USC student group demands increased diversity and sensitivity

More than 100 University of South Carolina students gathered Monday to protest what they see as inequalities and insensitivity on campus.

USC students marching across campus in protest Monday (photo by Allen Wallace)

USC students marching across campus in protest Monday (photo by Allen Wallace)

The students, led by a group called USC 2020 Vision,  gathered at USC’s Longstreet Theatre, then marched silently two by two across the Horseshoe to the campus administration building to issue their demands.[cp_quote style=”quote_right_dark”]“They’re always willing to hear us out, but they’re not willing to take action.” -USC student Nona Henderson[/cp_quote]

Word of the protest spread fast via social media, with people weighing in in favor of and in opposition to the students. Click here for a look at some of the posts.

Student Nona Henderson, one of the protest leaders, said attention to diversity and sensitivity is important “especially now when social justice issues are such a big thing.”

“This is a hostile time, and we don’t think [USC faculty and administrators] are being as sensitive as they could be,” she said.

Many students said they felt USC officials were willing to listen but too slow to act.

“When I was a freshman here, the African-American population was 13 percent. It’s dropped down to 9 percent this year. This is a huge problem,” said senior Aaron Greene. “I want to know why is the university not proactive in that measure. I believe there doesn’t need to be a dialogue in that. What are we doing?”

“They’re always willing to hear us out, but they’re not willing to take action,” Henderson said. “None of our demands are unreasonable. All are for the benefit of the university.”

University officials came out of the administration building to listen and respond to the protesters. Provost Joan Gabel said “We’re glad you’re here. We welcome you and want to hear from you.”

Gabel and Chief Diversity Officer John Dozier took questions from students and said action was already being taken to address some of their demands. They promised to look into the others, and to hold a town hall meeting to allow all students to express their views in a large group setting.

USC President Harris Pastides was out of town on school business Monday, but Gabel and Dozier promised to arrange the town hall at a time when he could attend.

The protest broke up after about 90 minutes, but as Henderson said, “This doesn’t end here.”

The students’ list of demands follows.

1) We demand that our university acknowledge that this institution was built on the backs of enslaved Africans. Further, we expect that this acknowledgement is included in tours, especially areas like the garden directly behind the president’s house where slaves were once housed. This acknowledgement should be reflected in markers on historic buildings. Additionally, we expect that the university will raise the plaque marking the AAAS tree to increase its visibility.

2) We demand that our university improve and expand minority recruitment efforts in order to increase racial diversity on our campus. We call for the creation of a minority scholars program through the South Carolina Honors College.

3) We demand that our university provide gender neutral housing and restrooms that are accessible and convenient. We call for our university to create a streamlined process for changing gender markers and names within university databases and records. We require that university personnel use personal gender pronouns as indicated by the individual. Additionally, we ask that our university provide informed, comprehensive health and mental health care that meets the specific needs of transgender students and ensure that all health and mental health care providers are competent on transgender issues.

4) We demand that our university acknowledge gender identity and expression as protected classes under Title IX.

5) We demand that a transparent and independent investigation be launched into the following university administrators: the Executive Assistant to the President for Equal Opportunity Programs; the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Academic Support, Student Life and Development; and the Vice President for Student Affairs, Vice Provost and Dean of Students.

6) We demand that our university increase the funding allocated to the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. Additionally, we require that OMSA be housed in a new cultural center that celebrates all identities. As campus continues to grow, it is imperative that support for all students continues to grow.

7) We demand that our university increase funding for the Counseling Center, so that there are more available appointments and more appointments provided free of charge to each student.

8) We demand that all faculty and staff, especially those who engage students on a regular basis, participate in a mandatory diversity training provided by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. This training should be intersectional and representative of a wide variety of identity groups.

9) We demand that our university institute a policy of transparency through data collection and dissemination on the topics of admissions and enrollment, campus sexual assault, sexual harassment, and hazing by providing existing statistics in a communicable way and conducting new research to better identify its problems on campus.

10) We demand that our university provide a social justice minor and cognate to expand its current offerings to undergraduate students.

11) We demand that the Office of Student Disability Services be renamed the Office of Accessibility and Accommodation Services. Additionally, we call for the advancement of student knowledge of this office through new student orientation, residence life, the counseling center, psychiatric services, and student health services.

12) We demand that USC Homecoming be restructured to accurately reflect and celebrate the various communities and cultures that exist and continue to grow within our campus, our alumni, and our community. As it stands, Homecoming is just for some, but we all want something to come home to.


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