Three years ago, 79 police officers in riot gear responded to a noise complaint at a predominantly black and Latino off-campus USC party. In a video documenting the standoff, police are lined up from one side of the street to the other, forming a human barricade. Photos reveal a woman face down on the sidewalk, surrounded by at least four officers. All of this was for a noise complaint.
Six students responded to the incident by filing a suit against the Los Angeles Police Department, citing racial bias because a predominantly white party across the street was not disturbed. This week, jurors concluded that “some of the officers used excessive force, did not have probable cause for an arrest and acted with malice.” However, they did not find that officers acted with racial bias.
The event sent shockwaves through the USC community and sparked much-needed conversations on diversity. But since then, USC has not responded aptly enough to improve the climate on campus. Student activists have worked tirelessly to urge the administration to implement reforms, yet the University’s responses seem to lack tangible and substantial policy outcomes. USC needs to stop addressing diversity and inclusion because it’s a buzzword and start implementing change because our students demand it. Students from black and brown backgrounds deserve not only to feel safe, but to feel welcome — and not just through a system of email assurances of inclusion measures or so-called cultural diversity events.
The existence of a USC Diversity website ironically demonstrates the University’s tacit commitment to this effort. There, you can find detailed information on the Provost’s Task Force and other vague descriptions of programming. You can find a brief paragraph about the “Dedication of University Funds,” which describes mysterious funding going broadly toward diversity and inclusion with no date for implementation. We have yet to have any idea where these funds are coming from. There are no concrete plans.
For years, one major ongoing battle between students and administration was the lack of transparency and communication between the two parties, and while the website is a nice attempt, it demonstrates that transparency is still a real issue. In July, the Campus Climate Coalition shed light on some of the organizational frustration, including a lack of transparency through a post on Facebook. “At the end of the spring semester, the Campus Climate Coalition seceded from the Diversity Task Force after numerous weeks and more than a hundred hours of tokenized consultation, with the recommendations we submitted being diluted at best or co-opted at worst. This resulted in a number of deceptive policy changes that act in the name of diversity and inclusion without truly committing to substantial changes that were within the administration’s power.” The post depicts students being pushed out of a conversation that is literally by and for students. That is absurd.
Students must continue to organize. We need to continue to come together and organize around diversity on our campus. We must act with a sense of urgency. Students are the ones who don’t feel comfortable on campus. They are the ones who know when the police show up to break up a party, that they better leave — because their life depends on it.
It is up to the student body to stand up and fight for them, to ensure that future generations of diverse Trojans can be supported by a well funded cultural community and not feel that their lives are at risk.