How Far is Too Far?: Fortress USC and the Struggle to Keep Students Safe

New security gates appeared along Exposition Blvd. recently as part of USC's effort to make its campus more secure for students. (photo courtesy of Jonathan Weiss)

*For continued coverage of profiling issues around campus please click here and here.

WHEN I BEGAN MY GRAD PROGRAM at USC in 2001, I lived north of campus a few blocks on Hoover Street. As my daylight hours were generally occupied with classes and teaching responsibilities, I tended to get my long-distance runs in well after dark. Instead of being able to clear my head as I did figure-eights around campus and Exposition Park, however, I was often stopped by police who wanted to know what the hell I thought I was doing.

“Don’t you know bad things happen around here?” I was asked when stopped along King Blvd. one night. “There are drug dealers in that house right there,” an officer said, pointing to one of the houses across the street.

“I’m not in the market for any drugs, officer,” I told him.

“You don’t get it,” he said, exasperated. “It isn’t safe around here. This is a bad area. You shouldn’t be here.”

He was wrong. I did get it.

What I got was that USC and those asked to police the area felt that the best way to keep students safe was to warn them against their neighbors and keep them segregated. The less cross-over, the less chance for problems to arise.

The effort to enforce this segregation was multi-fold. My students reported being warned at orientation to be wary of the community — the long-time inhabitants of the neighborhood. Meanwhile, youth from the area who walked on or near the campus were hassled by the police and on-campus security, asked about who they were, where they were headed, and what business they had being there.

Speaking to local youth participating in a walk on and around campus last year, Dyane Pascall, a young African-American resident of the area and Director of Finance and Administration for Community Services Unlimited, recounted that because he and another staff member had been hassled by police so often when walking near USC — not even on campus — they had both decided to alter their routes to avoid the demoralizing aggravation of being constantly stopped.

For some of my (USC) students, the divide seemed unbridgeable. Many regularly bad-mouthed the community: “It’s such a shitty area;” “There’s nothing around here;” and the oddly self/image-conscious, “People look down on USC because it is in such a ghetto-ass neighborhood.”

That certainly wasn’t true of all students. Many took advantage of the opportunities available to get involved in the numerous efforts USC makes to invest in the community, such as helping out at area schools. But, even then, they weren’t always able to translate lessons learned from those experiences to more harmonious living with long-time residents of the area.

When I suggested that a student looking for a summer program abroad begin by practicing his Spanish with his Guatemalan neighbors (whom I had met while doing a photo project), he scoffed at me: That’s ridiculous.

What was he supposed to do, just knock on the door and introduce himself? He preferred to go some place with real culture and real Spanish, he said. What would he talk to them about, anyways? He was sure they would have nothing to say to each other.


Temporary gates spotted earlier this year at the entrance at Jefferson and Hoover appear to leave a little to be desired in the way of securing the area. However, at night it is staffed by a few ambassadors and someone from the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Someone trying to get around the gates via the grass would be easily spotted and apprehended. (photo courtesy of Jonathan Weiss)

Now, USC has gone even further in reinforcing that divide between students and residents of the area by doing everything but installing a gator-filled moat around the perimeter.

Between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., access to the campus has been restricted to students, faculty, staff, and their guests, including guests at university events, seven days a week. The 27 access points have been reduced to 8 at night, including two checkpoints at the entrance at Jefferson Blvd. and Trousdale Pkwy, two at the end of Trousdale and Exposition Blvd., two on Figueroa St., and one at the Vermont Ave. entrance. Fencing along Jefferson (ugly chainlink for now) and Exposition (permanent gates), the installation of 38 on-campus security cameras (adding to the 72 cameras already installed around the perimeter of campus), and the positioning of contracted security ambassadors at strategic locations throughout the campus are intended to ensure these checkpoints are respected.

When I stopped by last night, the checkpoints were each manned by two security ambassadors and at least one member of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), all of whom took their jobs very seriously despite the frigid temperatures.

