Dear USC Students, Faculty, and Staff,
I welcome all of you, new and returning, to the 2017-18 school year, and I hope that it will be successful, productive, and personally meaningful.
We are lucky to be members of a university community – one that is a microcosm of our larger world. What happens off campus can, and should, shape our discourse on campus. It is our great privilege, but also our solemn duty, to vigorously, and with great integrity, interrogate these issues. Unfortunately, there is no denying that we live in volatile times. We witnessed this recently with the violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia that hit close to home with one of our own students injured. Intense political rhetoric divides our nation, and incidents of bias and discrimination degrade our humanity. We denounce all forms of hatred, racism, and bigotry. As USC political science professor Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro said at our new student convocation last week, “What happened in Charlottesville forces us to recommit to how we humanely engage with each other and indeed the world. It forces us to roll up our sleeves and find a strength to embark upon a new search for meaning…Civility, passion, diversity and tolerance can and should co-exist. In fact we insist that they do here at USC.”
In a place like USC where a diversity of perspectives and opinions are welcomed, and even necessary for our mission, we must find ways to respect and honor differences while also affirming our shared values and aspirations. As we begin this new academic year I am reminded of the University of Southern California’s Principles of Community:
USC is a multicultural community of people from diverse racial, ethnic, gender, and class backgrounds, national origins, faith backgrounds, political beliefs, abilities, and sexual orientations. Our activities, programs, classes, workshops, lectures, and everyday interactions are enriched by our acceptance of one another, and we strive to learn from each other in an atmosphere of positive engagement and mutual respect.
We want to make explicit our expectations regarding the behavior of each member of our community. As adults, we are responsible for our behavior and are fully accountable for our actions. We each must take responsibility for our awareness of racism, sexism, ageism, xenophobia, homophobia, ableism and other forms of discrimination.
Bigotry will not go unchallenged within this community. No one has the right to denigrate another human being on the basis of race, sex, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origins, and other identities. We will not tolerate verbal or written abuse, threats, harassment, intimidation, or violence against person or property. In this context, we do not accept alcohol or substance abuse as an excuse, reason, or rationale for such abuse, harassment, intimidation or violence. Ignorance or “it was just a joke” is also not an excuse for such behavior.
All who work, live, study, and teach in the USC community are here by choice, and as part of that choice should be committed to these principles which are an integral part of the USC’s focus, goals, and mission.
As Trojans, I believe that we have the extraordinary opportunity, but also the responsibility, to model what it means to be a respectful and engaged community of scholars, researchers, artists, and professionals. And we must ensure that this responsibility is shared by all – from the student who just stepped foot on our campus to the most senior administrator. I look forward to engaging with you over the coming year and doing the work that great universities do: discussing, debating, and shining intellectual light upon the important issues of our time.
Michael W. Quick