OPINION: USC must end its partnership with Terranea Resort

Shutianyi Li | Daily Trojan

The University faces an uphill battle in repairing its reputation, which has been marred by allegations and lawsuits surrounding incidents of sexual harassment and assault, and is looking to restore students’ trust in the institution. During a time fraught with unease on campus, it is vital for the University to demonstrate its commitment to swift action against sexual misconduct. Reassessing the school’s partnerships with entities associated with sexual harassment and assault is an important first step.

One such institution is the Terranea Resort. In 2012, USC announced the hotel was the official resort for USC Athletics. Since 2017, eight current and former employees have come forward with  allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment against the resort. For almost two years, USC has had the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to upholding the safety of its students by taking a stand against sexual assault. However, even amid the controversy surrounding the resort, USC has continued to maintain a partnership and continues to hold events at the resort.

UNITE HERE Local 11, a Southern California workers union, recently began, urging USC and other Terranea partners to cut ties with the resort through its #MeTooTerranea boycott. Joining this union and severing ties with the resort is an opportunity for USC to uphold its core values of integrity and wellness. In order to fulfill its obligation to creating a safe environment for students, the University must hold itself and its partners to high standards of conduct and refuse to tolerate instances of alleged sexual harassment or assault.

The Daily Trojan previously reported that USC Athletics is aware of the allegations against the Terranea Resort.

“[We] will continue to monitor [the resort] closely,” USC Athletics wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan. “We have a zero tolerance policy for that kind of behavior on our campuses and require the same commitment from our partners.”

If USC truly upholds a zero tolerance policy, the administration must enforce it by terminating its relationship with the Terranea Resort. Preserving this partnership not only presents an indifference toward this issue but also risks the safety of students and staff who attend USC-affiliated events hosted at Terranea.

Admittedly, ending a six-year partnership is neither simple nor straightforward, and USC may lose any privileges it enjoyed through the partnership. Regardless, the University’s first priority should be to protect its students and not its business alliances. Continuing to associate with the resort even after these allegations have surfaced suggests that USC is complacent in preserving a culture that enables sexual harassment and fails to validate survivors’ experiences.

USC would not be the first to distance itself from the resort. Last year, AOL and Oath relocated their MAKERS Conference, which was held at the Terranea Resort for years, an action that did not result in significant backlash. In fact, AOL’s action was referenced in a letter sent to Vox from the Tech Workers Coalition regarding their Recode Conference, another event Terranea is slated to host, urging Vox to follow AOL’s example and change its venue.

Last November, Beyoncé cut ties with Topshop after its co-founder, Sir Philip Green, was accused of sexual harassment. Netflix canceled projects with disgraced comedian Louis C.K. and actor Kevin Spacey following allegations against the actors. Multiple universities have rescinded honorary degrees from prominent alumni facing credible allegations of predatory behavior. As major institutions in all industries rise to condemn sexual assault and harassment, USC must do the same, both with its partners and within the University.

Cutting ties with the Terranea Resort would be a step in the right direction for the University and would send a strong message of solidarity to victims of alleged sexual harassment and assault. At a time when students’ trust in the University is waning, taking action would affirm the University stands with its students, before its business interests.