Want to cross through campus on your way home after you get off the Metro at the Expo/USC station at night? Chill on a quiet bench on campus and chat with a friend after catching an evening event across the street at the Natural History or California African American Museums? Or stroll through campus after a late night coffee at one of the cafes along the perimeter?

Sorry, but if you are not a student (or haven’t gotten a student to register you online at, it looks like you are sh*t out of luck. You might even be out of luck on the weekends, too — day or night — unless you are on a guest list for a specific event or there is a public event, such as the Festival of Books.


These somewhat drastic measures are largely (although, not completely) in response to calls for greater security in the wake of an on-campus shooting outside a party last Halloween. A third-party promoter had advertised at campuses around the city for a costume party thrown by the Black Student Assembly that was meant to be only open to students. A few of the more than 100 non-USC would-be party-goers that had been turned away at the door got into an altercation. Someone pulled out a gun began firing. Four people were wounded, one critically.

Students and parents alike called for greater security measures around campus. Even those that openly worried about the consequences of closing the campus off to the community did seem to agree that increasing security at night was essential. Although the shooting was the first on campus since 1992, the incident followed the April murders of two Chinese graduate students, shot to death while sitting in a car at Raymond Ave. and 27th St. (about a mile from campus), a horrifically senseless event that put everyone on edge.

Some of the new security measures are merited, no doubt, and can have a real impact on student safety. The prohibition of the use of third-party promoters, for example, is intended to ensure that on-campus events are manageable and do not attract non-students. A fingerprint scanning system implemented at on-campus resident halls has made them more secure (although it is annoying to some), significantly reducing property theft from the typical 25 – 30 incidents in a three-week period last semester to just one, according to DPS Chief Captain Carey Drayton. The security ambassadors stationed at numerous corners between Jefferson and Adams since 2009 have also made students (and their parents) feel safer about walking or riding around the neighborhood at night.

But the measures also raise questions about who USC imagines it is protecting itself from and the cost to that community.

The already heavy-handed policing of the area — as far as local youth were concerned — appears to have become even more intense since the shooting of the Chinese grad students and 30 police officers were added to the Southwest Division. Twenty-year old Fidel Delgado, life-long resident of the area, business administration student at LACC, and subject of a series of articles last year reports that officers now regularly pull up alongside him or his friends when they are walking outside to ask if they are on parole or probation before even bothering to ask their names. Some of the youth report being hassled in their own yards, with police pulling up and, without pretense of any niceties, demanding to know if they live there.

Police have even stopped by family gatherings and parties (when spotting a party-goer or two getting air outside) just to ask about who is there and what they are doing, Fidel says. Maybe they are worried about seeing so many Latinos together, he shrugs with a laugh, not sure if he should say that but unable to find any other explanation for the way he and others from his community are being treated.

It’s getting really bad, he mused from behind the counter of the coffee shop where he works, across the street from campus.

Unsettlingly, he and his friends all live well north of Adams Blvd., more than a mile from campus. Which raises questions about just how much of the surrounding area USC feels it has the right to claim as its territory and whether, as it expands, the members of outerlying communities will be made to feel even more unwelcome in their own neighborhoods.

The December approval of the USC Specific Plan gives USC the green light to replace the University Village shopping area with a 35-acre “Village at USC” that will include a pedestrian-friendly mix of shops, restaurants, a grocery store, a hotel, a movie theater, student housing, and academic offices. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the project should result in 8,000 in permanent new jobs at the redeveloped complex, at least 30 percent of which will go to local residents.

Much of the drawn-out negotiations between USC and the community about the plan had been dedicated to ensuring local residents and businesses were not pushed out of the area. The community had wanted USC to view them as a partner and an asset, something they appeared to have achieved with the historic agreement. The likelihood that security will continue to be a paramount concern as that project moves forward, however, raises questions about how the university will balance security with openness. Will the placement of student housing within the new village mean that the site will need to be shut off to the community as well?

