Students petition to remove fence

Nearly one year after a shooting on campus on Halloween, the #USChangeMovement is petitioning President C. L. Max Nikias and the university administration to take down the gates that went up last January in an effort to increase campus security.

Barriers · Erected in January 2013, the fencing surrounding the university’s campus has been the subject of controversy.  Some students believe the gates symbolically represent barriers between USC and the community. - Austin Vogel | Daily Trojan

Barriers · Erected in January 2013, the fencing surrounding the university’s campus has been the subject of controversy. Some students believe the gates symbolically represent barriers between USC and the community. – Austin Vogel | Daily Trojan

Leaders of the movement believe the gates create a visible barrier that isolates USC from the South Los Angeles community and also serve to increase incidents of racial profiling.

“USC is a community space,” said Makiah Green, a member of the #USChangeMovement who authored the petition. “Community members who have been living here for years can’t access that space anymore. We are in someone else’s neighborhood. It’s not our neighborhood and to restrict access all of a sudden sends a very harmful and disrespectful message. Our understanding is that if the gates don’t come down within this school year, they probably never will.”

The gates were erected following the shooting last Halloween involving men not affiliated with USC. Green, a first-year master’s student in the professional writing program, said that she was troubled by the haste of administrative action, as the announcement regarding the security measures came just six days after the incident.

“The shooting was an isolated incident and because of the nature of it, that shooting could have happened anywhere and so a lot of people felt like the administration did not consider the long-term implications of the gates,” Green said. “They just did it out of fear and panic.”

Still, Dept. of Public Safety Deputy Chief David Carlisle stressed that gates and other enhanced security measures — which include closing the campus after 9 p.m. and requiring ID checks — were not necessarily a direct result of last year’s shooting.

“We at DPS are always evaluating the security measures that we have in place both on and off campus and looking for ways that we can improve our policies, procedures and technology we use to make this as safe a campus as possible,” Carlisle said. “[The shooting] just escalated that process and President Nikias wanted new measures in place to make sure nothing like that ever happened again.”

Katie Gavin, a junior majoring in music, was concerned that rather than increasing safety on campus, the gates create a barrier between people in the community and students.

Gavin added that the overall gentrification of the area surround USC is harmful to the community. In addition to USC’s Master Plan to renovate University Village, private business have also built new apartment complexes such as University Gateway and Icon Plaza. Gavin said such development causes displacement of local residents.

“USC has the potential to be — and has been — a really beneficial place for members of the community because it provides resources and there is a safe environment around here,” Gavin said. “The ideal situation is families can grow up around here, send their kids to charter schools and be able to use the resources on campus freely before or after 9 p.m., but if the plan is to continue to develop the area around here, it means USC is not interested in the family members that aren’t paying USC tuition.”

Naomi McPherson, a junior majoring in American studies and ethnicity and narrative studies, was concerned about increased racial profiling by DPS and private security officials. She said that after the shooting last Halloween, which took place at a Black Student Association event, there was an increase in racially charged conversation and negative perceptions of black students.

“I think students, if they’ve been paying attention, have noticed racial profiling and a lack of attention paid to certain students over others,” McPherson said. “I’ve seen students walk on campus and not show their ID because they were of a certain race and then other people get accosted.”

The “Take Down the USC Gates” petition by the #USChangeMovement currently has more than 290 signatures, but it has yet to garner an administrative response. Every time the petition is signed, however, Nikias and Provost Elizabeth Garrett receive emails.

“We understand the USC administration that is in power will concede nothing they aren’t forced to,” Gavin said. “But, the idea is to gather enough students who care to sign and bring attention to the idea.”

Craig Keys, associate senior vice president for civic engagement, stressed that the gates were created to provide the safety of students and community members.

“It’s not safe for the university to ignore concerns that are expressed and evident by the events that we’ve seen taking place in recent years and months on and around campus. So, for those reasons, we’ve increasingly made safety a priority and re-evaluated the resources that we committed to safety,” Keys said.

Keys said the administration has made presentations to local councils and spoken with various block clubs and residents because they want to hear from the community and improve responsiveness.

“I think it’s important in all of this to recognize that the university is making very significant efforts to balance the safety concerns with our commitment to maintaining an open campus,” he said.

Green said even if the administration does not respond to the petition, she hopes it will spark conversation among students and remind students that the community outside the USC gates is a friendly neighborhood, not a hostile one.

“I want the voices of the students to be heard and respected,” she said. “I hope it will bring about more collaboration between students, community members and senior administration.”


Correction: An Oct. 29 article “Students petition to remove fence” quoted Katie Gavin as saying “We understand the USC administration that is in power will concede nothing. They aren’t forced to, but the idea is to gather enough students who care to sign and bring attention to the issue.” The quote should have read, “We understand the USC administration that is in power will concede nothing they aren’t forced to. But, the idea is to gather enough students who care to sign and bring attention to the idea.” The article has been edited to reflect this change.

The article also said Craig Keys spoke with “black clubs.” The article has been edited to reflect that keys spoke with “block clubs.”
The Daily Trojan regrets the errors.

