FAQ for April/May 2024

Events of May 5, 2024

Why did the university clear the encampment on April 24 and again on May 5?

The university is legally obligated to ensure that students, faculty and staff can move freely throughout our campus while pursuing their studies, work, and research. Every part of our campuses, including Alumni Park, must be fully accessible and free from vandalism and harassment.

Like many other universities, USC has longstanding, established policies against encampments, harassment, and vandalism. By repeatedly and flagrantly violating laws and university policies, the encampment and occupiers endangered the health and safety of our community, created a focal point for potential violence, and deprived our community members of a safe and freely accessible academic environment.

The university has received multiple reports of harassment, threats, and violence as a direct result of the illegal encampment, including:

  • Vandalizing and defacing university buildings and monuments, including Tommy Trojan and the fountain
  • Stealing and misappropriating university property
  • Bringing dangerous items into the encampment
  • Dismantling and theft of commencement structures
  • Blocking access to a central location needed for commencement events
  • Defying countless directives from DPS and other university officers
  • Noise disrupting exams and studying
  • Harassment and violence towards DPS officers and other students

What USC policies did the encampment violate?

Multiple university policies forbid encampments on campus, including:

In addition, the university received multiple reports that occupiers violated several university policies and local, state, and federal laws against trespassing, defacing and stealing property, verbal harassment, and others.

Don’t students have a right to peacefully protest? Does clearing the encampment violate their right to freedom of speech and assembly?

Freedom of speech and assembly are among our foundational values. Throughout this academic year, faculty, staff, and students have held countless lawful free speech activities and assemblies, including marches, vigils, die-ins, and other peaceful demonstrations.

Free expression does not entitle anyone to obstruct equal access to the campus, deface and steal university property, harass other members of the community, interfere with studying and exams, disrupt commencement, or otherwise interfere with core operations of our university.

The university established a free speech area a short walk from the encampment. Students from the encampment refused to use that alternative space.

Why did the university call in LAPD rather than using its own Department of Public Safety?

USC’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) is the university’s private security force. While a limited number of DPS officers are able to make arrests, DPS primarily works to enforce student conduct policies without arrests, in collaboration with USC’s internal disciplinary offices, and often at risk of their own safety. It lacks the resources to undertake an operation of the type required on April 24 and May 5.

USC is under the geographic jurisdiction of the LAPD. DPS maintains an MOU with the LAPD that allows DPS to enforce the law and investigate some, largely nonviolent, crimes. DPS can request assistance from the LAPD when it determines that assistance is necessary.

How many students, faculty and staff have been arrested?

In the university’s initial action on April 24, 93 individuals were arrested, including 48 students, three faculty members, three staff members, and 39 individuals unaffiliated with the university.

The university’s second operation on May 5 did not lead to any arrests.

Did the university administration meet with the students involved in the encampment? Was there any attempt to find a peaceful resolution?

President Folt, along with the vice president for Student Life and USC’s general counsel met with the self-appointed liaisons from the encampment, and one faculty member, twice for a total of three hours to listen to their concerns and discuss options to reach an amicable resolution. Members of the Office of Student Life have also been engaging with the occupiers on a daily basis. Unfortunately, the occupiers gave no indication of any willingness to remove their illegal encampment.

Why wouldn’t the university agree to the demands of the occupiers? 

In their meetings with the self-appointed liaisons of the encampment, university administrators recognized the important concerns the occupiers had regarding world events and the reasons behind their activism. Without agreeing to negotiate over their demands, university administrators explained that the occupiers needed to follow the university’s policies regarding free speech and assembly. The administrators also explained a number of ways the occupiers could reasonably address their most important concerns following existing university processes. Their demands and the university’s brief responses are below.

1. End War Profiteering and Investment in Genocide. USC must fully disclose and divest its finances and endowment from companies and institutions that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine, including the US Military and weapons manufacturing. USC must commit to accountability through full transparency of their financial investments.

The university already has a process for students, faculty, and staff to raise and address questions and concerns relating to the endowment. In particular, the Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility was formed in 2022 to advise the Board of Trustees on matters related to investments as expressed by the broader community. Several universities that have apparently negotiated with occupiers have now formed committees such as these.