What are your thoughts about the new measures? Or about what they mean for the future of relations between USC and the community? Student safety is a genuine concern and USC has a duty to protect its students, but is hunkering down in a fortress the right balance between security and openness?  I’d say let loose with your thoughts below, but since USC is also looking for your feedback, that might be the best place to voice your approval or concerns. They have set up an online form that allows students, community members, and interested parties to register their thoughts and suggestions. To add your voice to the mix, please click here.

*Many thanks to grad student Brian Hsu, who, concerned about USC shutting itself off to the community, sent the link to the feedback form to us in an email this morning. And to Eric Bruins and Jonathan Weiss for sending along their photos and concerns this past weekend.

  • I already commented on the form. As a USC alumnus, I can’t stand the fencing and gating (either from a visual or ideal standpoint). USC has often been hailed for it’s commitment to the area following the riots in the past, and it is abominable in my mind that they would go so far as to restrict access in this way. While I wouldn’t necessarily like it, it would be much better if they were simply checking IDs to have a record of who entered campus, but not actually RESTRICTING it.

    I commented on the form, and did, however, say what aspects of the new policies I thought were GREAT ideas. Restricting unaffiliated event promoters, having DPS be the ones to check IDs at events that require checks, securing buildings (especially residential) in better ways, and such things like that. These are all GREAT improvements, bus restricting access to the land of the campus is not.

    For some reason, they do not realize that the Halloween shooting was not the result of someone entering campus at night on their own and intending to shoot others around the school. It was the result of a single party that had been marketed to people not affiliated with the school and was promoted in association with an unaffiliated promoter. The specific EVENT and the way it was handled was the problem, not the open campus.

  • Anonymous

    It’s much the same thing if you check out Yale and surrounding New Haven, CT. That type of security on a college campus was a little shocking to me when I first saw it, since I grew up near Boston, where campuses are much more integrated into the city. Harvard’s main campus, yes maybe a little walled off. MIT integrates nicely into Kendall Sq and Cambridgeport. BU, Emerson, Simmons – you’d never even know when you were there; they’re just part of the urban fabric. There were occasional tensions between Northeastern (my alma mater) and some lower income areas like Roxbury Crossing, but at the end of the day, NU’s campus has a major subway and commuter rail stop right in the middle of it and a major arterial street running through it not far away.

    So, I guess you could say that Boston schools are successful parts of the urban fabric because they don’t form a hard “edge”, as Jane Jacobs would have put it. Going from Harvard Yard to the JFK School of Govt? You’re walking right through the heart of Harvard Square, past the subway stop and countless other people and businesses. Going from Northeastern’s freshman dorms to lecture? You’re walking across a major urban street with a Green Line stop on it.

    I’m not sure why Boston schools evolved that way or if it’s something that other cities should aim for, but it does make the school seem less of island. To get that kind of dynamic, maybe USC and the community would both have to change their approach. USC would have to be willing to buy a couple lots at say, Normandie and Expo, and throw up an isolated building there, and be comfortable w/ students walking to it. The community would have to be willing to let that building go up rather than automatically oppose it on affordable housing concerns. The building might be something both are not used to, but can be found elsewhere – for example, Northeastern’s main gym is on the upper floors of a building that hosts a convenience store, a couple cafes, and an open atrium on the first floor. The university allows the first 60 (or something like that) residents of the neighborhood who show up every day to use the gym for free.

    In conclusion, I think the real long-term solution is for more integration of the university and the neighborhood, since that would put people’s interests more in alignment. But it’s much easier to achieve that if the university and the neighborhood grew up together over a long time, like Harvard and Harvard Square.

  • concernedstudent

    Thank you so much for publishing. Alienation creates a security dilemma; it does not solve it. I am currently a USC student and live on the west side of campus, the “bad” side according to many students. I am constantly being asked if I feel “sketched out” living where I do. And I always answer that I feel much safer on my street than I do at any frat party, which the school chooses not to police in the slightest.