Follow Kate on Twitter @km_guarino

21 replies
  1. Wanderer
    Wanderer says:

    Actually, when I went to Columbia (at a time when crime rates in New York were much higher), there were pathways which were open and public at all times. The entry control was exercised at the building level, which makes a lot of sense. Students could feel secure in their dorms and buildings without the campus feeling like an armed fortress. It’s a little hard for a university to simultaneously claim to be a great community resource and wall itself off from the community.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I spent some time working with Ms. Green (on unpolitical things) and got to know her rather well in 2010-2011. She is fairly intelligent, but her views lack maturity. Her framework for deconstructing problems suffers from inherent flaws, and her presumption in all our dealings that I supported her views was continually unwelcome. She genuinely believes what she says, and that is the saddest part. Perhaps someday she will outgrow her childish yearnings and find a productive place in society.

    Also, she’s definitely a super-senior, not a senior. I guess she must have been too busy protesting to spend time in class.

    One more thing–a little birdie told me that she’s working on an article about “these darn gates” and that she’s soliciting quotes. I wonder how that’s going to turn out.

  3. YAU
    YAU says:

    ““USC is a community space,” said Makiah Green, a member of the #USChangeMovement who authored the petition

    Um, no Makiah, it is not. USC is private property. You should be ashamed of yourself for not knowing that distinction. Next.

  4. USC Alum
    USC Alum says:

    With all due respect to Ms. Makiah Green, USC didn’t just magically appear in “someone else’s neighborhood.” USC has been a presence in the West Adams neighborhood since the late 1800s, whereas the current population demographics in the area began to shift some time in the 1960s and most noticeably in the 1980s.

    I respect the many upstanding, non-USC affiliated local residents of West Adams; many of them were my neighbors when I was an undergraduate at the University between 2006-2010 —but it is completely disingenuous to suggest that, just because USC is perceived to have the upper hand in the privileged department when compared to the local residents, that USC should bend to the will of people who have no investment or ties to the University.

    I’m sure Ms. Green’s intentions are good, but she should really educate herself on the history of the area before she makes broad statements about who does or doesn’t have “rights” to control private space in an area — let alone suggest that USC is some kind of intruder to West Adams.

  5. dreamer
    dreamer says:

    USC’s campus is not public property. It’s not a place for the local denizens to meander through. Enough of the PC culture that USC is trying to immerse itself in. USC does more than enough when it comes to reaching out to the black and brown community i.e. 90007 via JEP and other programs. USC is not a elitist WASPy school that snubs those who aren’t wealthy and white. Enough of the apologetic mentality. The local denizens are NOT entitled to USC’s campus unless they got legit business.

  6. tl
    tl says:

    It is a great comfort to we parents who are paying full freight to send our kids to USC to feel like they are safer. This is a private, expensive institution. My student volunteers in the neighborhood schools near USC, the money she spends in the local businesses raises tax dollars to help the community. There are many public events USC makes available. That is plenty!
    Students need to be safe. All urban campuses have risks, and the benefits of living near a city outweigh them certainly. Yet USC is in fact located in a very low income, high crime community. Many students from our area will not apply to USC because of the bad neighborhood. That is a fact. The reputation and future of the university depends upon the families who pay tuition to feel like their money is well spent. The value of your diploma at USC depends upon public perception of its value. If it is seen as a dangerous place to attend, that may erode the credibility of your degree.
    I agree with those who call for a more permanent, beautiful gate around the campus. It would send a message that the university understands the risks of the location, and is doing all it can. Let the gates stand!

  7. Row Girl
    Row Girl says:

    I signed the petition to start a second row for the lower tier sororities at the beginning of the semester. Like many other student petitions, USC apparently ignored it

  8. David
    David says:

    Ms. Green, your facts are wrong, your reasoning is seriously flawed. I suggest you rewrite your petition with some semblance of truth if you want anyone to take you seriously.

  9. Benjamin Roberts
    Benjamin Roberts says:

    Alright everyone… PLEASE listen to me very carefully as it is very important to understand how misguided and uninformed some people are (particularly Makiah Green) about the University’s place in the community:

    USC is NOT in someone else’s community as Green suggests. This is one of the greatest misconceptions I hear. The point of fact is that “University Park” is very much USC’s neighborhood, and community members who live near USC are living in USC’s neighborhood. This is critical to understand. USC was founded in the late 1800’s. USC is in fact a founding member of that neighborhood. One could rightly argue that those several blocks we now know as “University Park” would barely be on the radar if it were not for USC’s substantial presence there since its founding. The community was indeed built around the University.

    Moreover, any suggestion that USC has been anything but a benefit to the neighborhood at large is a lie. I am so proud, as a Trojan, to hail from a University that has and continues to poor so much money and resources into the community it shares. USC has shown great philanthropy and dedication to its neighbors, not least of which was manifest in its decision several years ago to stay put, rather than move to a new location.

    I agree that the gates should go. They are ugly, and serve only to affirm the concerns that many have about the University neighborhood. I would support a compromise as suggested in another comment, whereby more permanent and decorative gates would be constructed in a less obtrusive style. However, it is critical that people such as Green understand how profoundly incorrect they are about USC’s place in the community.

