The Office of Student Affairs and several cultural resource centers hosted the kickoff of the #TogetherUSC campaign, which seeks to foster campus unity through mutual acceptance and care, on Tuesday.
Between noon and 1 p.m. in front of Tommy Trojan, administrators passed out informational brochures and cupcakes while students took pictures in a photo booth with posters that promoted an inclusive mindset, featuring slogans like “cultures are not costumes” and “I am more than a label.”
University officials want to make it clear that they are fully committed to campus equality.
“[#TogetherUSC] is about creating a ‘culture of care,’” said Lynette Merriman, assistant vice provost for student affairs, support and advocacy. “We want students … to feel safe [and] supported, and we want students to support one another.”
Merriman said #TogetherUSC is part of a larger effort by Student Affairs to increase awareness about existing on-campus resources available to support students’ physical and mental health, as well as to eliminate bias and prejudice. Billy Vela, director of El Centro Chicano, added that a main goal of the campaign is to provide students with the tools to help them support each other.
Trojans Care for Trojans, an initiative that allows students to request a staff member’s help when they are concerned about another student’s personal challenges, is one of the programs highlighted by #TogetherUSC. Bias reporting gives students the opportunity to report hate incidents so they can be further investigated by University officials.
“It’s great to see more concerted efforts to raise awareness about different identities,” Undergraduate Student Government President Rini Sampath said.
Sampath was especially pleased that #TogetherUSC is working with campus cultural resource centers such as Asian Pacific American Student Services, El Centro Chicano, the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs and the LGBT Resource Center. As these organizations are already working to address students’ issues with identity, diversity and acceptance, Sampath said it makes sense to include them in this campaign.
Sampath has been lobbying to pass the Diversity Climate Resolution that the USG senate voted to postpone on Tuesday. The resolution would provide cultural centers with additional funding and allocate more resources to addressing inclusivity.
Students who attended the event were highly supportive of the initiative.
Leslie Berntsen, a fourth-year doctoral student studying brain and cognitive sciences and social psychology, said she hopes the campaign will create “a culture of care rather than a culture of compliance.”
Others emphasized the theme of solidarity.
“We’re all one big family. People should be treated equally and fairly,” said Gor Mkrtchyan, a junior majoring in business administration. “I need to be more cognizant of the fact that my fellow Trojans aren’t always treated fairly. I need to help them in any way I can.”
Students can participate in the discussion on campus inclusivity via social media, using the hashtag #TogetherUSC.
Clarification: A previous version of this article stated that Leslie Berntsen applauded the campaign. Bernsten simply said she hoped the campaign would foster a culture of care.