  • Matt

    I think the gates are a serious overreaction.  When I went to USC in the mid-90s as a graduate student, in the orientation they did have some warning about safety and crime, but they didn’t really place it on the community so much.  They basically just stated that most of the crime was not from the community but rather within and how the USC Security worked and that the LAPD was really overwhelmed (this was the mid-90s when crime was out of control in the City mind you.

  • Jonathan Weiss

    Nice thoughts and analysis.  To address your conclusion that integration of the university and the neighborhood is much easier to achieve if the university and the neighborhood grew up together over a long time, like Harvard and Harvard Square.  Well, the neighborhood did grow up with USC.  “When USC first opened its doors to 53 students and 10 teachers in 1880, the “city” still lacked paved streets, electric lights, telephones and a reliable fire alarm system.”  Only NOW has USC decided to fence off the rest of the City.  

  • Anonymous

    @965486c61b755257f86fa5c4fba7e00a:disqus  I don’t know much about USC, but from the air, it looks like the city and USC grew up next to each other, but not together. On the other hand, Harvard and Harvard Square have nearly 400 years under their belts… so maybe we should wait and see what USC looks like in 2257 :)

  • OnceProudTrojan

    Thanks for writing this! I’m in a PhD program at USC and I’ve been a student here since 2004 for undergrad and it’s EMBARRASSING to see this being done. If anything, the area surrounding USC is demonstrably more safe now than it was a decade ago, and these overreactions are further straining USC’s relationship with the community. Posting people on every other intersection around campus, expanding the DPS patrols, installing new cameras … those are steps that make sense (though their specific implementations leave much to be desired, as the patrolling community officers will attest as they stand all night for 8 hour shifts). 
    Walling the campus off physically from the community is a huge change to the open atmosphere that USC had cultivated and furthers the “they think they’re better than us” perception engendered by the explosion of $1000/month studios and shared bedrooms, overpriced food, and megalithic apartment complexes that have replaced and displaced carnicerias and lower-cost houses. I appreciate the need for the administration to demonstrate a commitment to student safety, but I don’t think this is the path they should be pursuing.

  • Sgdiamond99

    Let’s be clear about the Halloween shooting…the person who did the shooting was in an altercation with one person who he had beef with and shot at him and him only, but ended up hitting 3 other people. The shooting was not a random guy who wanted to shoot up a party at USC. He was mad at person and went after that one person. It doesn’t make the situation better, but the clarification is needed so demystify the notion that the “community” wants to shoot up USC, which is ridiculous.

  • Sgdiamond99

    By the way, this USC’s 2nd time putting up random gates (before the more permanent brick and rod iron gates) in the late 70’s to “keep the community out.” They evenutally took them down. So, we’ll see how long this last especially after the University Village is redone, which is why I assume they used chain link on the Jefferson side, because it is less permanent.

  • anon

    I grew up in the USC neighborhood. I went to an inner-city school but would go to USC’s libraries and read books there. That made a huge difference in my education and I eventually got a scholarship to attend a prestigious university. At school, people always made nasty remarks about the USC neighborhood based on what they had heard from friends at USC. It wasn’t after I started noticing how closed of my school was to the low-income neighborhood it was located that I noticed that USC’s policies also aim to alienate the south LA community.


    This is kind of distressing. It almost seems as if the school were becoming a jail. Video Camera’s everywhere, random shake downs, new gates, undercover students…

    Pretty soon they will make all the students workers wear uniforms, DPS is going to do invasive pat-downs and students will have to turn in stool samples with their homework.

    Education used to give the young adult freedom, but now it seems to saddle them with debt and humiliation. I don’t think this is the way USC, I think there is a better way to improve relations with the locals.

    Start off by making the the Football Games free on local LA TV’s, so they can share in USC victories, because walls, physical or pay walls, make them more likely to root against USC then cheer on USC.

