With the new school year upon us, now is the time for transition and renovation. Action must be taken by the administration, faculty and, most crucially, the students.
Following riotous months of disgrace and uncertainty, USC enters the fall semester to news of former president C. L. Max Nikias’ resignation and interim president Wanda Austin’s appointment.
When the Los Angeles Times’ investigation revealed despicable details about former Engemann Student Health Center gynecologist George Tyndall’s predatory misconduct toward female students, the Daily Trojan Editorial Board professed that “what USC needs is to rebuild its culture from the ground up.” Last week, the Board of Trustees finally took steps to do just that.
The Board’s decision to replace Nikias with the University’s first female and first black president demonstrates a striking shift from the tainted reputation it hopes to part with and a commitment to reforming its corrupted leadership. But this power can no longer rest solely in the hands of senior administration. Ultimately, the University’s culture is dictated and exemplified by and through its students.
To that end, it’s high time we reclaim the USC we fell in love with and chose to make our alma maters. For months, our campus had been repeatedly rocked by scandal after scandal implicating University staff — from revelations of former Keck School of Medicine dean Carmen Puliafito’s drug abuse and assistant basketball coach Tony Bland’s bribery arrest, to Keck dean Rohit Varma and Vice President of Fundraising David Carrera both being ousted due to sexual harassment allegations.
Months before that, the
campus was beleaguered by unrest stemming from the University’s aggressively ambitious expansion project in the USC Village and its blatant disregard for the local communities it uprooted as a direct result. Regrettably, it has become increasingly difficult to remember a time when USC truly reflected the greatness it outwardly projects, or exemplified the ideals that attracted many of us to attend in the first place.
It is all too easy to feel helpless in a community as large and powerful as USC, especially when those at the helm are steering in the wrong direction. But if this turbulent year has taught us anything, it’s that USC’s students hold immeasurable power in their ideas and actions. As evidenced by the consolidated efforts taken this summer to voice exasperation with the administration’s shortcomings and demand improvement, what students feel, desire and do can be extremely influential.
During this time of transition, it is all the more important that students make their voices heard and demand transparency on the part of the administration. Periods of instability are often the most conducive to effecting change, and as the University shows its intention to improve, it is critical that students raise their voices, offer ideas and play an active role in doing so. On an interpersonal level, it is important for students to support each other and practice unity as a community. These are stressful times for many, and a little bit of kindness and patience go a long way.
Waiting for the Board of Trustees and senior administration to make a decision is frustrating and makes students feel powerless, but it is important to remember that we are anything but. USC is more than a brand desperately trying to save face or a ranking constantly striving to be elevated — it is made up of hardworking, brave and bright people who have the power to restore the community to the status they know it can hold.
As we make our way through this difficult period, it is crucial that we as students do not lose hope and that we remain vigilant and resilient in the face of adversity. We should take steps to protect the safety and interests of our fellow Trojans, and take the time to really listen to each other’s concerns. Consequently, we should continue making unified efforts to relay our qualms to USC’s leaders. The toxic culture that we are striving to fix is a result of systemic and cultural failures, and now is the time for us to alter the environment that enabled such behaviors. After this summer, we cannot afford to underestimate the power that the USC community holds, and we students must use that power to enact the positive change we seek.
Daily Trojan Fall 2018 Editorial Board