This process was shared with the liaisons of the encampment, as well as avenues to get involved. They did not want to engage in this existing avenue; rather, they demanded to know every investment the university has made, and wanted to determine themselves which investments the university should divest from. 

2. Complete Academic Boycott of Israel. USC must end its study abroad programs at Hebrew University’s Rothenberg International School and Reichman University and sever all academic ties and research cooperation with Israeli universities.

USC adheres to a longstanding position against academic boycotts such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement because a robust intellectual environment requires the free and civil exchange of ideas. Additionally, academic boycotts go against the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech, for which these occupiers were allegedly fighting.

3. Protect free speech on campus and provide full amnesty to all students, staff, and faculty disciplined, penalized, or fired for their pro-Palestine activism. USC must abide by their self-proclaimed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion values and implement material policies protecting the safety of its marginalized students.

USC is committed to protecting free speech and academic freedom, in compliance with state and federal law and university policy. USC has a one-stop website on free speech and free expression. The university must also comply with its legal obligations to provide a harassment-free educational environment for all students, faculty, and staff. The University’s DEI values are stipulated here, along with USC’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation.

The university must follow its established processes in taking appropriate internal disciplinary actions.

4. Stop the Displacement, from South Central to Palestine. No land grabs, whether in South Central, which is unceded Tongva territory, or Palestine. Cease expansion, provide reparations, and support housing for low-income South Central residents. No development by USC without genuine community control.

For more than 140 years, USC has partnered with our neighbors to continuously strengthen the educational, economic, and health equity of the communities we serve. This includes engaging more than 4,000 LAUSD students daily in college and career preparation, operating eight neighborhood-serving Head Start early childhood centers, partnering with dozens of community-based nonprofits and small businesses, and continuously working to eliminate health disparities. More information on community programs and initiatives is available here.

5. No Policing on Campus. End the targeted repression and harassment of Black, Brown, and Palestinian students and their allies on and off campus, including through university disciplinary processes. Defund the Department of Public Safety and disclose and sever all ties with the LAPD.

During the 2020-2021 academic year, President Folt formed a Community Advisory Board (CAB) to develop tangible recommendations to strengthen trust between the university, DPS, and the broader community.

The result of these efforts was a ONE USC Safety Vision, which describes an environment where everyone feels safe, respected, and protected, and which has led to significant improvements in how USC’s Department of Public Safety conducts its operations. All members of the USC community are invited to share their input as the CAB continues its work.

6. End the Silence on the Genocide in Palestine. Release a public statement calling for an immediate, permanent ceasefire in Gaza, denouncing the ongoing genocidal campaign against the Palestinian people, and call on government officials to do so too.

The university must maintain an environment where all members of our community feel free to express themselves and engage in vigorous debate. In order to maintain this open environment, it is important for the university to exercise great restraint before issuing statements on issues over which members of our community may vehemently disagree.

Where can I find additional information about the university’s policies on free speech, free expression, and protests?

USC is committed to protecting free speech and academic freedom, in compliance with state and federal law and university policy. The university’s policies on students’ right to free speech are set forth in the USC Student Handbook, and the university’s policies on academic freedom more generally are set forth in the Faculty Handbook. Additionally, USC has developed a dedicated website with resources, policies, and FAQs around free speech, free expression, and campus activism, available here.

Conduct and Disciplinary Processes

Will the university press charges or pursue other disciplinary actions against students, staff and faculty participating in the encampment?

No charging decisions by the City Attorney’s office have been made at this time.

The university will follow its established processes in taking appropriate internal disciplinary actions. Students, faculty, and staff who commit repeated offenses will face more significant consequences.

Why can’t you provide “amnesty” to any students going through the disciplinary process?

It is critical that the university follow its established policies and procedures around student discipline and not make special exceptions with respect to certain policies, certain groups, certain individuals, or certain viewpoints. Once the university begins making special exceptions for some, it will have to do the same for others. That would be deeply discriminatory, would violate the law, and would undermine our authority to apply any of our rules at all.

We are prohibited by law from discussing specific disciplinary matters. With that said, the disciplinary process is led by professionals who review the specific facts of every case carefully, and seek to come to outcomes that are fair, consistent, and reasonable. It is critical that the university leadership not jeopardize the integrity of these established processes by interfering in particular cases. As part of the process, all students have appeal rights.