  • calwatch

    Seriously, USC never did this so brazenly after the 1992 riots. I’m sure the cops were stopping youth of color around the USC area back then, ten times worse than it is today, but middle aged and up people were generally left alone. Now this is just a big FU to the neighborhood. What’s interesting is that the USC Library has tried to be accommodating to the community by staying open until 10 pm for non USC affiliates. Now the community can’t get to the library any more. What happens after a late Coliseum game when people want to cut across campus? The backups in front of the gates on the south side are going to cause even more of a crowd control problem. The irony is that you can probably still take a taxicab to the USC campus, since licensed commercial vehicles are still allowed, or just jump into someone’s car who has access. It’s still a huge loophole.

  • lbox80

    FYI, “niceties” means details, not pleasantries.

  • SC Alum

    The fencing is a bad idea and seems like a major over-reaction –but as an alum and supporter I say I hope the waves of gentrification continue to make the area more and more a place alumni want to spend time in outside of sporting events. The rise in new cafes and other spots to hang out are a testament to USC’s previous success in making the area desirable. I really hope they get over this section and refocus on improvements. 

  • stillproudtrojan

    I completely agree about the intentions of the halloween shooter and the situation, however, it must be known that the man carrying a weapon and posing a threat to anyone who might have angered him would not have made it onto campus and had even the chance to put students or otherwise in danger. The crossfire would not have been at a student event posing a threat to those who choose to attend school-related functions. 
    Also, everyone should keep in mind that these extra measures are being instated between the hours of 9pm and 6 am. This is a time where there is the lowest demand for on-campus access and also where normal campus activities such as enjoying the campus after a “late night coffee” are at a minimum. Also numerous studies will show that the majority of people out past sunset are not out with the intention of picking daisies. There’s a proven reason the popular saying goes “nothing good happens after 11.”

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think this is an overreaction. I think a lot of people’s reactions are an overreaction. It’s time USC spent students’ money on protecting students instead of letting people from all over the place onto campus whenever. It’s not like this will even affect much. USC is a school. Not a community center.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that very few in the community intend to harm students, but they sure as hell love to steal shit. Maybe when students wake up their bikes will actually be where they left them. 

  • Anonymous

    This seems like an overreaction to me. Funny thing is, I’m black, I’ve been drunk, and I’ve walked around that area plenty of times. I’ve never been stopped by the police. Then again I often dress preppy so that may have something to do with it.

    That area really isn’t even that bad. One shooting and they make the school a prison. Makes complete sense…

  • Not a chem major

    If USC can hire staff 27 entrances 3 entrances each on a graveyard shift…
    Consider some funding the science labs, wow these are downright depressing for a top research university.

  • calwatch

    The library is open until 10 pm to the general public and alumni have 24 hour access to the library by virtue of being a USC graduate. How are they supposed to exercise their privileges if they are getting hassled at the door? 

    UC Santa Cruz has those stupid gates too but I always get past them by showing my UCSC Library card (when I needed to be on campus) which I got for being a life Cal Alumni member. What about USC alumni who just need to do research?

  • USCGrad

    Keep in mind, it is a PRIVATE university, and the campus is PRIVATE PROPERTY.  Students pay a lot of money to go there (and have their belongings stolen and their personal safety put at risk). I wish the campus had been MORE secure when I went to school there.

    Also, USC employs thousands of people, many of whom live NEAR USC.

  • LAresident

    Slippery slope argument at its best…stop assuming so much.

  • Thatcher Jenkins

    I feel like this post gave no mention to how USC has taken on considerable responsiblity in the surrounding community without any requirement to do so.  Funding local magnet schools, resulting in some of the best educated students in Los Angeles.  Providing millions of dollars in funding for the local community. Running Troy Camp every summer which local youth get to take part in.  Not to mention the countless jobs and huge amounts of money that goes into the area that would have no reason to be in that part of town if the University wasn’t there.  There will always be a trade off for security, especially at night, but i think not being able to enter a private campus at night is not that big a deal, especially in comparison to all the good USC does for the community

  • Guest

    University of Segregated California

  • sahra

     Actually all vehicles entering after 9 will have their license plates registered, and IDs being checked are no doubt part of that process. It looked like they were still figuring out how that was going to work at entrances off Figueroa and Jefferson, but gates and cones had been put up to direct pedestrians and traffic. So, if you wanted to get in, those might be your best bets, but it looks like, if they haven’t completely figured it out yet, they will soon.

