The last year at USC has been marked by two major violent crimes: the tragic killings of two graduate students in April and the shooting on Halloween night.
USC was also marked by increased security measures, both on and off campus. The Los Angeles Police Department added extra patrols in addition to 30 officers, a detective and a neighborhood prosecutor to the USC area in April. The week after the Halloween shooting, President C. L. Max Nikias announced various new security measures that would be put in place in the upcoming spring semester, ranging from restricting campus access from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. to checking all IDs after 9 p.m. and installing additional security cameras at entrances and around the perimeter of campus.
These are all commendable efforts, but are responses to the most visible — and arguably the most aberrational — incidents of crime at USC. But they put an unnecessary spotlight on isolated incidents caused by individual decisions that are out of the university’s control, and as a consequence, launch the university down a slippery slope of overdone, stringent security measures.
The univeristy must react to crime-related incidents, no matter how isolated they are. But it also must work to strike a blance between immediately amping up university security and finding long-term solutions to issues of crime and safety.
The fatal shooting of Ying Wu and Ming Qu in April dealt a shocking and heartbreaking blow to the USC community. The university responded appropriately by increasing the number of “yellow jackets” in the area surrounding campus who are equipped with radios so they can immediately contact DPS or LAPD. LAPD’s increased presence also helped assuage the fears of students, parents, faculty and staff that a similar incident could happen again.
After the Halloween shooting, Nikias immediately reformed the university’s policy on events, banning the use of any outside promoters for events on campus or on The Row and making clear that the process to get events approved would be a difficult one. These kinds of events receive the most visibility, attention and criticism from inside and outside the USC community, and as a result, the strong action taken by the university was warranted.
But what’s lost in all the media coverage and heightened visibility about the danger surrounding USC is that both the shootings were caused by individuals unaffiliated with the university, who made decisions completely out of the university’s control. How much can new security measures really do to prevent the unpredictable decisions of individuals?
This is not to say that all attempts at improving security should be abandoned because so much is out of the university’s control. But there are only so many truly effective measures USC can implement, and if we continue at the rate we are going, such measures will become increasingly ineffective and superfluous. It also sets a dangerous precedent when concerned parents and families, who are removed from USC and — for the most part — only hear about these isolated incidents, are clamoring for the university to better protect their children. What if enough parents signed a petition pressuring Nikias to make USC a closed campus and he agreed? Such a change would be irreversibly detrimental to students and faculty, as well as to the valuable relationship the university has built with the surrounding community.
When it comes to the issue of crime and safety at USC, the balance between taking immediate action and making long-term foundational changes is difficult to find but absolutely necessary. But moving forward into next semester and the years to come, it is crucial for the university to remember this and to not get caught up in the immediacy of making more and more security changes.
Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish and is the Daily Trojan’s Editorial Director. Point/Counterpoint ran Fridays.
USC has seen some troubling safety issues in the last year. With the killings of Ying Wu and Ming Qu in April and the shooting on Halloween, students, parents, alumni and staff all have reason for concern.
These events have prompted the university administration to increase campus security, but so far these changes have received a substantial amount of criticism. From inaccurate Trojans Alerts to plans to check IDs at every dorm entrance, the impact of these changes has largely been perceived as negative. Just because a crime hasn’t been stopped and students have been inconvenienced, however, doesn’t mean the new safety measures aren’t effective. They are the university’s best option to keep students safe and protect its own interests, and they must be enforced.
Whether students, faculty or staff like the new safety policies or not, they make sense. The university can’t force students to be safe; all they can do is try to keep campus as secure as possible, and for the most part the changes — Security Ambassadors, or yellow jackets, ID checks after 9 p.m. and additional security cameras, to name a few — should achieve that.
It’s not like the USC administration has a choice in enacting them. No matter how much students criticize the new safety measures, it’s nothing compared to the flak the administration would have received if it had done nothing. Parents, alumni and students all expected to see action from the university in response to the Halloween and April shootings. The university doesn’t want to inconvenience students, but ensuring their safety remains a top priority.
Some students have said that because the shootings were isolated incidents caused by people outside the university, there is no heightened safety risk for students. USC, however, is becoming more and more connected to the surrounding community — students can’t think of activity within that community as independent of university life any more. There are certain realities that come with living in a city as large as Los Angeles, and the frequency of incidents in the past year has made it clear that USC will continue to be affected by safety problems if changes aren’t made.
These changes, however, still need to be carefully considered and reviewed. USC must focus on providing appropriate, rather than invasive or overbearing, protection to its students and faculty. The impact of the policy that requires students to show IDs after 9 p.m., for example, remains to be seen as it will be implemented in the spring semester; if it ends up being too inconvenient, it should be reconsidered. But for now, the USC community needs to remember it has been affected by not one, but two shooting incidents in the last year. Until the university can determine more effective long-term solutions to safety problems in the community, it is better to err on the side of caution.
Solutions to such a serious problem will inevitably have drawbacks, and since it is difficult to measure improved security. the benefits aren’t always easy to see. Rather than flat-out rejecting new security measures, however, students, faculty and staff should give them a chance to improve security first.
Just because the new policies aren’t perfect does not mean they aren’t worth enforcing — and their enforcement is crucial to protecting the university community.
Burke Gibson is a sophomore majoring in economics and is the Daily Trojan’s Chief Copy Editor.
Point/Counterpoint ran Fridays.