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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Who Are The Students In The USC Sit-In And Why Are They So Mad?

Neon Tommy Staff |
April 23, 2014 | 7:05 p.m. PDT

(Wilson Pumpernickel, Creative Commons)
(Wilson Pumpernickel, Creative Commons)
Last week, 18 USC students occupied the hallway outside the office of university President C.L. Max Nikias, faced threats of suspension and calls home to parents, and rallied outside in the effort to convince the school to cut its contract with JanSport over human rights concerns.

Today, the contract stands, but the students were back. With a vengeance. Today, three times as many Trojans, representing a broad range of student organizations staged sit-ins across USC's campus, calling again for the contract to be cut and decrying the university's treatment of students in last week's demonstration.

SEE ALSO: USC Students Decry University's Handling Of Sit-In, Occupy Administrative Offices

Neon Tommy spoke with several of the student participants to find out why they, in their words, have had enough.

Julia Wang

Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE)

"We chose to attend this university because we were told that we were joining a family of Trojans who always have each others' backs. What we've learned through our struggle fighting for workers' rights is that President Nikias doesn't have the backs of Trojans who disagree with his policies. Students have been exposing USC's ties with human rights abusers like VF Corporation. Rather than address these concerns, USC chooses to silence students and hide the truth."

(Kylie Nic Photography)
(Kylie Nic Photography)

Alexa Schwartz

Co-Founder, USC Student Coalition Against Rape (SCAR) Movement

"It saddens me the lengths that students must go to in order to engage the administration in a conversation. Last year, I was part of a group of student survivors and supporters who were concerned with USC’s sexual assault policies and adjudication practices and who sent letters to administrators that, like SCALE’s letters, were met with no response. It wasn’t until we filed a Title IX complaint and gained national attention that we were able to have our concerns heard. When the administration ignores its students, we have to go above and beyond to get their audience. Being heard shouldn’t require students to be disruptive, but when the administration is this outright dismissive, it’s necessary."

SEE ALSO: Students Protest University's Handling Of Tucker Reed Case

Quyên Nguyen-Le

Co-Director, Queer People of Color

"What really upsets me is not only that it seems like some of the top administrators go out of their way to avoid student concerns, but that they mislead students with promises of action that really go nowhere. Some of us will go through the formal channels: for example, pass a resolution through the USC Student Senate about having Gender Neutral Housing options available on campus... and, two years later, we have to do the same thing again with a new senate of students! There's no accountability and no transparency that guarantees an actual response at all."

(USC Environmental Affairs Organization)
(USC Environmental Affairs Organization)

Ivan Kumamoto

USC Environmental Affairs Organization

"Last year, EAO was working on a campaign to get USC to stop investing our endowment money in fossil fuel companies. After multiple requests to meet with higher level administration, and collecting more than 700 student, parent and faculty signatures, we were given a meeting with a very low-power administrator. This was very frustrating for us, and discouraged us from continuing our campaign. That's why EAO is supporting SCALE's sit-in. We want to make administration realize that they can't just ignore student voices anymore."

Kaya Masler

Director, USC Women's Student Assembly

"After campus was hit with a viral email that originated in a USC fraternity and advocated rape and identified women as 'targets,' a group of students, many of whom had experienced sexual assault and poor handling of their cases, rallied to ask the university to make a public statement about the very public offense. We received no such statement for over a week and I, as a freshman, had to chase the former Vice Provost of Student Affairs up the stairs to his office to even get a word with him about it."

(El Centro Ambassadors, Facebook)
(El Centro Ambassadors, Facebook)

Francisco Rios

El Centro Ambassadors Movement

"El Centro, the Latina/o Student Resource center on campus has been a second home to many first-generation, working class students of color like myself, a space where they could meet for clubs and group projects, do homework, print papers and study. Last year, we found out that the university had decided, without asking us, to relocate the center, and possibly decrease the size, business hours and inherently the amount of people who could make use of the space (which they eventually did). Most frustrating and disappointing of all was how they couldn't give us any good reasons why they were doing this. They literaly said it was so all of the cultural student centers would be in one building. I think that it was another example of USC being unwilling to actually listen to what students preferred and really needed to be able to feel comfortable on campus."

(Wilson Pumpernickel, Creative Commons)
(Wilson Pumpernickel, Creative Commons)

Francesca Bessey

USC STAND Against Genocide

 "In my function as a human rights activist on the campus, I have been floored at the contrast between the professional way I have been able to engage with many USC offices and the refusal of the higher administration to treat me as anything other than a petilent child. STAND has been amicably working with the Business Services Office this entire academic year on a proposal to support electronic industry efforts for conflict mineral accountability and I have been so grateful. I don't know why our university executives won't take the same opportunities to take a stand on these important issues."

SEE ALSO: USC STAND Hosts Rally To Educate Students On Congo's Serious Mineral Conflict

Katie Gavin

USChange Movement

"I stood (sat) in solidarity with the students of SCALE because I have personally experienced my voice being diminished and ignored by USC administration through my work with USChange Movement and the initiative to take down the gates around campus. It is specifically concerning to myself and those involved that Nikias has refused to respond to issues that pertain to the personal safety and well-being of non-white bodies on campus, in the community and around the world."

SEE ALSO: USC Campus Discussion Of Racial Profiling Years In The Making

Frustrated by what they feel is dismissal by the university of their concerns and their legitimacy as advocates, participants in the demonstration also compiled a list of their activities, achievements and plans for the future and released it in an info-graphic: 


"We're serious students with serious concerns," the group published on their Facebook page.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.