Following three hours of heated and emotionally-charged public discussion at the University of Southern California on Tuesday evening, student Senators ultimately decided to postpone the vote on a controversial campus resolution urging $100 million be spent on mandatory diversity classes and to create an “inclusion climate” on campus.
Despite opposition from many students who demanded a vote be finalized Tuesday night, a majority of the student Senators decided to delay.
“From a cinematic point of view, this is the most passionate, charged atmosphere I have ever witnessed at USC,” Calvin, a graduate film student said.
Before the discussion began, Director of Diversity Affairs at USC and resolution co-author Moira “Celese” Turner handed out fliers thatread “diSCriminationliveshere.” She was herself sporting a t-shirt that read: “This is what a feminist looks like.”
The resolution was introduced last week after USG President Rini Sampath, who is ethnically Indian, made national headlines when a fraternity member allegedly called her an expletive that included her ethnicity and hurled a drink at her. Several students on campus said they viewed the incident as isolated and agreed that the student should be reprimanded.
But Sampath and several others did not think that punishment was enough, and opted to pen a resolution that would include the creation of diversity classes on queer and race theory, mandatory diversity training courses for students and faculty, and hiring a new dean of diversity.
Undergraduate Senator Sanjay Mahboobani, who is also of Indian descent, told Breitbart News that he has not experienced any discrimination on campus, although he said he has experienced it elsewhere.
Ariel Sobel, a nationally-acclaimed poet and TED speaker who identified as a “queer” Jewish woman, chose to use her allotted time not to comment on the resolution itself but instead to point out “the hypocrisy of the people who had created it. Although the guise of tolerance seems to drive this campaign, it comes from people who encourage hatred on this campus,” she told the standing-room only crowd of students.
Sobel called one of the bill’s co-authors antisemitic. She referenced comments allegedly made by senator Shyann Murphy, who is accused of saying “I feel that I was elected because my constituents believe in my political stance, and I honestly don’t want to use our funds for a Jew to speak.”
Undergrad student Leesa Danzek, who also opposed the bill said “USG claims to be on a mission to support minority groups, while quietly putting down one the world’s most suppressed minorities: Jews.” She asked the Undergraduate Student Government why “in its poorly executed attempt to increase diversity on campus, is neglecting Jewish students.”
One of the students who spoke in support of the pending resolution on Tuesday night said the $100 million was much needed for cultural programs on campus. An Asian student who also spoke in support of the resolution said, “xenophobia exists at USC because professors cannot even pronounce their students’ names correctly….We demand more from the university that admits the second-largest number of international students in this country.”
Questions were raised as to where the financing for these new positions are programs would come from. A male business student chimed in, saying, “from [a] fiscal perspective, this will dramatically increase tuition.” Sampath disagreed and suggested that $100 million is a mere drop in the bucket for USC’s budget, drawing attention to George Lucas’s generous $10 million donation to be earmarked for USC’s film school to help Latino, black and minority students.
One of the most vocal student senators opposed to the resolution was Jacob Ellenhorn, who emphasized: “And it becomes clear to me that every time a university adds new administrators, a new department, the spending is passed onto the students in the form of tuition increases. This bill will increase our tuitions on this campus.”
A male undergraduate student who held up a sign that read, “This is silly & you should feel silly,” stood up and said “You were elected to not be fools.” He noted that “while we all care about diversity… I think that having any kind of legislation in any governing body that is not well-written is not helpful and I don’t think this is well-written. Do your jobs, don’t be fools.”
The delay in voting irked one student in particular, who said that “two weeks from now you’re still going to vote the same way you do today because it’s something that is ingrained in you.”
One of the bill’s co-authors Sophia Li said “every single one of the books we are reading, is written by an old white man…there is no single reading in any one of my classes that is not written by anyone who isn’t like old, white or man.”
Li seemed hopeful that this resolution might pave the way for more “non-white” authors to appear in future required academic readings.
The vote is set to take place on November 10.