Student activists continue to fight for inclusion

On Friday, nearly 200 people stood at the Von Kleinsmid Center in the pouring rain. They were there to protest the inauguration of President Donald Trump, as they heard speeches from members of the Black Student Assembly, the Muslim Student Union, the Student Worker Action Group and the Price Student Organizations Coalition. Christina Gutierrez, a third-year graduate student majoring in public administration and urban planning, spoke about the importance of granting support to underrepresented communities, including black, Latino/a, LGBT and undocumented students.

“It is students who have to fight for equity and justice,” Gutierrez said. “It’s appalling that [the University] doesn’t do so much to support undocumented students.”

While both parties have support on campus, most of the protests and rallies have been visibly anti-Trump. From the night of the election to the days preceding Trump’s inauguration, members of the USC community have mirrored a series of protests occurring worldwide, making the campus a hub for student activism. This wave of resistance is relatively new for USC, which is not historically known for being politically active.

The rallies and protests against Trump on campus have not only involved students and staff from USC, but also students from local high schools. Two days after the election, teens from South Los Angeles staged a walkout, joining some USC students who had organized a “human wall” along Trousdale Parkway.

The protests have not solely concentrated on students’ dissatisfaction with the election results, but also on the inclusion of underrepresented students at USC.

The proposal for USC to become a sanctuary campus, which would protect undocumented students, faculty members and their families from deportation under the new presidential administration, has ignited discussion on campus. The initiative was introduced by a faculty-driven petition, and supported by an Undergraduate Student Government resolution, that urged the USC administration to protect undocumented students.

USG Director of Community Affairs Mai Mizuno said that after attending a talk by L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti about Los Angeles’ status as a sanctuary city, she came to believe USC should declare itself a sanctuary as well as a symbolic gesture.

“My hope moving forward is that USC adopts a similar tangible legal initiative [like Los Angeles] that really institutionalizes the idea of a sanctuary campus,” Mizuno said.

Two days before Trump’s inauguration, faculty members organized the Rally for Inclusion and Tolerance, where professors shared speeches and book passages that encouraged those in attendance to know their rights and continue to be in solidarity with those who are underrepresented.

Nadja Barlera, a senior majoring in English, attended the rally and said that it was a “good first step” for USC professors to creating a more inclusive campus.

“It’s important for faculty to speak because they are part of our community too, and they are affected by policies,” Barlera said. “It’s also important for them to make these sorts of public statements so that students feel safe and supported.”

While these rallies and protests have recently begun at USC after Trump’s election, in the past USC has not been known for political and social justice resistance. Campuses such as UC Berkeley, which saw the birth of the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s, are viewed as more politically active, according to some students.

“USC is known as the campus that is mild when it comes to political activism,” Collins said. “[But] it is part of our democracy to speak [our] grievances when [we] have them.”

Beyond college campuses, USC students participated in worldwide Women’s March as an act of protest against the rhetoric of Trump. Maddie Hengst, assistant director of Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment, was one of the many in attendance.

“The Women’s March was an important step in invigorating activists across campus, and the country, by restoring hope and purpose,” Hengst said. “But that being said, it’s important that the folks involved take further action steps, such as contacting representatives in Washington and donating or volunteering with organizations. SAGE recently has been advocating on behalf of Planned Parenthood.”

Despite this perceived historical apathy, members of the USC community such as Billy Vela, the director of El Centro Chicano, have highlighted the importance of having students speak out in this way.

“These demonstrations are important because I see our students engaged in meaningful issues of our time,” Vela said. “These issues are real, they impact lives and families. They are at the core of what higher education is all about at a local, state, country and global level.”

Muhammad Yusuf Tarr contributed to this article.

2 replies
  1. Victor Wong
    Victor Wong says:

    The repatriation of unauthorized foreign nationals is perfectly just and sound policy. Virtually every nation on earth enforces its borders.

  2. Lance
    Lance says:

    Activision must address int’l students too, because being one isn’t easy, given our complex culture and language. Assimilation assistance must come from numerous sources to aid these young people embarking on life’s journey. Most struggle in their efforts and need guidance from schools’ international departments, immigration protection, host families, concerned neighbors and fellow students, and even informative books to extend a cultural helping hand so we all have a win-win situation.

    One such new award-winning worldwide book/ebook that reaches out to help anyone coming to the US is “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It is used in foreign Fulbright student programs and endorsed worldwide by ambassadors, educators, and editors. It also identifies “foreigners” who became successful in the US and how they’ve contributed to our society, including students.

    A chapter on education explains how to be accepted to an American university and cope with a confusing new culture, friendship process and daunting classroom differences. Some stay after graduation. It has chapters that explain how US businesses operate and how to get a job (which differs from most countries), a must for those who want to work with/for an American firm here or overseas.

    It also has chapters that identify the most common English grammar and speech problems foreigners have and tips for easily overcoming them, the number one stumbling block they say they have to succeeding here.

    Good luck to all at SC or wherever you study!

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