A resolution urging USC to cut ties with Palos Verdes-based Terranea Resort was presented on the Undergraduate Student Government Senate floor during a meeting Tuesday.
Sen. Michaela Murphy, Director of External Affairs Alec Vandenberg and the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation co-authored the resolution, which requests that USC revoke sponsorships, conferences and hotel bookings from the resort in light of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct from eight women during their employment at the hotel.
“Financially and otherwise affiliating with the Terranea Resort compromises the Undergraduate Student Government mission ‘to seek and obtain effective communication and relations within the University and external communities,’” the resolution states. “Affiliating with Terranea Resort compromises USC’s policy in its mission statement to ‘serve the public interest.’”
SC Sports Properties, a division of FOX Sports Media Group and Home Team Sports, is listed as an official partner of the resort. Since 2012, USC Athletics has used the resort for retreats and conferences. The Keck School of Medicine also hosts programming and events at the resort.
Vandenberg said he learned about the now settled allegations against the resort after reading a Daily Trojan report on protesters from a hotel workers’ union urging USC to cut ties with the resort.
“I originally saw the article … and a little bit less than a week after that I heard from Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation and they connected with a UNITE HERE Local Union 11 representative,” Vandenberg said.
Murphy said students should be aware of where USC’s money goes and the organizations the University financially supports.
“As students who fund the institution of USC … and generally where we put our money matters,” Murphy said. “What we fund and how we fund it is obviously a reflection of our values and there is no reason why at minimum we shouldn’t have a conversation more broadly and take a deeper look at the organizations and institutions that we tie ourselves to.”
Former Terranea employee Sandra Pezqueda filed a lawsuit against the resort, alleging she was sexually assaulted by her superior. After the news gained national attention, TIME Magazine named Pezqueda one of the “Silence Breakers” in 2017. It was later settled in May 2018. However, the resort continues to face opposition from the public.
UNITE HERE Local 11, a union representing over 30,000 workers in Southern California, is a partner of #MeTooTerranea, which is calling on organizations and individuals to boycott the resort.
“We want to do out part to pressure USC to disaffiliate,” Vandenberg said. “We want to apply a … pressure to USC in the immediate term until we see a lot of structural changes that we want to see at the resort.”
The resolution, which is supported by SCALE and the Student Assembly for Gender Empowerment, outlines several reforms Terranea Resort must implement for USC to reestablish ties with the hotel. The resolution states that the resort ought to compensate survivors of “abuse and intimidation,” reform its human resource protocols and terminate hotel management who “have been complicit” in the allegations.
“The resolution was largely driven by a student-run campaign within the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation,” wrote Ariella Amit, a SCALE member and sophomore majoring in urban studies and planning, in a statement to the Daily Trojan. “I supported the students who wrote it and continue to advocate for the importance of student voices and opposition to USC’s ties with Terranea Resort.”
If passed, the resolution will be presented to various University administrators such as Keck Medicine of USC CEO Thomas E. Jackiewicz, Keck School of Medicine Dean Laura Mosqueda, Athletic Director Lynn Swann, Vice President for Student Affairs Ainsley Carry, Provost Michael Quick and Interim President Wanda Austin.
“We want to make it a collaborative conversation and have this level of coalition building across organizations on campus,” Murphy said. “But, also being strong and firm in our response that USC should not be continuing its relationship with an organization that is shown to allegedly abuse its workers.”
Amit wants the University to listen to student voices and re-evaluate its partnership with the hotel.
“I hope [that] USC will not only hear, but also more importantly listen to the students demanding that the administration ends its complicity in occurrences of sexual assault both on campus and in any institutions with which USC partners,” Amit said.
Vandenberg hopes the resolution will reach USC administrators.
“We wanted to make sure we included the appropriate and relevant heads of departments that are associated with Terranea Resort,” Vandenberg said. “Whether that’s Athletics [or] whether that’s Keck … we also just wanted to make sure by identifying them in the resolution, the assumption is that it will arrive on their desk and at the very least start a conversation.”
Though the suit was settled last May and the hotel was dismissed as a party to the suit, UNITE HERE Local 11 continues its boycott efforts against the resort. The union has come under fire, however, for allegedly using scare and intimidation tactics to recruit Terranea workers, according to the campaign EyesOn11.
“I am aware of those counter allegations,” Vandenberg said. “My understanding is that these workers are currently not unionized and that some of them do want to unionize … but many of them have been threatened by Terranea Resort …. for being outspoken … Also let me be clear that the boycott effort is sponsored by a lot of different organizations.”
Vandenberg said he encourages students to pressure the University administration not because student are “pawns of a union,” but rather because he hopes USC will be more transparent.