  • sahra

    I tend to go by the Oxford English Dictionary, which tells me that nicety is a noun and means, first, “Niceness, or an instance of this.” But, I appreciate your attention to detail.

  • sahra

     This is true, @15dc7c0fae60af8e1780f100503b914a:disqus , but it is my understanding that they are contemplating restricting access on the weekends, day or night. That may have changed or still be in the works. But the original plan, as I understand it, had been to restrict access on weekends except in cases of public events. So families that bring their kids to play on campus or use the library or just have a safe and beautiful place to walk might lose that access.

  • Brian Hsu

    True, USC is a private university on private property. However, it is also a private university that holds many public events, has a number of publicly-open restaurants, and sees thousands of affiliated visitors every year. It is also bordered by a dense, urban neighborhood served by three rail transit stops. This is a problem faced by dozens of major universities. There are many private universities in similar situations (UPenn, Drexel, Columbia, MIT, etc.) which manage to keep things together very well without this kind of intense monitoring and exclusion.

  • sahra

    I hear this a lot and it inspires several conflicting thoughts for me. Yes, it is very true. USC does invest a lot in community schools and programs — no question. My students benefited from being able to participate in programs like JEP (where they assisted teachers in local schools). I’m guessing they benefited more than the local students they were intended to help, but it is good for all parties to be exposed to new situations and experiences. 

    But philanthropy doesn’t absolve an institution from responsibility or mean that the charity is a sincere or even useful gesture. You take an extreme example like Mitt Romney, who inarguably is an incredibly charitable individual but who also seems to harbor significant disdain for certain classes of people, as seen in some of his more candid remarks caught on camera. USC is not Mitt Romney, obviously, but the point is that putting money into something and actually following through in your actions and building relationships with those you seek to aid are not the same thing. (And no, it isn’t just a Romney thing. My doctoral work was on development and I can give you a million examples of money standing in for actual commitment to building community or fostering development. He’s just the freshest example.)

    For me, the gates are troubling. They make it appear that USC is terrified of the community. But much more troubling is the treatment of the local community. After the shooting of the grad students — a genuinely horrific and tragic event — USC responded to parental fears by adding 30 officers to the Southwest Division (it pays for them). Not only were these officers taken from other areas that were already hit by budget woes (they are not new hires, to the best of my knowledge), but their mandate seems to be that of hassling and shaking down local youth. I do a lot of volunteer work in area high schools and know a number of youth that live around USC. It is troubling to me that they see being stopped and questioned by police as “normal.” I can’t imagine that too many USC students would stand for being hassled by police on a regular basis. Or count that among their “normal” experiences. Instead, it appears to local youth that they are being hassled standing in their own yards so that the streets are safe for underage students to drink safely on fraternity row.

    So, it isn’t just the gates. It is the wider emphasis on security and the impact it has on non-students. That is what seems extreme and unfair.

  • Bob

    Um, is it LAPD or USC that’s coming by these houses far down Adams?

    Take up this discrimination with the cops, not the school. Geez.

  • sahra

     The police officers were funded by USC. Four are specifically dedicated to the campus, the rest to the surrounding area. They have been asked to do more frequent parole checks on gang members, which apparently includes stopping any male non-student youth and demanding to know if they are on parole, as I have heard from youth in the area. So, it is the LAPD, but it is at the request of USC and USC is covering most of the personnel costs of the officers.

  • Bob

    The perimeter gates are still up, FYI.

  • SC Alum

    So, sahra — you’re OK with potentially violent individuals getting access to campus as long as it means the little kids have a place to play? Your logic is baffling.

