USC Students Walkout In Protest, Demand Changes

A couple hundred University of South Carolina students walked out of their classes Monday morning and then marched to the administration building to demand changes at the university. The group calls itself “2020 Vision”, because they want the changes in place by 2020. Their demands deal with making minorities, LGBT students, and disabled students feel more at home and included.

“This movement isn’t to be malicious,” says Nona Henderson, a member of Students Invested in Change. “It’s not to be disruptive to the university. We want them to understand that, and actually our university supports us in this protest.”

She says groups of students have met with administrators before, but they feel like the school hasn’t done anything to address their concerns. “This movement is just to get them to know that we mean business, get them to know that we want these things done. We’re tired of having the conversation. We want action,” she says.

Dr. John Dozier, USC Chief Diversity Officer, told the students, “Many of the demands that you are requesting are things that we are already actively working on. I think that maybe we need to do a better job at communicating what we’re doing so that you have a better understanding of that.”

Provost Joan Gable told the students that addressing their concerns is a top priority for USC President Harris Pastides, and that he would have a town hall-style meeting with them as soon as possible. He was out of town Monday.

Here are the students’ demands:

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.

Henderson says the protest was not a direct response to the recent student protests at the University of Missouri and other colleges, because the USC students have been working on these issues for a year. She says the protest was originally planned for next semester, but it was moved up to capitalize on the current focus on the attention generated by the protests at other universities.

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