Looking at gender inclusion at USC on International Women’s Day

Over the past several years, the USC community has taken several steps to promote gender inclusivity and empowerment on campus. Placing the first major female statue of Hecuba at the center of the new USC Village could be seen as the symbolic pinnacle of the University’s progress, but there are many more tangible changes consistently happening to make the campus environment more inclusive, diverse and empowering. It only feels right to highlight some of these milestones on International Women’s Day, so read on for a quick timeline of some of the biggest occurrences in recent campus herstory.

February 2015: Sampath & Fowler become the first all-female ticket to be elected to USG

Former Undergraduate Student Government President Rini Sampath’s historic victory extended beyond University Park, as she and her vice president became the first women to hold the top two student government positions on a campus in all of the Pac-12. Gender empowerment was one of Sampath’s primary platform points, and something she fought for throughout her term despite identity-based backlash.

August 2015: USC opens first gender-neutral housing options

New  calls for gender-neutral housing at USC began in Fall 2013, when the Queer and Ally Student Assembly and USG led an initiative to create a more inclusive housing community. Negotiations would stretch on for the next year and a half, until USC announced that gender-neutral options would be available both on and off campus. Since then, gender-neutral bathrooms have popped up in residence halls as well as other buildings, making campus a more welcoming place for everyone.

November 2015: USG passes campus climate resolution

Seeking to consolidate the demands and requests of students across campus, USG presented a campus climate resolution to University President C. L. Max Nikias and Provost Michael Quick in an open forum. Many of the items in the resolution revolved around a series of reforms to make campus more inclusive of marginalized groups, calling for the hiring of a vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as an additional Title IX investigator.

January 2016: Gretchen Means appointed as Title IX Coordinator

In the midst of a federal Title IX investigation against USC in the wake of alleged mishandled reports of sexual assault and harassment, the school brought in Gretchen Means to strengthen the USC Title IX Office. Formerly an expert for sexual assault and complex litigation for the United States Marine Corps, Means brought several years of experience to the table, and seeks to change the culture on campus by making the Title IX Office more accessible and transparent.

February 2016: Campus climate coalition holds first meeting

After feeling their earlier resolution hadn’t sparked timely progress, members who proposed the resolution formed a campus climate coalition to discuss the best way to proceed. Splitting off into seven “working arms,” the coalition aimed to attack the issue from all sides, and met several times over the course of the year to host discussions and work on programing.

January 2017: Women’s Student Assembly changes name to Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment

Seeking to extend the WSA’s reach beyond cis women, USG voted unanimously to change the name of WSA and widen the available resources for transgender and gender-queer students. SAGE has been active on the empowerment front over the years, and recently brought artist Halsey and actress and activist Emily Ratajkowski to campus for their “INSPIRE: Arts & Music and Beauty” festival along with other groups on campus.

October 2017: Latino Student Assembly changes name to Latinx Student Assembly

Shortly after SAGE’s name change, the LSA opted to change its name as well with the goal of creating a more inclusive community that represented more of the population. The umbrella assembly oversees several smaller groups devoted to supporting USC students of Latinx descent, and programs a variety of events that highlight culture and encourage academic, professional and social growth.

August 2017: Hecuba statue unveiled in USC Village

Capping off the $700 million development project, USC decided to center the USC Village with the first female statue on campus, honoring Hecuba, the mythical Trojan queen married to the Trojan king Priam. At the ceremony, Nikias called the sculpture a symbol of the University’s commitment to the women of the Trojan Family, emphasizing Hecuba’s compassion and resilience during the Trojan War.

January 2018: USG passes resolution for free menstrual products

USG passed a resolution to expand complimentary menstrual products past the Engemann Student Health Center, increasing accessibility for students on campus. The motion passed with a unanimous 12-0 vote in a nod to  the University’s many female and menstruating students. The focus has now turned to figuring out the best way to implement the new policy, as USG looks to find a vendor who will supply the products in bathrooms throughout campus.

Naylee Nagda | Daily Trojan