In presenting its resolution on campus climate reform this past Tuesday, the Undergraduate Student Government provided a much-needed structural answer for overt racial discrimination present on campus. Moreover, the Daily Trojan editorial board is pleased to see that its recommendation to include a vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion is included in the resolution — which also presents definite, large-scale efforts to institute real change on this campus.
It is entirely frustrating, then, that the proposal’s call for transparency, accessibility and equity was answered by accusations of racial discrimination and condemnation for the negligent use of University funds. Opposition to the resolution, which has manifested in a Facebook event titled “Say No to Race Quotas and Tuition Hikes at USC,” has misconstrued the proposal’s goal to address diversity, cultural competency and underrepresentation at USC with a demand to institute racial quotas and unlawful increases in tuition at the expense of marginalized students. Despite the reductive and divisive rhetoric employed to tie down the effort, USG and allied campus organizations alike provide a comprehensive proposal that above all else establishes resources and equal opportunities for minority students. The opposition to the bill misrepresents the purpose, intention and practical result of the bill — blowing a minor point of the resolution out of proportion, misunderstanding its effect and echoing greater false narratives that have historically pitted communities of color against each other.
The most attention-grabbing claim of opponents to the resolution is that it will create, as the Facebook event claims, “a de facto racial quota system on our campus.” This is entirely untrue. The resolution calls for the creation of a “Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to measure and analyze diversity, inclusion and equity within a year as well as publically report and significantly increase recruitment, enrollment/hiring/appointment, and retention of students, faculty, staff and trustees of underrepresented populations to reflect national demographics by 2025.” Such language advocates for a more thorough and inclusive application process to be put into place — it does not advocate for a racial quota system. The purpose is to address the systemic obstacles that make higher education inaccessible for people of certain races and religions, socioeconomic backgrounds and gender identities. Evidently, a more holistic admissions process does not serve to unfairly advantage or disadvantage any group.
And the event description, along with many opponents of the resolution, professes that a manufactured “racial quota” system would be “devastating” to the Asian American community because “Asians would be considered an over-represented minority on our campus, forcing the school to reject them.” Such an assertion paints the Asian American community with a single brushstroke as a model minority, ignoring the struggle of subgroups — for example, Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islander students, 52 percent of whom are below the poverty line in California, according to California Standards Test data. In short, despite the assertions of diversity opponents, many of whom are not Asian Americans themselves, policies that support minorities support Asian Americans, as well. Instead, using Asian Americans as a wedge piece to stop policies that help minorities pits communities of color against each other, stalling progress for all.
Some opponents of the bill also operate under the ill-advised assumption that the proposal will lead to increased tuition rates. Yes, it will take funds to hire a vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and an additional Title IX investigator to provide cultural centers for minority students and diversity training and to provide a $100 million fund for underrepresented students. But to allocate less than 2 percent of the University’s projected $6 billion endowment campaign to support minority students is not unreasonable. Moreover, it is disingenuous to assert that providing resources for minority students will directly result in hikes in tuition.
It’s important to remember that USG does not have the power to enact this recommendation. The very nature of the language employed calls for the issues to be “further resolved,” which means that this is simply a draft for action. On Tuesday, it will be voted on by the Senate, and, if it passes, the resolution will be presented to the administration. Understandably, when dealing with the University administration, student organizations need to anticipate the push for compromise that will ensue from the administration if the proposal passes through Senate. At this stage, the administration will choose which policies it will consider, and it’s likely that they will choose very few of the recommendations. Negotiation between student government and the administration will determine which proposals are feasible. So to those doubtful about how the University will make the commitment to the resolution — that’s their problem.
Daily Trojan Fall 2015 Editorial Board