Petition calls for Rossier to act after racist comment

Doctoral student Gina Loring created the petition after students made racially-charged comments in a class offered by the Rossier School. (Daily Trojan file photo)

A doctoral student at the Rossier School of Education created a petition that has garnered over 600 signatures as of Sunday asking the School to implement accountability practices after a classroom incident she described as racially-charged and offensive last month.

“‘Women of color should be ‘sterilized.’ — This profoundly racist statement was made in one of my classes and the instructor accommodated it, so I created a petition to generate accountability,” the petition written by student Gina Loring read.

Loring, who is a woman of color, said that while discussing ways to increase the number of women of color who receive prenatal care during an in-class assignment, some students suggested sterilizing women of color and taking their babies at birth would alleviate the issue.

“Imagine if the prompt had said, ‘How do we clean up the homeless problem in Los Angeles?’” Loring said. “And imagine if their suggestion had been, ‘We should round them up and shoot them because that would get rid of the homeless problem.’”

Loring said she was stunned by the comments. She cited the history of eugenic sterilization and the current separations of immigrant families as reasons for her bewilderment.

After the comments were written and quickly deleted, Loring said she told her professor Kim Hirabayashi, who assured her the comments would be addressed.

According to Loring, the professor addressed the comments by encouraging a brief in-class conversation.

“[The professor] then proceeded to open class with a vague statement about the incident, at no point addressing the comments directly,” the petition read. “The incident was thus not only left without resolution, it was magnified.”

Another student of color in the class said learning has been impacted because the majority of students in the “Challenges in Urban Education: Learning” class are people of color.

Loring said six students reached out to her expressing discomfort with how the incident was handled, but did not feel comfortable speaking about it publicly.

Hirabayashi told the Daily Trojan in an email that she would not comment until a resolution has been finalized within the school.

Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher said the school is aware of Loring’s petition and is currently reviewing the matter.

“Our goal is to find an inclusive resolution that reflects both our commitment to an open exchange of ideas and our mission to teach students to value and respect the cultural history and the identities of those around them,” Gallagher wrote to the Daily Trojan.

In the weeks following the incident, Loring filed a Title IX incident report and dropped the course from her record with a full refund, but said Rossier has not communicated with her since then.

Loring said she chose to attend USC, and specifically pursue a degree at the Rossier School because of its progressive mission statement, and said that she does not believe this situation reflects those values.  

Loring’s petition asks Rossier to publicly acknowledge the incident and implement workshops about critical race theory for Hirabayashi and the students involved. Loring and one of her classmates said they do not believe the students who made the comments are suited for the program.

“I don’t see how USC could, in good conscience, send students out into the world with a doctorate degree in educational leadership who hold these kinds of beliefs or even would have these thoughts in the first place,” Loring said.

Loring said she viewed the incident as a microcosm of issues surrounding gender and race that persist in United States today.

“We know from history that when unethical statements and unethical actions are left unchecked time and time again, it becomes worse and worse with time,” Loring said. “You end up with horrific things happening because the masses were quiet.”

Editor’s note: A correction was made to Loring’s quote “Imagine if the cops had said, ‘How do we clean up the homeless problem in Los Angeles?’” It has been updated to correctly reflect Loring’s statement.