    A bunch of idiots spoiled access to the school for everyone. It sucks. But until the violence in the area is addressed, things like this need to happen to keep both the USC community AND the local community safe. I’d think you’d be in support of overall safer neighborhoods for the many wonderful, awesome children who live nearby. (I was a USC student who worked at Norwood for four years. I knew many families and they were all fantastic. All of them expressed a desire for safer neighborhoods for their families and supported everything USC did to improve the quality of life in University Park.)

  • SC Alum

    Regardless of who pays, it’s LAPD that’s doing the patrolling and “harassing.” It’s not like USC is monitoring everything the LAPD does or says. People need to get off this USC blame game and consider LA’s lack of intervention to improve quality of life in the area. 

  • morgan

    While Harvard and Northeastern are relatively open in terms of the built environment, don’t let that fool you in terms of safety. I lived in Cambridge till last year for 4.5 years (as an adult, not a student) and there was a ton of crime in the area. Sexual assaults in Harvard Yard, loads of robberies around Harvard Square, a drug deal gone bad that resulted in a killing a few years ago in a dorm. You still had to be careful in the neighborhood. That said, Harvard had a ton of public programs (films, dance, art) and felt more integrated into the community than USC feels to me here, both structurally and culturally.

  • sahra

     @820d0e4ee14e986a44d33782ca852f51:disqus I never suggested any such thing. Part of the new safety measures included prohibiting the use of outside promoters for events, which was what had brought non-students to campus. I believe that measure to be reasonable, as stated in the article. And as was pointed out, the altercation happened between two individuals who had beef with each other, and was unrelated to the school or anything to do with students. That’s different from two-year olds being able to play on the quad on a weekend afternoon. Having to swipe your card to enter a building is a great advance and could prevent things like the rape that happened in the basement of WPH several years ago during a summer session. But closing off access to things like the quads and walking paths in an area that has so little green space, especially during the day on a weekend (if that becomes the policy), seems illogical to me.

  • Mengstro

    It’s a private university.  Like any private property, they can enforce who can enter the premises.  

    I agree that the neighborhood offers unique opportunities, and I enjoyed living around campus during my time at SC, but the truth is the school has to protect the students..its customers. 

    If non students want to go roaming around campus at night they can do so at UCLA.

  • Eric B

    Keep in mind that every one of those major walkways on campus was a public right-of-way that was vacated in order for the University to expand.  Part of the vacation procedures requires cities to consider whether or not the right-of-way is needed for nonmotorized transportation (i.e. if it is a useful bike or ped route).  It is highly unlikely that a campus could be assembled in this day and age into a similar superblock without having public pedestrian access as a condition of vacation.  It is very possible that such a condition exists on USC’s property.

    There are many late-night events in Expo Park (soccer games, concerts, sporting events) that draw attendance from the surrounding community.  Bike infrastructure extends to the north along Hoover with the best route continuing south across campus on Trousdale.  Crossing campus provides the safest and most direct route for those living anywhere north of University Park.  Figueroa and Vermont are unpleasant walks and unsafe bike routes.  The University’s action has real ramifications for those in the community aside from the glaring perceptual issues.

  • Sransh

    There is a big cultural and monetary divide between USC students and the community around. Its better for USC to protect itself and its students using any means they can. As a parent I would not send my child to a University that does not do its utmost to protect its students. These measures should have been in places years ago!! And yes, I agree, its LAPD that is doing the discriminatory harrassing, so lay off USC protocols.

  • Quetzal

    I grew up in South Central, on 37th place and Western. My family and I would always walk through USC to get across to the University Village, since the university blocks off such a large portion of the neighborhoods. This is an outrage and obviously racialized. Bodies of color are NOT welcome on the university campus and this is evident every single day. Who are the security policing? By policing more bodies of color, this is further contributing the prison industrial complex. I am a soon to be graduate of UC Berkeley and will be coming back to South Central. If this continues, the community will fight back and kick USC out of our hood.  

  • Quetzalvera

    what in your damn mind makes you think that it is the community stealing the bikes when there is SO MUCH police on campus?! its your yuppy ass friends who are stealing the bikes. if you don’t feel safe in South Central, then get the HELL OUT OF HERE. Gentrification is disgusting.

