy matrimony to fossil fuel investment and lackluster responses to students’ pleas for reasonable mental health resources.
Having unleashed a diatribe in response to your well-intentioned “Ask Tiffany” submission, you probably gather I have hated the past four years. In reality, USC has gifted me with irreplaceable friends with whom I share experiences that have been the catalyst for immense self-growth. I advise you to look for your people, because they are here, sometimes in less obvious places. For me, these people were in my dorm, at my on-campus job –shout out to Ground Zero– and in student organizations like Women and Youth Supporting Each Other (WYSE) and Spark SC.
Looking back, however, I wish I had never sipped the Kool-Aid spiked with Arrogant Nation pride. Because of this, I further advise you to speak up about the problems you see at our school, and keep our administration accountable for acting in the best interests of its students.
The easy thing to do is to acknowledge the issues USC has, but do nothing about them. While it is impossible to be a righteous warrior all of the time, recognize that even inaction constitutes complicity. Progress, for me, was dropping my sorority after I realized that even being “the worst sorority girl” still supported the social structure of classism, archaic gender norms, misogyny and unwarranted superiority complexes. While actions speak louder than words, words speak louder than bystander silence. As students, we are USC’s primary customers, and have buyer bargaining power to affect change. Be true to your school (just like you would to your girl or guy or person) by asking yourself what needs to be changed to make our University better, and find the courage to do something about it. Everyone deserves an alma mater that they are proud to have attended.
Tiffany Kuan is a senior majoring in business administration. Her blog advice column, Ask Tiffany, runs every Monday.