Modified public forum leaves students dissatisfied

Students feel university webinar failed in communication with students and lacked transparency

A photo of Provost Zukoski surrounded by students at an SOS protest.

The in-person public forum intended to address recent drugging and sexual assault allegations organized by the Undergraduate Student Government was swapped out for a USC Provost and Student Affairs led webinar over Zoom on Nov. 2. Students feel that the substitution failed to provide a space for students to effectively communicate with the administration as was USG’s intention.

The forum initially was supposed to be divided into two parts, according to USG President Alexis Areias. The first part would be informational and provide people with an understanding of what has happened and how the university is addressing it. The second would serve as an opportunity for students to speak directly to the administration.

“There are a lot of students who have questions, and a lot of people who are not on the same page, so having that informational session was crucial,” Areias said.

While the webinar had important information and resources USG sought to share, USG Senator Nivea Krishnan says the goals of the second component were not fulfilled.

“What students really need right now is a conversation with student leaders and with administration in a more public setting,” Krishnan said. “Based on that student need, I don’t think the webinar was as effective as a conversation like a public forum could have been.”

Using an online platform took away from the students’ ability to confront university leaders face-to-face and openly discuss the questions and courses of actions they plan to take, according to David Askins-Gast, a civil engineering graduate student who attended the webinar.

“When you have a session via Zoom with no chat where students are not able to speak directly to admin, you really miss out on that crucial connection and opportunity that we were hoping to see in the original plan,” Areias said.

“It felt very one-way,” Askins-Gast said. “It was not really a conversation so much as they were just answering selected questions that they wanted to.”

Students urged the university to take action and be more transparent with the community as they move forward and work to prevent such events from taking place again.

“The university needs to take a lot more accountability than they are right now and have to really try to push these open channels of communication because that’s the only way things are actually going to change,” Krishnan said.

While Areias believes rescheduling the public forum would be beneficial to the student body, the possibility of that happening will depend on the administration’s willingness to work with USG. It is not confirmed as of now whether that will take place.

USC directed us to the public forum recording in response to multiple requests for comment.