USC must maintain open campus

One of the most admirable actions taken by USC for the local community has been keeping its campus open to local residents so it can serve as a community as well as a student space. USC’s open-campus policy is one that celebrates the coexistence of the university and its neighbors, in spite of enormous differences in wealth, background and demographics.

Max Rubin | Daily Trojan

Last week’s shooting outside the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, however, raised widespread concern among students, parents and administrators that allowing outsiders to come and go as they please puts students in danger.

The university’s amendments to the policy, announced Tuesday in an email from President C. L. Max Nikias, however, are not the solution to violence. Moving closer to a closed campus will devastate USC’s relations with the community and would fail to address the real issues at play in last Wednesday’s shooting.

The security issue, for one, arose not from USC’s open campus, but from the university’s own failure to enforce its regulations regarding after-hours social events.

A policy adopted this year disallows any social event taking place on a school night that involves loud music, serves alcohol or goes past 10 p.m. Wednesday night’s “Freak or Greek” party did two out of three.

Attendance at on-campus parties is also supposed to be restricted to those who can show a valid USC or other college student ID; however “Freak or Greek” was promoted by L. A. Hype as open to anyone 18 years of age or older.

The crowds, chaos and substance use at late-night parties justify the restriction of attendance to USC students, who are easier to identify and who can be held accountable under a specific code of conduct.

But the hundreds of local residents who pass through our campus each day aren’t here to party; nor are they here to do harm. They are avid readers hoping to take advantage of a library far superior than what their municipality provides. They are school kids looking to practice skateboarding tricks or take a safe shortcut home late at night. They are canvassers hoping to move students to social change. They are struggling individuals and families collecting recyclables in order to make a little extra cash.

Do we, who have so much, really need to suddenly cut off all these resources? Would kicking out all of these individuals peacefully enjoying our campus really make a difference for our safety?

In fact, it could have the exact opposite effect.

The new restrictions to the open-campus policy are not as harsh as they could be, but further alienating local residents could lead to resentment of USC’s presence in the community, particularly in the wake of widespread community disappointment in the potential gentrifying effects of the plan to redevelop the University Village.

If students, faculty and staff of the university become unwelcome in the neighborhood, the risk of violent incidents will go up, not down. History abounds with examples where the demonization of an identified “other” has led to extreme and often violent hostility between groups, from Los Angeles gang rivalries that seemingly arise over nothing to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Such animosity would not only jeopardize the safety of those in the USC community. It would also jeopardize their abilities to enjoy the surrounding area. ’SC students, for example, frequent stores, markets, Laundromats and restaurants owned and staffed by local residents.

What if hostility incurred by the exclusion of locals from campus made visiting these places a less pleasant experience? Would we see a drop in the number of student discounts or businesses that proudly sport a Trojan theme? Would students become even less likely to interact with their non-USC neighbors?

This would be a serious shame, as would losing the campus-community partnership the school has worked hard to cultivate for decades.

Though Nikias’ new policy of a closed campus after 9 p.m. doesn’t do as much damage as it could have, the consequences of alienating the community will still be reflected in miniature. Many locals still make use of the campus after dark and the sudden restriction because of an event which they had no control over is bound to sting a little. Social events might need reform, but by further building up the wall between campus and community, USC would do this university and the surrounding community a disservice.


Francesca Bessey is a sophomore majoring in narrative studies and international relations. Her column “Open Campus” runs Wednesdays.


Editor’s note: This is an alternate viewpoint to Tuesday’s article, “USC must reconsider open campus.”

15 replies
  1. Robin
    Robin says:

    It is also important to note that USC was here first. It did not insert itself into the surrounding neighborhood. The surrounding community grew around it. The real question is why USC, one of the areas largest property owners, allowed the once vibrant area to slide into poverty and neglect.

    • Manny
      Manny says:

      This is not accurate. The slide into poverty was not the fault of USC. It was the virtual gentrification of the area from the construction of the 10 and the 110, essentially isolating the area, among other demographic and labor changes. I suggest a course in LA History before spreading misinformation.

    • North University Park
      North University Park says:

      “once vibrant area to silde into poverty and neglet.”