Will students involved in the encampment be able to participate in graduation?

Each student’s situation will be evaluated based on the facts, including past student conduct history. Student records are private (protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), and students are encouraged to reach out to the Office of Community Expectations to learn more about the process and their current standing.

What is the student disciplinary process like?

All reported student conduct that potentially violates university policies and/or community expectations is referred to the university’s disciplinary process, which is described in the USC Student Handbook. Office of Community Expectations team members are very experienced, follow robust processes, strive to resolve cases expeditiously, and treat every student with care. We have prepared additional FAQs about what students can expect when engaging with the university’s disciplinary process.

How can students, faculty and staff seek additional help?

The university offers many support resources. Specifically, the Office of Campus Support and Intervention (213.740.0411) provides all members of the USC community with support, guidance, and resources to address a wide variety of challenges. Counseling and Mental Health Services (213.740.9355) supports students with therapy, crisis support, referrals to long-term providers, and other services. I encourage students to connect with either of these resources as needed.

Access, Support and Accommodations

How will individuals with ADA needs be able to access campus with the limited entry points?

All of the curb cuts around the university perimeter are manned by community service officers who are instructed to let anyone who is disabled out of the university gates. All pedestrian gates have full ADA compliance. Additional measures will be put in place throughout the week prior to commencement to ensure the campus remains as accessible as possible for all members of the USC community.

Where can I find information about accessing campus? What if I need to help my student move out of USC Housing?

Campus access information is available on the USC Transportation website.

USC IDs will be required for students and employees to enter campus. All guests must register via the visitor.usc.edu website for a daily guest pass. As of May 3, 2024, guest registration is paused indefinitely.

While the visitor registration process is suspended, parents and helpers coming to campus to assist students moving out of USC Housing should have received an email from USC Housing with instructions for how to enter campus during this time.

Guests coming to USC for commencement activities must have a valid ticket for each event they will attend. Commencement ticketing information is available here.

What academic accommodations are available to students who are concerned about their safety on campus or their ability to focus on final exams and assignments during this time?

We have put in place an enhanced accommodations protocol, similar to what was used during COVID. Students should work directly with their faculty for accommodations such as extended deadlines, incompletes, or adjusting the parameters of their final assessments.

Students may also contact their advisors through the Advise USC platform or the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Programs, which can also assist with requests for accommodation.

What additional support is available to USC students during this time?

The recent events on campus have been challenging and disruptive for many members of USC’s community. Students have many resources available to support them throughout this time. Questions regarding grading can be directed to the University Registrar at registrar@usc.edu. Students in need of mental health resources can access them via USC Student Health. Students looking to navigate complex situations can be connected to Campus Support and Intervention


Will this impact commencement activities planned for May 8-11?

This action to remove the encampment will have no impact on scheduled commencement celebrations and activities. We remain focused on honoring our graduates and giving them the celebration and recognition they deserve.

Where can I find information related to USC’s 2024 commencement ceremonies, ticketing, and other visitor information?

All information related to commencement, including a schedule of events, ticketing, and other information is available on the USC commencement website.

Where can I find more details related to the USC Trojan Family Graduate Celebration on Thursday, May 9th?

Special guests and surprise performances will create an electric atmosphere at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as graduating students and their families gather for a graduation celebration Southern California-style. Count on drone shows, fireworks, the Trojan Marching Band, and a special gift for members of the Class of 2024. This is a ticketed event available to graduating students and five plus-ones per graduating student (six tickets total). More information will be shared with graduating students and their families via email and on the USC commencement website.

Why did the university make the decision to cancel the valedictorian’s speech, and the mainstage commencement ceremony?

The main stage commencement ceremony at USC draws more than 65,000 people to our University Park Campus. The university made the decision that the valedictorian would not give a speech at the mainstage ceremony after hearing from campus security and threat experts about security concerns that rose to the level of credible. The university then finalized additional security protocols – including bag checks and ticketing processes, to mitigate those concerns. Understanding the time it would take for families to enter campus with additional protocols in place, the university then canceled the mainstage ceremony.

Refocusing commencement on school ceremonies will allow graduates to celebrate with their families in a more intimate environment, hear their names called, walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, shake the hands of the faculty and deans who mentored and educated them, throw their hats, and celebrate with those who made their time at USC so special.