Students hold protest against sexual violence

More than 80 students gathered around Tommy Trojan on Monday as part of the USC Walkout for a Safer Campus, voicing their concern about sexual violence at USC in the wake of the obscene email that circulated in early March.

Rally · More than 80 students participated in the USC Walkout for a Safer Campus on Monday. The students carried signs with various messages denouncing sexism and racism. - Matthew Wunderlich | Daily Trojan

The walkout was organized by the Coalition for a Safer Campus and Community, a group of students who came together in response to the issues raised in the Kappa Sigma email, and included representatives from Men Care, USC College Democrats and USC Women’s Student Assembly, among other organizations.

The walkout not only addressed the Kappa Sigma email which has made national headlines because of its offensive content, and the administrative response, which some students feel was insufficient, but also aimed to raise awareness of what organizers called a sexually abusive atmosphere women are pressured to join while they attend USC.

The walkout, which lasted from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., began with participants circling Tommy Trojan and chanting, “One, two, three, four, we won’t take it anymore, five, six, seven, eight, end the violence, end the hate,” and, “our bodies, our lives, our campus, our rights.”

Participants also held signs reading “we demand a rape-free campus” and, “safety first, image second.”

Everett Jellinek, a senior majoring in mathematics and East Asian languages and cultures, attended the walkout because of his outrage toward the Kappa Sigma email. He said he wanted to show not all men behave in the manner described in the email.

“I was horrified by the Kappa Sigma email,” Jellinek said. “There are [more respectful] guys out there.”

At the walkout, USC College Democrats offered participants the opportunity to get their pictures taken with various signs including one that read, “I [heart] women’s health.”

Ximena Velázquez-Arenas, vice president of USC College Democrats, said it is important for students to be conscious of their rights and to vocalize when they are being restricted.

“When it comes to your rights, you have to keep a constant watch on them otherwise they can vanish quickly,” Velázquez-Arenas said.

After about an hour of chanting, participants assembled in front of Tommy Trojan for an open mic and were encouraged to express their opinions about the Kappa Sigma email and the social atmosphere at USC.

Speakers at the open mic included both professors and students. Emilia Ana Cosma, director of the USC Women’s Student Assembly, spoke about the importance of the Trojan Family in responding to sexual violence on campus.

“As a member of the Trojan Family, you are all my family,” Cosma said. “An attack on one of you is an attack on my family.”

Heather Larabee, assistant dean of students and director of Campus Activities who was present at the walkout to ensure the event went in accordance with organizers’ plans, said the administration is still investigating the Kappa Sigma email and that overall campus safety is the larger issue.

Members of the National Lawyers Guild, including several USC graduate students at USC, were also present at the walkout to protect the students from possible interference by the administration, according to Míchel Angela Martinez, a graduate student studying political science and a legal worker member of the National Lawyer Guild’s Los Angeles Chapter.

“It is important that the National Lawyers Guild attend protests like the walkout because students are not necessarily aware of their rights,” Martinez said. “The administration has been hostile with protestors in the past and we [were] here to make sure the administration remained hospitable.”

Also present was James Lafferty, the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles Chapter.

Marissa Honda, a senior majoring in music, said she participated in the walkout because she believes the Kappa Sigma email does not represent the views of just one individual.

“It is important that regardless of what change occurs, that there is always a group of people who think the email was not just one guy being funny, but a culture that needs to be changed,” Honda said.

Alicia Lu, a senior majoring in sociology and neuroscience who organized the walkout, was very satisfied with the turnout and the energy of the participants.

“This was by far the biggest demonstration I have seen at USC,” Lu said. “People who wanted to make change were here; we are energized.”

Michael L. Jackson, vice president for Student Affairs, said in an email that USC officials stand by students and faculty in denouncing the content of the email.

“USC’s principles of community clearly state that, while a scholarly community must acknowledge the value of free expression, we will not allow instances of prejudice and discrimination to go unchallenged,” Jackson said.


Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Jane Lafferty was the executive director of the National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles Chapter. His name is actually James Lafferty. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.

19 replies
  1. ddcollege
    ddcollege says:

    what ever happened regarding the e-mail? who actually sent it? please tell me they received severe disciplinary action.

  2. Suni Ellis
    Suni Ellis says:

    One might say that the walkout protest demanding a rape-free campus from the Administration is scarier than the offensive email.

