Norman Topping Student Aid Fund scholars and faculty allies rallied Thursday at Tommy Trojan, sporting black shirts that read “We Are Not Your Tokens #SaveTopping,” in protest against the University’s decision to remove the Topping director position currently held by Christina Yokoyama.
This comes after two weeks of organized efforts — including an online petition, a social media campaign and dozens of letters to administration — taken by the Topping Fund in an attempt to persuade the provost’s office to reverse the decision.
“I want to say to Vice Provost [of Undergraduate Programs Andrea] Hodge: ‘If you feel that Christina is only a salary that can be expended, then you cannot be any further away from the truth,’” said Ryan Lopez, a Topping scholar and senior majoring in chemistry. “Just how Christina was there for us when we needed her, now we’re here for Christina when she needs us.”
The rally was organized by Topping scholars, as well as several alumni and faculty.
“We felt it was very important to have this #SaveTopping rally … to make enough noise [so the administration says], ‘We have to create a conversation with them,’” said David Delgado, a Topping scholar and senior majoring in gender studies and theatre. “At least today by the looks of it … it seems to be exactly the right move we needed to make.”
The rally was held a day after the same scholars sent out a memorandum, calling for a vote of no confidence and Hodge’s resignation.
In the memo, the Topping scholars expressed concerns about Hodge’s “ability to perform the duties of her position in a manner that benefits the USC student body.”
The scholars stated that Hodge had violated the Topping Fund’s regulations, namely by ignoring motions passed by the Governing Board last Thursday, which would have invalidated the provost’s decision to remove the Topping program director position.
“Dr. Hodge has demonstrated her inability to be an effective leader for the undergraduate student population by misleading them, lying to them and interfering with their ability to serve in the responsibilities that have been assigned to them,” the release stated.
At the rally, students held posters and handed out flyers with information about the Topping Fund to passersby, while speaking about the importance of the Topping Fund and their dissatisfaction with the administration’s decision.
Delgado said the memo was drafted in response to Hodge and Quick’s unwillingness to reverse the decision to eliminate Yokoyama’s position despite resistance against it.
“If we are to understand that [Hodge] doesn’t see anything negative about her actions toward the students … then obviously she is not meant to be representing a collection of students such as the Topping scholars,” Delgado said.
Hodge did not address the specific claims mentioned in the memo sent out by Topping scholars, but said in a statement to the Daily Trojan that she will continue to seek expanding the Topping program.
“I’ve been meeting with any and all students who want to meet with me, and I will continue to do so,” Hodge said in the statement. “I welcome their ideas, their input and their candor about the benefits of the program.”
Quick also released a statement to the Daily Trojan on Thursday, in which he expressed his support for Hodge. He described her as a “strong advocate for students in all areas.”
“Professor Hodge has a full vote of confidence from me for all of the work she has done since she assumed the leadership of the Office of Undergraduate Programs,” Quick said in the statement. “I also fully embrace her vision and support for an expanded and improved Topping program.”