As nine presidential candidates prepare to participate in a CNN town hall Thursday focused on LGBT issues, USC students say the university is not doing enough to protect members of that community on campus.
There is still lingering student frustration over the administration’s decision to take no action when Michael Knowles, a conservative commentator, spoke on campus. His event titled “Men Are Not Women And Other Uncomfortable Truths” sparked a walk-out.
Protesting students left behind a statement, written by Trojan Advocates for Political Progress, calling for USC to unrecognize Young Americans for Freedom — who hosted the event — as an official student organization.
The letter, which calls Michael Knowles’ speech a “malicious attack on people who are different from him,'' says it “attacks members of the Trojan Family which USC has prided itself on protecting.”
It continues, saying that Young Americans for Freedom had violated the RSO responsibility outlined in the SCampus policy “to refrain from discriminating in membership decisions, elections, and all other matters on the basis of race, creed or religion, sex, age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, medical condition and national origin.”
Justin Weiss, the recruitment chair of Young Americans for Freedom, told Annenberg Media that, “there was nothing discriminatory about bringing a speaker to campus.”
“We invited all students regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, medical condition, national origin or political affiliation,” Weiss continued. “If TAPP doesn’t like the content, they have various options. They can choose not to come.”
Trojan Advocates for Political Progress President, Alex Kriksciun, said they are continuing to follow up on their efforts to have Young Americans for Freedom unrecognized as an official student organization.
“When the university promotes speakers who invalidate [LGBT] existence, [LGBT people] certainly don’t feel more welcome,” he said. “I believe that an easy way to encourage a more welcome, inclusive environment would be to unrecognize YAF and any other organizations that promote hateful rhetoric.”
Others say there are alternate ways the university could support the community, including more funding to LGBT groups.
“As an organization, much like our resource center on campus, we are severely underfunded," said Assistant Director of the Queer and Ally Student Association Angel Dust to Annenberg Media in an email. “Our budget does not reflect our population which is a severe problem.”
Dust added, “I recently spoke with President Folt about some of these issues and they seem on board to help us achieve our goals. However, time will tell if that’s just a front or if the university actually plans to listen to their student body."
Emily J, who did not want to give her last name for fear of being doxxed, said that the transgender community also deserves to be seen on campus.
“One of the most glaring issues for USC students is the lack of transgender-affirming healthcare,” Emily, a member of Transgender Advocacy Group, said. “We’re out there, the transgender student population is out there. We’re scared. Any steps that are taken to protect us, to make the University environment more welcoming to us, would be greatly appreciated because that’s not being done right now.”
The presidential town hall kicks off tonight at 4:30 pm PST in Downtown Los Angeles.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article misspelled Alex Kriksciun’s name, the article has been corrected with the proper spelling.