Letter to the Editor: Racial, socioeconomic disparities at USC must be addressed

As I walked past the red brick buildings, eager to start my first day as a Trojan in 2017, I was captivated by the myriad flags representing the student population at USC. Could it be that, after being one of the few members of the Latinx community in my AP classes, I would finally take classes with people who shared my narrative?

The answer, I quickly learned, was no. I continued to see a lack of minority representation everywhere. I feared that because of my background and the color of my skin, imposter syndrome would continue to plague my life. Feeling unworthy of a quality education is a common sentiment among many students of color. I find it quite ironic and amusing that the actual imposters were those who cheated the system to get their children into USC. Those spots should’ve belonged to an athlete who spent countless hours on the field, a single mother who went to a community college in hopes of transferring to USC or a straight-A undocumented student who lived in constant fear of being deported yet had the courage to pursue liberation through education. What’s even more fascinating, however, is that those imposters often never suffer from imposter syndrome themselves.

As a first-generation transfer student, I could not relate to the narratives of my colleagues who came from wealthy households. Naturally, I questioned why, out of over 56,000 applicants, I was one of fortunate enough to be accepted to this prestigious institution. I realized that it was not luck that opened the door to USC, but rather countless hours spent in the library and late nights spent on homework after a long day of work and classes.

The news that wealthy, white individuals were bribing their way into our institution is not news at all. Why does it take a huge scandal for us to address issues that are right under our noses? We need to raise our voices to talk about these injustices regardless of who it makes uncomfortable.

This scandal raises issues beyond the unfairness of the college admissions process. We need to address the racial and socioeconomic disparities not only at USC or other elite universities, but also in our education system in its entirety. We need to question if the system in place currently is actually a meritocracy. We need to question the unfairness of our country’s justice system. We need to question the problems with standardized testing.

Why is it that Kelley Williams Bolar, an underprivileged black woman, was subject to our racist justice system and sentenced to jail for using a relative’s address, so her daughter could attend school in a better school district? Meanwhile, Lori Laughlin paid a fine that will hardly bruise her bank account and is allowed to stay in the comfort of her home. Based on the inequities regarding access to education, it is loud and clear that rich white people face little to no legal consequences compared to those of color, specifically black people. We must continue having these conversations — and if it makes people uncomfortable, so be it. We are doing something right.

The USC administration must acknowledge and take full responsibility for their negligence and pledge loyalty to us, the students. USC needs to provide more oversight over our athletics department and improve transparency and communication. Sending out memos is not enough. Students demand action; we demand this institution be held accountable.

That being said, I’d like to welcome our new president-elect Carol Folt to the Trojan Family and call on her to be an ally to the student body. And to current students who earned their place at USC, you’re doing fantastic. Keep setting the example for future generations and continue to speak out. That is what true leadership is. And in the words of Aubrey Graham, “know yourself, know your worth.” Fight on.

Maria Fernanda Manjarrez ’20