BSA criticizes USC’s lack of support for underrepresented students

In its Instagram statement, the Black Student Assembly wrote that the same University action following former Undergraduate Student Government Vice President Rose Ritch should be granted to student activist Abeer Tijani who led the efforts to impeach Ritch and former USG President Truman Fritz. (James Wolfe | Daily Trojan)

The Black Student Assembly condemned the University’s allegedly disproportionate support and protection for underrepresented students on campus in a letter to the USC community Thursday. The statement, which was posted on BSA’s Instagram account, is in response to President Carol Folt’s Aug. 6 letter in solidarity with former Undergraduate Student Government Vice President Rose Ritch, who resigned last week citing student harassment on social media against her Zionist identity. 

Ritch’s resignation came after efforts from student activist Abeer Tijani, a senior majoring in global health who circulated a petition mid-June calling for the resignation of USG President Truman Fritz. The calls for Fritz to step down came after anonymous submissions to the @black_at_usc Instagram account alleged he made anti-Black remarks on several occasions. Tijani filed a formal impeachment complaint July 1 citing Ritch’s complicity in Fritz’s racist conduct. 

Following Ritch’s resignation and Folt’s comments, Tijani said she endured online harassment and accusations of antisemitism.

“As I type this, I am being bombarded by messages from friends and strangers notifying me that my name, pictures, and social media accounts have now been plastered all over the internet by people painting me as an anti-Semite and a bigot,” Tijani said in an Instagram statement last Friday. “I have now been forced into a position where I must consider taking legal action to protect myself against the defamation of my character.”

According to BSA’s statement, Folt’s letter failed to include the necessary context of Tijani’s efforts that called for Fritz and Ritch’s impeachments. 

“The manipulation of that context, the victimization of Truman, and the martyring of Rose that followed took away from our movement and centered whiteness amidst it all,” the statement read. “This is anti-Black. This vivid manifestation of white privilege and blatant disregard for Black students and Black voices became very apparent in the treatment of Abeer Tijani.”

BSA co-director Jaya Hinton said BSA released the statement to demonstrate the organization’s support for all Black students on campus and to compensate for what they felt was a lack of protection of Tijani from the University. 

“Recognizing the intersectionality of our students is something that BSA is really trying to focus on this year so it only felt right to put out a statement in defense of all of our students,” said Hinton, a junior majoring in business administration. 

In Folt’s statement, she denounced anti-Zionism by conflating the political ideology with antisemitism, which alienates Jewish students who aren’t Zionist, BSA wrote. BSA’s statement also showed the organization’s support for USC’s Palestinian community, which it wrote continues to be isolated by the University. BSA said Folt’s statement shows USC continues to uphold the Zionist ideology while refusing to recognize Palestine as an independent state with its flag at the Center for International and Public Affairs. 

“For far too long on USC’s campus, Palestinian students have not been afforded the luxury and privilege to study in a place where they feel welcomed,” BSA wrote.

Citing Folt’s “Stronger than Hate” campaign, a program meant to counter hate on campus led by the USC Shoah Foundation, the letter stated that the new initiative has further alienated and excluded demographics on campus, including anti-Black organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League. In a letter to the community Friday, Folt wrote that the campaign would confront antisemitism and anti-Black and anti-Asian racism and identity-based hate.

In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Vice President for Student Affairs Winston Crisp said the USC is looking into all instances of alleged harassment that the University knows of. 

“We are investigating every allegation of bullying, harassment and threatening behavior that we are aware of and that we find out about,” Crisp said. “I do not believe that we are treating students differently when it comes to how we are trying to keep them safe.”

At the time of publication, the  University has not addressed the online harassment targeting Tijani in a public statement as it did following Ritch’s claims of anti-Zionist and antisemitic attacks.

In future email correspondence, BSA wrote that it hopes the University takes into consideration how their negligence toward Palestinians, anti-Zionist Jewish persons and Black students is harmful to their learning and social environment on campus. 

“My hopes for USC remain the same as they were a few weeks ago,” Tijani wrote on Instagram, “I want nothing more than for USC’s administration to help build and foster an anti-racist and non-discriminatory campus where all students feel safe, respected and valued.”