      A bit of history: 1965 riots, 1992 riots, Hoover Redevelopment Project mid to late 1970s: By law a Redevelopment area must be declared legally “blighted” for a project to be declared. USC saw it as a chance to be the hidden hand behind redevelopment. It also expanded into the community North and East during this period, often picking up real estate at bargain prices. USC made an oral pact with community activists and politicians not to expand West. This pact is still in effect. Redevelopment, with its threat of eminent domain, also discouraged private development. The rent control law of 1978 encouraged landlords to prefer students (since they move frequently) over other tenants. The establishment of the North University Park Specific Plan in 1983 slowed expansion North of campus but did not stop it altogether. USC did try to stop the SP from being enacted into ordinance.

      All of these factors have contributed to the community we now have.

      • George
        George says:

        Nor do you have a fully accurate history. The entirety of the neighborhood shift is not the sole responsibility of USC, as you seem to insinuate. I suggest you pick up a book before continually throwing USC under the bus. There were many well-documented instances of neighborhood-centric problems throughout the region of “south central” that caused labor opportunities to vanish. Might I recommend The History of Forgetting?

    • North University Park
      North University Park says:

      Shortly after the construction of the freeway system the middle class began to flee to the suburbs. this happened in all large American cities. In Los Angeles what was called “South Central” was hit particularly hard with demographic changes. By the mid to late 1970s and with the advent of the Hoover redevelopment Project the USC administration made a pact with community activists, led by the pastor and congregation of St Mark’s Episcopal Church and with politicians of the time to not expand West of Vermont. As far as I know nothing is in writing but the pact is still being honored. USC owns nothing West of campus even though West of campus may be closer to the heart of campus.

      North and East of campus is a different story. The D T does not permit the posting of a URL which would be the easiest way to access the information but if you are interested in North of campus go to your browser and type in “North University Park Specific Plan”

      If you are interested in the U V makeover do the same and type in “USC Specific Plan”

      It is always best to access first hand information rather than opinion and innuendo.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    “But the hundreds of local residents who pass through our campus each day aren’t here to party; nor are they here to do harm. They are avid readers hoping to take advantage of a library far superior than what their municipality provides. They are school kids looking to practice skateboarding tricks or take a safe shortcut home late at night. They are canvassers hoping to move students to social change. They are struggling individuals and families collecting recyclables in order to make a little extra cash.”

    The groups you mentioned have no reason to be on campus past 9 pm. Even those needing a safe shortcut are capable of walking the perimeter of campus. The article seems like a gross mischaracterization of what the policy is actually doing. This is a private campus and I refuse to be held hostage by the fear that stronger security policies might “sting” the local community’s access to some privileges.

  3. Ras
    Ras says:

    The point of this article is that USC must maintain an open campus – and by and large it seems like it still is. I am not sure what the author of the opinion would like to see more being done to accommodate the community. Would you like to share your dorm room with the many homeless bums scavenging around the campus? If you would like to have the campus be even more open then the recent policy changes allow then I have a proposition. I do agree many of the members of community re not looking to cause trouble. If we allow PROFILING then I think we can have a more open campus policy. I think most intelligent, reasonable people can look at most people and make a snap decision whether they are trouble or not. If you are going to walk around with huge cholo, neck tattoos and a sour puss hard look, and you are not in the NBA, security will check for I’d and throw your ass out if you have no business. People who cry for making the campus more open are also the same liberal, naive idiots that want gangbangers to have as much access to our campus as the elderly citizen looking to read at the library or the neighborhood women who want to jog on the track in the morning. We look for the crazy anomalies and cry “slippery slope” when in reality and in all honesty, we practice profiling each minute of each day in our lives. That is why even though liberal LA loves poor people, they themselves, often do not live near them when possible.

