This Saturday, the second Women’s March will draw crowds of women and feminist allies to the streets of downtown Los Angeles on the anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Last year’s Women’s March drew record-breaking numbers of protesters the day after Trump’s inauguration. In Los Angeles in particular, an estimated 750,000 took to the streets at last year’s march, surpassing participation in any other city in the United States. Around the world, millions of protesters marched together in solidarity. The march’s emphasis on empowerment, positivity and celebration of all the progress feminists have made thus far has transformed it into much more than a mere reaction to Trump’s election. From this year on, the march will be an annual reminder of what women and all marginalized people can achieve through unity and activism. USC and universities across the country exemplify the potential of young people to impact meaningful change, not just in their lives, but in society as well.
As Trojans, Bruins and other college students take to the streets of Los Angeles Saturday, it is important to recognize the role of national universities as microcosms of society at large.
Just last Tuesday, the Undergraduate Student Government Senate introduced a resolution to offer free feminine hygiene products in campus restrooms. This would fulfill a crucial health need for female students who come from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, and who aren’t immune to being caught by surprise in campus restrooms.
Universities across the country, such as Brown University, Grinnell College and many more, have all launched similar programs. Here at USC, the resolution was made possible by campus dialogue and conversation between University officials, USG representatives and the student body. Two years ago, the Daily Trojan Editorial Board called for the University to offer this service. When young people unite, raise their voices and fight for change, there’s no limit to the reforms they can enact.
Even women’s health policies that once seemed like pipedreams are making astounding progress on campus. Last Friday, a week ahead of the Women’s March, a bill that would require California public universities to offer medication abortion services in their campus health centers passed the state Senate Education committee.
On Thursday, it passed the Senate Appropriations committee. SB 320 could substantially improve the health and living standards of female college students throughout the state, especially those in rural areas far from women’s health centers, or from low-income backgrounds. The new law promotes gender equality in education by ensuring female students won’t have to face an added, gendered burden in missing classes, work or internships to travel off campus for basic health care.
Leaders of the public university’s Students United for Reproductive Justice group worked directly with local policymakers and state lawmakers to bring SB 320 up for consideration in 2016, while UC Berkeley’s student government senate passed a resolution demanding abortion access on campus in the same year. If SB 320 is signed into law, it will not place any obligation on private institutions like USC, but it will create an atmosphere in which USC and other private schools are encouraged to embrace social progress.
At USC, Vice President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry released a plan to reform education around campus sexual assault, which would emphasize bystander intervention to prevent sexual assault. Last semester, the University’s Title IX office drastically revamped its website to be more user-friendly and provide greater detail about Title IX and the reporting process to students.
While USC has a long way to go to fully protect survivors’ rights and address the epidemic of campus assault — the University is still the subject of a national Title IX investigation — in the past year alone, it has made crucial progress, in no small part due to a renaissance of activism on the issue spanning back to 2013.
Carry himself spoke to the Daily Trojan just last year about how he had been inspired by “the days when students were banging down my door saying, ‘Let’s do something to end sexual misconduct on our campus.’” That activism has led to tangible actions by the University to combat violence against women and work toward the goal of gender parity on campus.
The Women’s March is a celebration of victories like these. In the Trump era, the nation is faced with a collective reckoning over its identity, values and its undecided future. But with young women and allies increasingly positioning themselves at the forefront of this national reckoning, there’s cause for hope and optimism — and that’s what the Women’s March is all about.
Daily Trojan Spring 2018 Editorial Board