Student Affairs has received more reports of bias incidents from students this semester than it did for all of the previous academic year.
All reports go directly to the office of Lynette Merriman, assistant vice provost for Student Affairs, student support and advocacy. She said she has seen a high amount of submissions and predicts more to follow.
“I expect the numbers to continue to increase as students are talking about it and are made more aware of how easy it is to report,” Merriman said.
Merriman attributes this change to a combination of factors, including a Facebook post by Undergraduate Student Government President Rini Sampath and USC’s letter to the community. Both of these, she believes, help to educate students on the important subject of bias.
“I think sparking conversation about bias will provide an opportunity for students to realize that it is okay to speak up if someone says something offensive,” Merriman said. “I think that if our community has the confidence to speak up whenever we feel uncomfortable or when something inappropriate is said. If that becomes the practice, it will definitely help to decrease incidents.”
Sampath went public and reported an incident of racism she experienced outside a fraternity house on the evening of Sept. 19.
That Saturday night, a student verbally assaulted Sampath and her friends from the inside of a fraternity house and proceeded to throw a drink out the window.
Sampath said the events of that night are not uncommon.
“What happened on our campus on Saturday is not an isolated incident: It is happening on campuses across the nation and it is the result of a climate of intolerance that accepts hateful speech and actions,” Sampath wrote in a Facebook post on Sept. 22.
In the past few weeks at USC, there has been an outpouring of student reports of incidents like Sampath’s.
Juliet Porter, an undeclared sophomore, said she’s noticed a recent change in environment on campus.
“Lately, I have been hearing more and more about incidents like Rini’s,” Porter said. “It makes me sad to think that the remarkable diversity of our campus is not being celebrated as it should be.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that there was an increase in reports of bias incidents and hate crimes. There was only an increase in reports of bias incidents. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.