  4. Riley
    Riley says:

    Why is it so hard to understand for people that USC must do all it can to keep the gangs of its campus? I’m extremely happy with the new measures. Afterall, many nice living complexes, even in great areas are closed to the public and have guards at their entrances. Noone complains about that. We all know that SC is in the ghetto. It is bad enough that our students have to be afraid to walk the streets outside of campus they should at least be able to feel safe and secure on campus. You well know well that the shooting that happened on campus was a gang shooting. Had the victim not been able to enter campus [he even tweeted to all the homies when he entered SC campus “here comes the neighborhood” [referring to the Rollin 40s neighborhood crips of which he is a member].”This in turn brought his enemies to campus. USc must do all it possibly can to keep these people of campus because LAPD does not do anything to keep these people of the streets of South Central.

  5. Herman
    Herman says:

    Why don’t these same people go play basketball on the floor of the staples center whenever they want? Oh yea its Private Property.

  6. Manny
    Manny says:

    Look, I’m all for looking out for the community and all, but some things must be said to crash this pity party. Namely, there’s a limit that needs to exist.

    First off, I’m sorry – I must have missed the part where WE pay tuition to attend this school, not them. These measures are done with our interests in mind. If the locals can’t understand that we pay for this privilege and need to have some restrictions, well then that’s just tough s***. It disgusts me every time I see some local skateboarder on our campus doing tricks with cameras, making a scene if they fall by shouting, and running into people. Not to mention the disrespect for our property shown by grinding on it.

    And what business do these individuals have after dark on our campus? Most libraries are closed. The one that’s open, Leavey, kicks non-USC people out at 10 anyway. Let’s not even bring up all the property theft emails sent out by the DPS alert system. Again, we pay for these materials with a hefty sum, so we get first dibs. No exceptions. And we are right to have the measure to guard entrances to residence halls. I don’t care about those that rummage for recyclables outside, but if you need to come into a residence hall to do it, you better believe you’re mistaken. I guess if you think it’s ok, I’ll just come to your house next time and rummage through – it’s a safety issue and also of respect for person and property. In fact, why did you choose to come here? I highly doubt it’s just for the community.

    Let me reiterate: there is freedom. And then there is taking advantage of that freedom at the expense of others. And USC students are those “others” here. Those that don’t attend here need to learn that USC is to be respected if it is to provide for others. Those that label these new measures as profiling are just plain ignorant. It’s not race, etc. Are you a USC-authorized individual or not? That is, do you either pay or get paid to be here? If not, you don’t get in. Traddie’s checks ID’s: your license to see if you can drink and a USC-based ID. Now, we just do it for the campus itself at evening hours.

    The individual with the gun clearly didn’t recognize where he was or have respect for life, as many USC students were put at risk. I don’t extrapolate by assuming he is from the surrounding area (he is from Inglewood), but a group of USC students alone greatly reduces the chances of violent crime. After all, as a student, you have a responsibility to act with respect for others and for USC, lest you get kicked out. Assign blame all you want (I certainly have), but not changing anything is just plain dumb.

    Overall, you neglect to mention the good USC does for this suddenly ungrateful community, not to mention LA (largest private employer, anyone?). Non-USC people would know best to not bite one of the hands that feeds.

    • Alumnus and Donor
      Alumnus and Donor says:

      @Manny – in general, you have good comments.
      @Ann – Starting off your response with “you are high” and ending with a commentary about “your son” is a bit odd. (“Sarc on” tag missing?)

  7. ann
    ann says:

    You are high. I was nearly run over by skateboarders–drunken teens on campus launching off VKC on move in day; I witnessed a fight between two bums over whose garbage can is was to plunder, both in the dead center of campus. i AM TIRED OF SEEING DEGENERATES ALL OVER CAMPUS. First and foremost USC is for its students. Let the new village be the neighborhoods playground–until of course gunshots destroy that as well. USC is not the neighborhood, if it were no paying students would attend. All you financial hardships can go protest somewhere else. I am tired of paying for the neighborhoods fun. This is a private university not public. There is a distinct difference. I would ask the neighborhood to show its support of USC by other means than blackmailing us for $20m dollars in order to build The Village. USC is not a government sponsored housing project. The paying students and parents demand security even if you do not. Try Cal State Dominguez, I am sure you will find their crime rate equals ours, if that is the atmosphere you want to attend college in. I assure you it is not what I want for my son.

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