    The email was a crass and a terrible attempt at humor, nothing that anyone is defending, but these protesters are delusional and unrealistic – and they think they’re the only people that care about women because they scream about how horrified they are and how someone should do something about it.

    The group of 80 protesters is really the culture at ‘SC that needs to be changed.

    Suni Ellis

    • Simca
      Simca says:

      I’m not sure if 80 people qualifies as a “culture”. Maybe a “subculture”, if you really want to stretch the definition.

      The fact that our demand for a rape-free campus is seen as “unrealistic” reveals exactly how entrenched the culture of misogyny really is at USC. The protest may have included a petition to the Administration for more stringent policies on sexual harassment and sexual assault, but its location in the center of campus was intended also to raise awareness about the underlying culture that perpetuates these heinous acts.

      We should not be criticized as “delusional” for expressing our heartfelt views. The email was not merely an “attempt at humor” — it was forwarded around with the subject line “Funny Kappa Sig email”. Students found it funny. The most straightforward interpretation of that viewpoint is that misogyny, racism, and rape jokes are casually accepted at USC. Am I offended because the email says that I’m not a real person? You bet I am. That’s why I shouted about it.

  3. Maddy
    Maddy says:

    Everyone is being so dramatic. If those 80 people feel so threatened by a single email, I think we have a bigger problem than just a sexual environment here at USC. I am a girl and have never felt “unsafe” because of it. I think it is a little ridiculous to stage a protest demanding something that the university has little control over. What do they expect to come out of this protest? That is my biggest question.

    • George
      George says:

      How about action? How about transparency regarding who sent the email and disciplinary action?

    • Samuel
      Samuel says:

      People being threatened by that email is definitely NOT worse than the sexual environment, part of which apparently accepted that awful, immature email as a joke. Was the email just some douchebag’s moronic attempt at humor? Yeah, probably. But that doesn’t make it not scary. It’s better that people are staging a protest and saying that the statements in the email are not acceptable as opposed to saying nothing at all. Would you prefer if everyone let it slide? What kind of negative attitudes could that pave the way for?

      Also, just because you personally have never felt unsafe in the sexual environment here, doesn’t mean that others haven’t. It’s unreasonable for you to use your own personal experience as a basis for how other girls, and some guys I guess, should feel.

      As for what they expect to come out of the protest? Probably just raised awareness and the knowledge that there is vocal opposition to the attitude presented in the email. The protest was a small group of people and may have had only 80 at any given time, but they also serve as allies to people who disagreed with the email, but kept quiet about it.

      And you know what? When it comes down to responding to that email, better dramatic than apathetic.

  4. Frat Boy I
    Frat Boy I says:

    This is a joke right? 80 people? We get 80 people at the drop of hat to show for one of parties that we don’t even let in. Maybe this is the same group?

    • anon
      anon says:

      News articles about protest marches always exaggerate the head count. It was probably closer to 40-50 people.

      • mamartinez
        mamartinez says:

        As one of the legal observers–in addition to rights protection we are charged with taking stock of the environment, watching people-flows, etc.–I thought I would share that *our* count was closer to 200 individuals over the course of the protest, march, and speak-out, with roughly 80 people present at any one moment.

        • @Frat Boy I
          @Frat Boy I says:

          Velvet rope? It’s a frat party, not a celebrity event. Don’t think too highly of yourself…

        • Simca
          Simca says:

          Last time I checked, fraternities were totally cool with letting GDI women (“targets” is the term you misguidedly use, I believe) into their parties.

          I just don’t understand: why can’t guys come to the parties? Obviously, fraternity gentlemen are so charming and attractive that no GDI guy could possibly compete for the available women.

          Also — don’t bother telling me you’ll keep me out of your party, or that I got cut hard last fall. I’m a woman.

          • @Simca
            @Simca says:

            Only gentlemen from Fraternities tell other guys to bring back 10 girls as an admission ticket… as if they were currency… classy.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] While we are certain that the distinction between online and offline experience is no longer useful to describe most of our lived experience of self or community, in our many conversations about place, activism, self-authoring and self-representation, I have always held the protest up as a sort of litmus test of embodiment. Given that the vast majority of my students had never been in (or witnessed) a protest, the sustaining  gap between (my) lived, bodily experience and (their) experience via representation would then function in our classroom to authorize and alienate, albeit kindly. That is, until they voted to walk out. […]

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