USC senior Abeer Tijani sent an email to Undergraduate Student Government leadership Friday requesting President Truman Fritz’s immediate resignation following anonymous accusations about Fritz’s racial insensitivity. Following the email, Tijani created a petition asking to impeach Fritz for his actions.
USG announced via an Instagram story that its senators are currently deliberating whether to call for Fritz’s impeachment.
Anonymous students submitted the accusations about Fritz to an Instagram account entitled @black_at_usc. The campaign launched on Thursday night and has over 2,000 followers at the time of writing. This account follows similar Instagram accounts that create spaces for Black students to anonymously share their experiences on their respective campuses.
Fritz declined to speak to Annenberg Media but posted a statement on his personal Instagram account in which he acknowledged his privilege and apologized for his actions. He urged people to continue to “call [him] out.”
“I am deeply sorry,” Fritz’s statement read. “I recognize that I am a person of privilege and that I do not have the lived experience of my peers. I benefit from systemic injustice that pervades our world, and I have restrained my efforts to combat that injustice in the past for the sake of the moderate approach to politics.”
The accusations addressed Fritz’s alleged insensitive language while campaigning for his presidential election, specifically, his tendency to place students of color into one category. Fritz was also accused of seeming unconcerned with issues pertaining to Black students and of making students uncomfortable with “jokes and the use of certain names.”
Several hours after the first accusation, Tijani wrote an email to Fritz, Vice President Rose Ritch, and the USG Senate calling for Fritz and Ritch to step down from their positions.
“I have seen you insert yourself into spaces on campus that are working to dismantle the deeply-rooted racism that seeps into every corner of our campus, and I have also witnessed USG release cosmetic, almost farcical statements of allyship and commitments to do better,” the email read. “You are the face of USG and it is your duty to uphold the mission and values of the organization even - and perhaps especially - when you are ‘off-duty.’”
Tijani said she has had no personal experience with Fritz and did not have a hand in submissions to the Instagram account. She also noted the lack of Black staff members working under Fritz prior to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I feel vehemently uncomfortable with the idea of you and your running-mate finishing out your term as USG President and Vice President … I am not optimistic that you have the wherewithal to lead our student body into the anti-racist future that we so desperately need and that so many of us are painstakingly fighting for,” she concluded.
Fritz did not address Tijani’s email or call for resignation.
In response to the statement, Tijani drafted another email to Fritz, Rose, and the senate addressing points in Fritz’s statement, as well as his failure to adhere to the USG bylaws.
“To me, this means that you have chosen to protect your privilege under the guise of flowery diction and conciliatory promises to ‘do better,’” she wrote. “Your statement fails to demonstrate that you even know, let alone understand, which of your past actions have caused the damage that you are now so desperately trying to triage.”
In his statement, Fritz “renewed [his] commitment to fight for equity at USC,” announcing his next steps moving forward. Fritz stated that he plans to engage USG in conversations with cultural centers and diverse student organizations about students of colors’ needs, to coordinate educational programs, including a book club, within USG and the Executive Cabinet and to build a coalition of student organizations to support diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
Tijani questioned why Fritz should be the one to head an anti-racism book club and dialogues within USG, citing his failure to educate himself on the issues Black students face.
“You should have acknowledged that your brand of leadership is neither necessary nor well-suited for the new value system that we are trying to build and that your attempts to steer this ship and navigate these obstacles have done nothing more than further obscure the root issues and hinder meaningful change,” she wrote.
Tijani specifically cited sections of the USG bylaws she believes Fritz has violated, calling for scrutiny and movement toward impeachment in the USG leadership.
Both emails can be found on Tijani’s Instagram page.
This is not the first backlash Fritz has received since his election. He and Ritch were found guilty of violating the Elections Code by the Elections Commission in February, as well as being forced to review and amend bylaws that increased Fritz and Ritch’s salary by eliminating stipends for assistant directions.
Sophia Ungaro contributed to this report.
Updated June 26, 2020 at 12:04 PM: The story was updated to include quotations and additional details about Fritz’s statement.