Sunday, March 20, 2011
Repost of the Open Letter to the USC Community, from Vice President of Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson
Editors' note: We were heartened to receive the open letter from Vice President Michael L. Jackson regarding the Kappa Sigma email addressed to the university community on March 18th--we hope it marks the beginning of a fruitful dialogue between the students and faculty of USC and the administration regarding how hate speech and sexual violence is reported and investigated on campus. While this email made it clear that the administration has done much more in investigating this event than their initial statements indicated, more needs to be done to ensure that the USC community is a place where sexual violence and hate speech against women is not tolerated. For this reason, the authors would like to encourage all our signatories and other members of the USC community to attend the meeting being held by a coalition of undergraduate groups who have organized to speak out against hate speech and sexual violence on campus. This meeting will take place Tuesday, March 22, at 8 pm in THH 113. Moving forward, we will do all we can to assist this undergraduate coalition in their attempt to engage the administration in a dialogue regarding the many issues that this controversy has brought to public attention.
Open Letter to the USC Community:
I write to express that the University of Southern California (USC) administration and I are appalled by the anonymous email that has circulated in our community. It expresses repulsive views, its sentiments and language demean women, and it contradicts the values and standards of our university. USC takes great pride in the influence and stature of women in our educational community and the contributions they have made to its development since our founding in 1880.
University administrators first learned of this email in early March, the same way that many of you did. Concerned students who were upset and appalled by its content forwarded it to staff members in the Division of Student Affairs. Once received, we began an immediate investigation into its origin. We spoke with the leadership of the USC chapter of Kappa Sigma, the group to which the email was originally sent, we consulted with the Kappa Sigma national fraternity, and we questioned the student who was associated with this email.
We learned the email did not originate at USC. The student who sent it is not a member of the USC chapter of Kappa Sigma and received it from a friend at another university on the east coast. For reasons that are still unclear, he then sent it to the listserv of the USC chapter of Kappa Sigma sometime in November 2010. Following this, the email circulated more broadly in the student community.
The student responsible for circulating this email has been interviewed. He has apologized and expressed sincere regret for the incident.
Additionally, the Kappa Sigma Fraternity is conducting its own investigation. Chapter operations have been suspended so the fraternity can learn how the email was placed on its listserv and why it was not deleted immediately.
The Interfraternity Council (IFC) also looked into this matter. Although the IFC was not associated directly with the email, it has formulated a plan to take an active role to communicate its disapproval of the email and the sentiment it expresses, collaborating with centers and departments on campus to educate all chapters about the harm of such offensive speech.
USC Student Affairs’ MenCare program, under the Center for Women and Men, is one of several programs the university will use to address this situation. MenCare started as a federal grant program in partnership with the Rossier School of Education in 2005. Student Affairs has continued funding the program because of the important role it serves helping students, particularly men, learn how to play an active part in preventing sexual violence. Moreover, MenCare works with students to uncover and explore the positive and negative pressures society places on both men and women.
As all members of the Trojan Family know, one of our core values surrounds a respect for the rights and dignity of all people. Indeed, this is a central tenet of the university’s Code of Ethics: “We treat everyone with respect and dignity, even when the values, beliefs, behavior, or background of a person or group is repugnant to us…. We speak out against hatred and bigotry whenever and wherever we find them.” We thank those of you who have written in recent days to speak out and forcefully articulate your displeasure with the views in the email. We share your concerns and assure you that this email does not reflect the values and beliefs of the USC community. We will continue to work to promote healthy relationships, open dialogue, and respect among the members of the Trojan Family—and, as an extension of our mission, to encourage the treatment of all people with dignity and respect.
Michael L. Jackson
Vice President for Student Affairs