More than 200 USC students exited their classes and gathered in Hahn Plaza in front of the Traveler statue as part of a USC-UCLA joint walkout Wednesday. The two universities put their rivalry aside on their respective campuses to protest the President-elect Donald Trump and his stance on immigration.
"This is a thing where it's important to come together as universities in Los Angeles, where the largest minority of the population in LA is Latino, and are directly affected by the deportation rates and things like that," said Tomás Mier, one of the walkout organizers and whose parents are undocumented immigrants from Mexico.
After the protest started at 3 p.m., between 10 and 15 USC students voiced their thoughts on the election results and demanded the university become a sanctuary for undocumented community members.
The USC walkout comes just days after six USC faculty members released a sanctuary petition calling on the school to declare "our university's support for and protection of undocumented students, staff, and their families on our campus….who are living in extreme fear and uncertainty" as a result of the election. The petition has surpassed 4,800 signatures.
Participants of the hour-long walkout also encouraged fellow attendees to write letters to the Electoral College with the hope of influencing their decision on Dec. 19.
At UCLA, about 2,000 students met outside Royce Hall before marching toward north campus and returning to Royce Quad.
"The walkout is protesting those social norms as no longer representative of what we stand for," said Caitlin Corker, vice president of the American Association of University Women-UCLA, one of the student organizations behind Wednesday's walkout. "These walkouts are so much more than just seeing a woman, or just being African-American, black, or Latino, Latina or Middle Eastern. It's really more about what we are as a society."
The walkouts were part of a nationwide walkout planned across nearly 80 college campuses. Other participating schools included the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Portland State University, Columbia, New York University, Rutgers and Brown. Many of the students protesting across the country used the hashtag #SanctuaryCampus on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. According college news network The Tab, Movimiento Cosecha, an undocumented workers' pressure group, created the hashtag.
"I think it's very easy for people to dismiss college students because we're the younger generation," Corker said. "We supposedly don't understand the complexities of what's going on in society…I think a lot of people are resistant to the cultural societal change that globalization brings because they're not used to it."
But not all responses to the collegiate walkouts were positive. Several Twitter users insisted participating students to "#suckitupbuttercup." Other users urged the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to raid the colleges and demanded the government to defund schools supporting sanctuary campus policies.
Some USC faculty members who released the sanctuary petition expressed support for the protesters.
"For us, the definition of a sanctuary campus is about sanctuary as protection and sanctuary as programs that will allow various segments of the USC undocumented community to succeed," said Jody Agius Vallejo, associate professor of sociology and American studies and ethnicity at USC. She is also one of the creators of the petition. "We see these coming out of a series of conversations with administrators who we view as our allies."
Oliver Mayer, associate professor at the School of Dramatic Arts and another creator of USC's sanctuary petition, was happy to hear that students were joining the cause Wednesday.
"We are in complete support of USC students finding their voice and standing up for their rights, as well as the rights of their fellow students and staff—particularly those who no longer feel safe in this current of vitriol and threats," he said.
Mayer added that he and his colleague will meet at the provost's office soon to discuss the situation in more detail.
"There will be a response, and we will work closely together with all interested parties," he said. "This is a conversation, not a confrontation."