Coalition of Students, Clergy, Labor, and Community Groups Send Letter to LA County District Attorney Demanding an Immediate and Comprehensive Investigation of USC Police Department

The letter to County District Attorney George Gascón calls attention to USC’s track-record of hiring officers with past allegations of excessive force and racial discrimination and demands a full-scale investigation of civil suits filed against the USC Police Department, allegations of serious officer misconduct, use of excessive force, and racial profiling.

LOS ANGELES – On the heels of a guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, and the growing nationwide momentum to reimagine public safety, the USC Forward Coalition is calling on recently elected LA County District Attorney George Gascón to open a comprehensive investigation into USC Police Department.

The letter to D.A. Gascon arrives just two months after the USC Forward Coalition released its groundbreaking report exposing the USC Police Department’s track-record of hiring former LAPD officers with a history of excessive force and racial discrimination allegations, credibility and dishonesty issues, and officer-involved shootings. The exposé highlights five USC police officers with a record of documented misconduct allegations and officer-involved shootings and draws a cloud of suspicion over the entire USC Police Department.

The demand for the investigation is the latest action by the USC Forward Coalition to end the USC Police Department’s detrimental impact on the University’s neighbors in South Los Angeles, and residents near USC’s satellite facilities in East Los Angeles. In addition, they’re calling on the University to abolish its Police Department and reinvest that budget to expand accessibility and affordability for South Los Angeles and East Los Angeles low-income students

USC Forward’s Coalition of Students, Clergy, Labor and Community Groups led a Caravan to USC Dept. of Public Safety to Demand the Abolishment of USC Police Force

Dozens of students, community members, clergy, and labor allies led a car caravan today through South Los Angeles to the USC Department of Public Safety (USC-DPS) to hold a press conference demanding the university take immediate steps to abolish the USC police force and reinvest those funds in expanding scholarships for low-income students.
Our coalition, led by ACCE, Eastside LEADS, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, called on the University to reallocate $50 million from the current USC DPS budget to fund scholarships for 2,000 LAUSD students in the USC Nexus area, and to work with community leaders to develop an affordable housing land trust.

The caravan coincided will the release of our new report that exposes USC-DPS’ track-record of hiring former LAPD officers with a history of excessive force and racial discrimination allegations, credibility and dishonesty issues, and officer-involved shootings.  The most glaring example includes the hiring of LAPD Sergeant Peter Foster, who was at the center of a $1.2 million lawsuit stemming from racist behavior and pranks, alleging, among other things, that Foster gifted a Black officer a cake topped with fried chicken and a slice of watermelon.
In addition, the report highlights 4 other police officers with a record of documented misconduct allegations and officer-involved shootings and cites examples of the USC Police’s negative impacts on community members and students, particularly Blacks and Latinos, at or near the university campus and off-campus facilities.

Black Lives Matter LA leader Melina Abdullah joined the caravan at the intersection of Hoover and Jefferson to call on USC officials to abolish the USC Police force after decades of racial profiling in neighboring communities.
“If there’s one place we don’t need police, it’s on our campuses. We say cops off campus – right now!” said Abdullah.

This is the second time over the past several months that our coalition takes to the campus to call on USC Officials to do away with its police force, and it won’t be the last.
Download the report here.

Daily Trojan: Graduate Student Government to Pass Motion Supporting Graduate Student Union

The Daily Trojan reporting today on the landmark vote by USC’s Graduate Student Government officially supporting graduate student unionization:
“USC Graduate Student Government voted to pass a resolution on Monday to support graduate students’ unionization efforts through USC Forward, a group of students, faculty, alumni and community organizers seeking to better working conditions, wages and educational accessibility at USC.
The resolution was passed with an 84.4 percent approval from GSG Senate and will be presented to all graduate students, University President C. L. Max Nikias, Provost Michael Quick and the Board of Trustees. GSG will also publicly declare its support for a graduate student union.”
Head over to the Daily Trojan for more.

March 1: #CampusResistance

On March 1, faculty, graduate students, and undergrads participated in a national #CampusResistance day of action. Across the country, faculty and students on over 80 campuses stood up and spoke out to reclaim higher education for the public good.
Here at USC, hundreds gathered at Tommy Trojan to demand that USC President C.L. Max Nikias show real leadership and protect everyone in our University community by designating USC a sanctuary campus.

While calls poured in to the President’s office, faculty and students engaged in a series of Know Your Rights trainings covering immigrant and worker rights, international student rights, and digital rights and cybersecurity.
United, we will continue to fight for a strong union here at USC. Check back soon for more exciting news and important updates.

