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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

USC Provost Sends New Memo In Response To Diversity Forum

The Office of the Provost will dedicate $100,000 toward student programs and events that highlight diversity.

In response to the BSA-led diversity rally and forum with adminstrators at USC last Thursday, the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Michael Quick, sent out a memo today that calls for a Diversity Task Force, which would allow members to meet and make recommendations on further improvements to campus climate.

Varun Soni, Dean of Religious Life, and Ainsley Carry, Vice President of Student Affairs, will co-chair the Diversity Task Force. In addition, students, staff and faculty will serve as members of the Task Force and implement policy changes. Throughout the year, there will also be a series of open forums and symposiums to facilitate an intellectual exchange.

“I just want to reiterate that this was just an initial memo that starts a conversation,” Soni said. “Certainly it doesn’t end it, and much of that work will be done through the task force.”

The memo came after last week’s protest against racism on campus and around the country.

“I think this is actually a historic moment for college students who have a great amount of courage,” Soni said. “[They] are sharing their stories and are pushing universities to create a culture and a climate around these issues.”

One important action item from the memo is the creation of more than 20 diversity officers from the senior administrative or faculty level at each school, as well as three Associate Provosts, Daniela Bleichmar, Camille Rich and Larissa Rodriguez, from the Office of the Provost to act as diversity liaisons.

Soni believes that it is important to ensure that investigative and reporting processes are done in a clear, accessible and straightforward manner, and that cultural centers on campus are well funded and staffed. He stated that the Task Force would not only look for a short-term solution that guarantees the inadequately funded cultural centers to have appropriate space in the pre-existing buildings, but also work on a long-term solution for these centers to possibly relocate to the University Village in the future.

“My hope is that through this process, we will be able to create a culture of care on our campus that students can feel included in and feel ownership over,” Soni said.

The Office of the Provost plans to fund $100,000 toward student programs and events that highlight diversity and inclusion. 50 percent of the money will go to USG and GSG program boards. In addition, the Office will also fund another $100,000 through the Office of Religious Life to support the university’s cultural centers and student support offices.

However, some USC students feel that the proposed actions for the cultural centers are not enough to address real issues.

“I’m a little skeptical,” said Caleb Hudson, a student studying International Relations and Global Business at USC. “I don’t think the size of an office can determine its effectiveness.”

Despite some skepticism, students like Ashton Nahai, a Business Administration student, still believe that the new approaches, such as the open forums and symposiums, would be a step forward in addressing the current campus climate.

“I feel that it would be affective,” Nahai said. “Communication is where it all starts. It’s that first step towards understanding someone’s culture, their believes and background. Because most people come from very different families and grew up living very different lives, so having guest speakers you can kind of have your way in to see how other people think, and you can connect with them more.”

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