USC has always been at the center of contradictions. Located in the heart of South Central Los Angeles, it is one of the most prestigious universities in the world, and it isn’t shy about asserting its influence. Complete with towering brick structures, distinguished faculty and one of the highest cost of attendance in the world, the University is, for many, an aesthetic and practical bastion of Ivy League-esque privilege and power.
And yet, USC is on the cutting edge of private universities that are lowering barriers for low-income and first-generation students. There is a significant, concerted effort to shed its reputation as the so-called “University of Spoiled Children.” In this special issue, our writers explore what it is like to live in this incongruity. “Brick by brick” analyzes the new Collegiate Gothic trend in USC architecture and how it affects how the world sees USC — and how the University wants others to see it. “Straight to Troy: Pipelines of power” explores the cycle of privilege inherent in Division I sports recruiting. “At USC, what does diversity really look like?” analyzes the relationship between racial and economic diversity to see if they are really as intertwined as some suggest. “Middle-class squeeze” explores USC’s redistributive financial aid system — in which generous financial aid offsets sky-high tuition — to see if it is hurting middle-class students. On the other hand, “Bridging the first-generation gap” looks at the many ways in which USC is working hard to encourage and support first-generation and low-income students. Finally, “Is activism dead?” wonders why USC lacks the student activist tradition common to other California universities.
As students, it is increasingly important for us to understand not only what happens within the walls of USC, but also the University’s relationship with the outside world — how USC impacts the community, and its resulting roles and responsibilities. And from there, we seek to understand our own personal role in the world and our obligation to it. We hope that this special issue will be a first step to answering these questions.