  • Its PRIVATE in the same way a mall is PRIVATE. I suggest looking into what public-private space is.

  • sahra

     If I understand correctly, the argument you have made is that USC should wall itself off from people that are poor and ethnically different? Isn’t the whole point of going to college to open yourself up to the growth that comes when you step outside your own experience and come into contact with new people and circumstances? Few people would argue they go to college to remain in a bubble, and USC’s entire mission is to prepare students to engage the world, rich and poor, white and non-white. It touts its positioning in the heart of Los Angeles as a source of pride. Shutting itself off to the community seems to be contradictory to that mission.

  • sahra

     Well… I can see the dialogue is going well here. Ahem. Yes, a lot of bikes are stolen (or damaged if left for too long on a rack) It isn’t clear who is stealing the bikes. It isn’t the community, per se, because it would be easy to spot local kids riding around on students’ bikes and your average youth in the area isn’t a craigslist king. By virtue of being a campus loaded with bikes, however, it does attract opportunists from all over the area. Youth involved in gangs or crews or have networks that can help them get rid of the bikes — i.e. paint them, sell them to area shops, or put them online. Some of those youth come from the area, but they aren’t representative of the community as a whole. And I know this because, several years ago, I had a bike stolen, got it back, and managed to crack a theft ring of 15-yr old kids up along 12th St. in the process, much to the surprise of the police who seemed to be clueless as to who these kids were (despite the fact that everyone in the community knew who they were and were terrified to say anything because they were linked to 18th St. gang).

    As a word of advice, I would tell students to make more of an effort to lock their bikes to actual things and have a wire cable to lock front wheels on too, instead of just locking the wheel to the frame and leaving it parked outside. Knowing that bike theft is rampant, it makes more sense to take precautions. I always had two locks for my bike and I never had a problem. Quetzal, USC has been here since the 1800s — it isn’t going anywhere. And, in the early days, the area used to be very wealthy. All those big homes were single-family units, not the multiple-family units they are now. Students have a right to be there, too, and the university is an important part of the community. It would just be nice if everyone co-existed a little more productively.

  • calwatch

    To be fair, USC did not bail like Pepperdine did after the 1965 riots. They doubled down on the community. Nor did they bail after the 1992 riots. It’s therefore somewhat odd that they do so in 2013. 

  • Matt

    SC is not going anywhere.  Far too important to the community and they have been in the area far longer than the current residents (the area has been majority anglo for most of SC’s existence as only since the 1950s have minorities moved into the area).  At least they have improved some of the local schools and provided a lot of jobs to an area that is extremely poorly educated.  For the non-affiliated SC schools take a look at nearby Manual Arts High School, which has become a complete failure factory – somewhere around 70% dropout rate

  • Matt

    I don’t like the fences as an SC grad and I think it is an overreaction that won’t really do all that much for safety, but it is not the end of the world.  The campus was largely fenced before.  This just creates a barrier at Trousdale.  Calwatch makes a good point.  Pepperdine simply bailed on the inner city when the minorities came to their Vermont neighborhood.  SC stayed largely because they would have given up a bigger campus investment, but the community should be glad they stayed nevertheless.

  • St90007

    I am glad they segregated themselves from the community now than a few months down the road when I HAD planned to meet with Tom Sayles regarding a multi million dollar donation. Their elitist attitude is enough to send my family looking at other worthy institutions.

  • Talisinay

    We’re not keeping the community out – we’re just trying to keep the bad people out . I find it laughable the sense of entitlement some people have to having access to this private university. It is $60.000 for 9 months something to aspire to if you are so yearning to use its facilities.

  • Anonymous

    @ba3e3f23c56af89e01463a5a0f3962df:disqus Your argument doesn’t make much sense. If a route has been made safer to bike or ped traffic because it is no longer a thoroughfare BECAUSE a university is there, you are essentially proposing that people who have no affiliations with the uni to benefit from it.