The notorious Seeley G. Mudd rooftop: Sneak in for a visit, leave with a citation

The long-held rite of passage that now comes at an academic cost.

A photo of the exterior of the Seeley G. Mudd (SGM) Building's red bricks and name.

Access to the helicopter pad on the rooftop of the Seeley G. Mudd Building, otherwise known as SGM, has been restricted to authorized personnel only. The rooftop is considered a hidden gem on USC’s campus and a bucket list item for students. For decades, students have secretly slipped up to the tenth floor to watch a breathtaking sunset or sunrise.

The rooftop visit could be costly. So far this year, there have been 126 roof alarm activations in 2021, according to DPS Assistant Chief David Carlisle. Ninety-one of these alarm activations were set off by people unauthorized to be there. “You can imagine the demand on DPS resources who might be better utilized elsewhere,” Carlisle said in an interview with Annenberg Media.

On the morning of Oct. 9 and midnight on Oct. 14, DPS reported two incidents involving eight students who “were cited to Judicial Affairs for accessing the roof at the location without authorization,” according to Carlisle.

Rooftops have brought USC unwanted attention in the past. In March of 2011, inappropriate images of two individuals having sex on the Waite Phillips Hall rooftop went viral. One person was a member of the USC fraternity Kappa Sigma. The other was an unidentified guest.

Disciplinary action involved the suspension of the member “for conduct unbecoming of a Kappa Sigma and a gentleman,” according to a statement from the fraternity president in the Daily Trojan.

The SGM rooftop is for maintenance use only and is not an observation spot for students, according to Carlisle. Students are prohibited from accessing the rooftop primarily due to concerns of safety and potential injuries. DPS is considering installing security cameras to the rooftop hatch to monitor suspicious activity.

Surrounding the roof access point, “there are also signs posted, clearly stating that roof access for unauthorized personnel is prohibited,” Carlisle said. Because students have continued to ignore and disobey the signs, DPS has started to cite student trespassers to Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards, according to Carlisle.

Despite being a campus violation, many students have been willing to take the risk. “I discovered it my freshman year as a spot everyone would talk about because it has a gorgeous view and was practically a USC rite of passage,” Connie Deng, a public relations graduate, said in an interview with Annenberg Media.

Stricter security measures placed on the SGM rooftop were met with student backlash on social media. Much of the negative student response was seen on Librex. The app allows students to engage in their college’s anonymous discussion feed.

In the SGM rooftop discussion thread on Saturday, students expressed their frustrations with DPS after people were cited to Judicial Affairs for triggering the rooftop alarm. The discussion also involved proposed solutions that could allow students to access the roof while being safe. One popular solution mentioned was having a guard posted on the roof while students are there.

USC alumn, Conner Sullivan, graduated in 2016 with a degree in business administration and recalled fond memories of the SGM rooftop in an interview.

“When I first saw the SGM, it truly made me feel like the world was my oyster,” said Sullivan, “I have no doubt standing on the roof of SGM has been a catalyst for a few world-shaking ideas.

Correction: A previous version of this story cited the Seeley G. Mudd rootop as the place where inappropriate activity occured in 2011. It was at Waite Phillips Hall. It was corrected and updated on Oct. 19.