On Monday, school officials at the University of Southern California yielded to pressure from students and announced they would begin taking steps to implement more “diversity” programs on campus.
The announcement follows last week’s student Senate vote, which asked for $100 million in funds to create an “inclusion climate” for minority students at the privately-funded school.
Provost and Senior Vice President Michael Quick sent out a memo titled “Access and Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion” in which he announced the establishment of two new funds, each of which will receive $100,000 to support campus programs to address and enhance diversity. One fund will be administered by the Office of Religious Life, and the other will be run 50/50 by both the Undergraduate and Graduate Student Governments.
“Improving campus climate is of tremendous value in and of itself,” Quick wrote in the memo, reported by the Daily Trojan. “But creating an inclusive and welcoming environment is also part of the greater goal of how the university fulfills its commitment to enlarge access and opportunity.” He acknowledged that the school had not been immune to the slew of protests over alleged “acts of injustice, bias, and disrespect, against groups and individuals, [that] have been playing out recently across our nation.”
Quick said the school would begin a strategic planning process “that will chart a course for the university over the next several years.” He also noted that a reporting button was added to the USC LiveSafe app so that students could immediately report incidents of bias and discrimination on campus.
The student senate diversity resolution initially did not have a majority, and the final vote was postponed due to the heightened and emotionally-charged environment that had been created during a recent meeting on the matter. A final vote was held on November 10 with 11 votes in favor and one against it. The lone student Senator who stood by his decision from the start of the process, Jacob Ellenhorn, had experienced calls for his impeachment during the previous meeting over his views.
USC’s diversity resolution was born from an incident in which USC student government President Rini Sampath–who is of Indian descent–had a racial epithet yelled at her by a drunk member of a fraternity. Apologies were made and the school attempted to address the issue–but not to Sampath’s satisfaction.
Meanwhile, on Monday at Occidental College, several hundred students occupied the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center, where they presented school officials with a list of 14 demands they want met by Friday–including the creation of a black studies major, an increase in funding for minority student groups, and more diversity training for faculty and students, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The student occupiers said if their demands are not met by Friday, that they will call for President Jonathan Veitch’s resignation, mirroring incidents that have taken place at the University of Missouri recently. Mizzou President Tim Wolfe was forced to step down due to his “white privilege,” as was the university chancellor, hours later.
The dean of students at Claremont McKenna College in southern California also resigned last week, for similar reasons.
The Times notes that Occidental administrators are interviewing candidates for a chief diversity position this week but that students have criticized the $100,000 budget budget allocation for the task as insufficient, saying it was not enough to pay the position’s salary, fund programming and provide services.
A slew of protests have swept over campuses across the nation in what observers call the “Ferguson effect,” linking them to protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missuori last year after the unarmed black teen attacked a police officer.