L.A. Times Fair is indicator of university’s progress

When I was younger, USC was associated solely with its Division I football team.

I knew nothing of the school’s academics, research, student life or any other of the number of things that make this university what it was.

Julia Vann | Daily Trojan

Up until around the turn of the century, most of the country had a similarly narrow-minded view of USC.

Many viewed USC as a school for over-privileged, underachieving students with a penchant for focusing on their social lives.

If you happen to stay on campus this weekend, you might notice that image has all but perished.

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books taking place this weekend indicates the intellectual culture at USC has changed for the better. This is evident not only in our rise in both national and international rankings but also by observing the campus and its surroundings.

Just this year — the first of President C. L. Max Nikias’ tenure — we have seen USC establish an even stronger foothold among the nation’s top universities.

The recent flood of large donations and its ability to attract top scholars has allowed our university to gain tremendous respect throughout the nation.

Nikias announced yesterday a $110 million donation from USC alumnus John Mork and his wife Julie to establish an endowment for undergraduate scholarships. Earlier this semester, USC received a $200 million gift, the largest single donation in university history, from alumnus David Dornsife and his wife Dana to the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.

Donations such as these play a significant role in USC’s continuing rise to the status of elite university — especially the Morks’ donation to establish a scholarship fund.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the scholarships will be merit-based and will cover the cost of tuition in addition to $5,000 in annual spending money.

At first, about 40 students each year will receive the scholarship, but that is expected to soon rise to about 100 students annually.

By establishing such scholarships, the university ensures it will continue its progress away from the old stereotype of a school full of over-privileged students.

The scholarships will allow students who might otherwise not be able to afford the cost of tuition to attend USC, bolstering the school’s economic diversity in addition to its academic excellence.

But through all this, many people still like to label USC as a rich kids’ school, giving it nicknames like “the University of Spoiled Children.”

According to the US News & World Report, however, USC is the third most economically diverse top-ranked school in the nation.

And in addition to the growing academic excellence and diversity of USC’s student body, the university is rising in prominence by becoming an even more active member of its community.

It’s precisely for these reasons that USC will, for the first and certainly not the last time, host the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, one of the nation’s largest book festivals.

Thousands of people and several prominent authors and speakers will descend upon our campus this weekend to celebrate the written word, but for those of us who are proud members of the Trojan Family, it might well feel like a celebration of our university instead.

The fact that prominent events such as the Festival of Books are choosing to partner with USC reflects how prestigious this university is rapidly becoming.

In addition to the prominence the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books offers USC, it also presents another opportunity for the university to solidify its status as an active member of its community.

Throughout the year, the university has hosted events like this — such as President Barack Obama’s visit in the fall or the Dalai Lama’s upcoming presentations in May — that allow for members of the surrounding community to come and enjoy what a school like USC has to offer.

As USC continues to strive toward even greater excellence under Nikias, we will likely witness a shift in the identity of the university.

In much the same way, current and future generations of Trojans can have the opportunity to shape it themselves.


Jared Servantez is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism.

4 replies
  1. There are such things as small roles
    There are such things as small roles says:

    I don’t think so. I think a university’s prestige manifests itself when notable professors/researchers join the faculty; when these faculty contribute to meaningful advances in science, technology and medicine; and when USC attracts more than 1 Nobel laureate…the things UCLA already has, hence them flipping that card on us everytime we whoop them in football. It’s all good right? a vast majority of UCLA undergrads pursue cake majors while thinking their med-school is a direct reflection of them. I’m always like, “yeah, OK there Mr. poli-sci, keep on doing them easy majors…”

    btw, bmb, old school Trojans aren’t a direct reflection of contemporaneous Trojans, not even close. The days when your sub-1000 SAT scores and sub-3.0 high school GPA BOUGHT you a spot into SC doesn’t reflect me nor the rest of today’s Trojans. Speak for yourself.

  2. bmb
    bmb says:

    I don’t think we need to belittle USC’s past every time we want to praise the current USC. As a recent Ph.D. graduate, I found more and more that our school’s academic history is not one to be shamed of. Although not one of the true elite universities, we produced enough share of scholars, scientist, engineers, politicians, entrepreneurs, artists, … Our older alumni are not underachievers, instead they overachieved of their less-stellar high-school academic records. I truly think our school is unique in that it advances one’s career beyond his/her potential perceived by other people. This is one true goal of EDUCATION.

    It may be true that many laymen recognized USC only for its football. But that is not USC’s fault. There are always less-informed, less-educated people outside, let alone people from some schools enjoying badmouthing our Alma mater every chance they get. It may also be true our older alumni were not star students in the high-school class, but our school has been among top 50 since the ranking exists, and our alumni most have their career, and some are very successful.

    Indeed, today’s USC has a much higher status. But it does grow out of our past — the spirit of fight on, the love of USC, the loyalty of our alumni. Let’s be elated at our present, and also be proud of our past.

  3. Tim
    Tim says:

    Did the festival move to USC because they wanted to, or because UCLA couldn’t host it this year for some reason? Why is it REALLY here?

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