    • Benjamin Roberts
      Benjamin Roberts says:

      Further to my own comment (and as others have suggested)… USC is a private institution, and as such has no mandate to enroll, engage or host anyone. USC is NOT a public community space. This is yet another amazing misconception. Public universities like UCLA, by comparison, do indeed have a mandate to serve the public, and evidence of its extra-educational function can be seen throughout its campus, buildings and facilites.

      Ignorant comments and misunderstanding like those offered by Makiah Green should not be coming from educated college students; I’m truly bewildered.

  10. Ernesto
    Ernesto says:

    Mr. Author, I am sorry, but this is indeed our neighborhood, just as much as it is everyone else’ who lives in proximity. You sorely misunderstand the relationship between USC and the City. You act as though USC is public property. It is not. It is private and the non USC community has never had unfettered access to all of its resources. That would be unfair to the people who pay $70k a year to put their kids through school here, along with paying extra for obvious scholarship students such as yourself who think USC should be a Free ride. I assure you, it is not. I work hard to put my kids through this school. I pay taxes to help the local community. USC is not the responsible party here. Take your welfare society and start paying your own way and you will have a better understanding of what it means be a serving member of the neighborhood, which USC has proudly been for over 125 years.

    USC is one of the most open and diverse universities in the nation. But, attending it is a privilege not a right. It’s resources are a privilege not a right. We have the right to lock our doors at night.

  11. J. Smith
    J. Smith says:

    USC has always been involved in the community, and we rightfully take pride in partnering with numerous community organizations so that we are good neighbors and an asset to our community. That being said, the campus is still private property. There is no need for anyone not affiliated with the University to be on campus between 9 pm and 6 am.
    Just as important as it is to be active members of this community, USC has an obligation to keep its students safe on campus. Of course profiling is an issue, but there are much more effective and reasonable means to address that issue.
    Keep the gates

  12. John
    John says:

    The larger, unsaid issue is that the gates are an eyesore.

    Other urban universities (Columbia, Penn, Yale) have similar, strict access control at night, but don’t look as prison-like about it since their perimeters were designed with access control in mind. USC with its large plazas book-ending Trousdale was not.

    If those plazas could somehow be reconfigured and perhaps beautified with permanent, landmark gates (e.g. Sather Gate at Berkeley, Straus Gate at Harvard, any of Columbia’s wonderful gates, etc.) that would be the best of both worlds. I suggest Google-imaging these to see how collegiate gates, when done correctly, can be beautiful.

    As it stands, the temporary fencing USC is using makes it look like a penitentiary and comes off as cold and unwelcome even to those who have access.

    • Benjamin Roberts
      Benjamin Roberts says:

      You are absolutely correct about this. The temporary gates look horrible, and make the University look anything but a distinguished private campus. The examples cited of gates on other campuses are exactly what’s needed… if indeed we need gates at all.

    • dreamer
      dreamer says:

      +1. A beautiful wall made of brick and mortar would be an ideal replacement for that rough-edged, “junkyard,” and tacky fence. I feel like pitbulls are going to run up to me and bark. Ghetto. Besides, these proposed walls can grow ivies…and you know what that means? SC = Ivy

  13. Sam
    Sam says:

    NO Miss Green, the neighborhood around USC is unfortunately NOT a friendly one, otherwise we wouldn’t need patrols on every corner and we wouldn’t have to be afraid to be mugged or accosted every time we walk down the street. Incidents happen on almost a weekly basis. I have no idea where you live and where your ignorance comes from but the neighborhood around USC is a very dangerous one, especially at night. Sadly, all the gang members in that community do not care about others, as such they are ruining the neighborhood for everyone else, however that is not USC’s issue to fix! That is an issue the community needs to address and fix. Perhaps Miss Green, you can get involved and straighten out the gang members and druggies and help that community because an upstanding community instead of an outcast that it currently is. This is where you should put your energy Miss Green. This is were you can make the difference! HELP THAT COMMUNITY!

  14. SC
    SC says:

    USC is certainly NOT a community space and to make such a claim is complete nonsense! USC is a PRIVATE university, and as such has every right to restrict admission to its premises at anytime to anyone, who has no business being there. USC has a responsibility to its students, staff and faculty to keep them safe, especially at night. The community members have no business on campus especially at night. USC is in the middle of the ghetto and MUST do all it possible can to protect itself. Other private universities such as USD in SD do the exact same thing. Please do NOT take down those gates, they are needed for the safety of our students and if people can’t understand this, they have no business being there to begin with!

  15. MC
    MC says:

    I have worked for USC for 12 years and I can safetly say that thanks to the gates during night hours the campus is the safest and most secure I have ever seen. PLEASE PLEASE do not take down the gates!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Logic
    Logic says:

    USC is not a community space. It is private property. Those who pay to be there have access to it 24 hours a day. Those who don’t, don’t. It’s quite simple and there’s nothing racial about it.

    Do you also have a problem with other private establishments–restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, etc.–having hours during which they are not open to the public?

    Also, USC has been here since 1880… why exactly isn’t this “our neighborhood”?

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