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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Rini Sampath And USC Administration Talk Racism On Campus

USC Student body President Rini Sampath says there is much work to be done to improve race relations on campus.

USG President Rini Sampath is now asking students across campus to report any incidents of racism through a university run website. This is in response to her scarring experience this past Saturday walking home with her friends when a fraternity member yelled a racial epithet from a window and threw a drink at her. Her post about it on Facebook now has almost 9,000 likes and 1,200 shares. 

Sampath and Ainsley Carry, the Vice President of Student Affairs, co-wrote a letter to the student body imploring students to speak up to the university.

"So many students, when these issues happen, they say it just happened to me, I'm not going to report that," said Carry on Wednesday. "I need you to report that. No matter how small it is."

Carry said the biggest issue from the University's perspective is its lack of data on the prevalence of racism and bias on campus. He says that is the main roadblock holding the university back from devising a plan to change the climate of campus.

"When these incidents are reported, we act on them," Carry emphasized. "And, they dont always result in an expulsion. Sometimes, it results in educational opportunities, conversations with students, healing and bonding and focus groups, and I dont want to diminish the value of conversation within a community."

Varun Soni is the USC Dean of Religious Life, and he has been particularly involved in helping the university move forward in the wake of Samapth's experience that is not an experience she is alone in. However, Soni warns that there is a balance that must be met.

"We are absolutely committed to an expansive interpretation of the first amendment in terms of free speech, but we also have a zero tolerance policy for a campus community where students feel threatened or harassed," Soni said.

In a live interview, Sampath said the recent suspension of the student who directed the epithet at her from his fraternity was the right thing to do.

Carry said he couldn't agree more. "I'm very proud of this chapter for taking a bold stand and holding that individual member accountable. I do not think this behavior represents the entire greek community. I think there are many greek men who are appalled by this behavior."

In speaking with both Samapth and Carry, one thing was very clear. Race relations on the USC campus will take much work to improve.

"We can't cover this up. We can't act like it didn't happen.  This is not who we are as a university, and if we dont respond to this now, it will only repeat itself."

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