Dozens of USC students are demanding answers after an adjunct professor was taken into custody on Monday. The professor, who was not charged, sparked a campus-wide scare after allegedly providing false reports of gunfire.
Many students aren’t satisfied with the university’s response: a memorandum by Provost Michael Quick released that afternoon.
One student studying lifespan health, Hanna Kiani, didn’t think the memorandum was enough. She expressed her feelings on Tuesday on Facebook in a letter addressed to President C.L. Max Nikias. So far, the post has received more than 600 likes, 140 shares and dozens of comments.
In her letter, Kiani reflected on the Las Vegas shooting and the false alarm on Monday. She believes Monday’s incident was “a result of the University of Southern California’s blatant disregard for each student and faculty’s mental health and well-being.”
Varun Soni, USC’s dean of religious life, said the university will review communication strategies for potential future crises.
“We want to come out with the correct information, even if it means it is not coming out as quickly as people would like to see,” he said. “There was a lot of false information, responding to different reports. In cases like these, the university has to be the legitimate source of the official information and we have to get it right. We waited until we knew all the facts, until we realized there was no ongoing threat.”
According to Kiani, students were expected to go to class, take tests and return to normalcy after the incident.
“Your students, after being locked down, barricaded, and emotionally shaken, continued with their daily activities,” Kiani wrote. “Some students stayed for their next class in the building that was just flooded by policemen, reporters, and SWAT teams. Professors, who minutes ago were hiding amongst their students, prepared their lectures for their next class. Other students emerged from under desks, doorways, and chairs to return to the same building where they removed barricades to reach their seats.”
Kiani hopes her message will change USC’s policies to address the community’s mental and emotional health more adequately.
Dean Soni hopes to create a cultural environment that empowers the USC community to help mitigate potential crises. Mental health services are available for students, faculty and staff, he noted. Soni also said mental health is “the higher issue of higher education.”
Soni addressed other student and parent concerns. He recognized that the situation was “difficult” and “traumatic” for the entire community. Even though DPS, LAPD and SWAT reacted quickly and treated the situation as if there had been a live, active shooter, Soni said, the university wants to learn from the situation, evaluate it and adjust procedures accordingly.
USC previously hired a chief threat assessment officer, who had started a day before Monday’s incident. This officer’s team reviews potential threats every week and works with DPS, FBI and LAPD to prioritize public safety.
“We take threat assessment very seriously,” Soni said.
Soni said he wants “to look upstream.” His main focus is actively treating student issues as they occur.
“Your concerns are our concerns,” Soni said.