Back on Campus, Back in Action

My name is Robert Chlala and I’m a research assistant in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences.
As you may have heard, USC graduate students are coming together to form a union. I’m writing today to ask you to join us. If you have already signed on, we hope you can help us spread the word and stand with other vulnerable communities this Friday.
Over the past few months, we have talked to hundreds of our colleagues here at USC about the issues impacting graduate students. It may come as no surprise that many of us share serious concerns regarding healthcare coverage, basic workplace protections, sudden changes to our contracts and working conditions, and uncertainty surrounding our pay, stipends, and university fees as the cost of living in Los Angeles continues to skyrocket.
Our instruction, research, field work and lab work at USC are critical to the University’s success, but all too often, we are left without a voice in the issues affecting our work, our programs, and the students we teach.
We believe that together, our united voice can effect real change on campus. We are inspired by the gains made by graduate students and faculty who have formed unions on their campuses. Already, thousands of graduate students and faculty across the country have come together to win real improvements through unionization, including landmark advances in pay, job security, access to benefits, and control of their work.
As we enter our spring semester, we will join this growing, national movement and continue the important work of building a strong graduate student union here at USC. Organizing efforts are currently underway at peer universities across the country, including Stanford, Duke, Northwestern, and Saint Louis University.
Will you join us? Take the first step, and follow this link to sign the confidential form showing your interest. Your electronic signature helps guarantee that we can move the unionization process forward.
If you have already signed this form, you can help by spreading the word. Ask your colleagues and friends who are graduate workers to fill out the form. The faster we get the word out, the faster we can move USC forward to a more equitable and healthy working environment for graduate students.
We know that in the current political climate, higher education is even more at risk – as are workers around the country. A contingent of graduate student workers will also take part in this Friday’s #J20 Walkout: Trojans vs. Trump! We hope to stand with workers across our campus and across the U.S. – and with all vulnerable communities facing attacks such as deportation, hate crimes, and other violence. If you are interested, please join us this Friday, January 20th at 11am at Tommy Trojan. At 12 noon, we will participate in the #J20 USC contingent to join the marches in downtown Los Angeles. For more on the event, click here.
There’s never been a more important time to stand together. If you would like to get more involved or have any questions, please reach out.
On behalf of the many students working to form a union, I sincerely want to thank you for your time and your important work as a graduate student.
Robert Chlala, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences

Graduate Students Are Uniting to Change Higher Education

Dear Fellow Graduate Student Employees: 

We are writing to share why we are coming together to improve our working conditions and to ask you to join us.

As you may have heard, graduate student teaching and/or research assistants at private colleges and universities now have the the right to form unions and negotiate over the terms of their employment. Graduate student workers are vital to the mission of higher education. Our teaching, grading and instructional support are core components of undergraduate education; our lab work and fieldwork underwrite major new discoveries and innovations; our research and scholarship contribute both to the broad advance of knowledge and to the reputation of our institution.
Yet graduate needs, perspectives and voices are too often overlooked. Over the past few months, we have spoken with our colleagues across our universities about a range of issues impacting graduate students. Several core themes emerged from these discussions, including: concerns about rising costs of living; inadequate flexibility in healthcare coverage; lack of basic workplace protections; the need for better workplace harassment and discrimination policies; the imposition of continuation fees and other financial burdens; and sudden changes to our contracts and work conditions.
As graduate student workers, we need a strong, united voice in order to effect change on these and other issues. We believe the best way to improve our working conditions is by coming together to form a union for graduate student workers on our individual campuses and to unite with our peers at universities across the country.
While graduate employee unions are not new, we are now part of a national movement. We are standing up and saying it’s time for the people responsible for the core mission of instruction and scholarship to have a voice in the decisions that impact our degree path, our livelihoods, and the future of higher education.

In the past three years, non-tenure track faculty at nearly 50 universities voted to form a union under the banner of SEIU Faculty Forward—joining a nationwide movement of 120,000 SEIU members who work in higher education. Graduate student unionization campaigns are underway at peer institutions such as Duke, Northwestern, Saint Louis University, Vanderbilt and others. By forming a graduate student union with SEIU, we can join our colleagues on campus and across the country in order to improve our work conditions and the quality of higher education as a whole.

Improving our working conditions will benefit not only graduate student workers, but also our students, our faculty and the administration:

  • Undergraduate students deserve teachers, graders and teaching assistants who can be fully engaged in providing the best possible education. Financial insecurity, inadequate health and childcare, unclear teaching guidelines, and uneven work expectations detract and distract from this mission.

  • We also believe that workplace protections, fair grievance procedures and consistent, transparent employment policies for graduate student workers will improve health, productivity and outcomes.

  • Faculty rely on graduate student workers for assistance with research and instruction and will benefit from healthy, happy, productive graduate students, as will the university as a whole.

By working together, we can positively impact our working conditions in ways that benefit the educational and research mission of our universities.

If you’re ready to take the first step to making improvements, click here to sign a union authorization form today, or fill out the form at the bottom of this page. You should also feel free to contact us directly to answer questions about how forming a union would raise standards for our jobs, students, and profession and to find out more about how you can get involved.
We hope you will join us!

Edward Muna, University of Southern California
Kenneth McCarthy Bolster, University of Southern California
Petrina Crockford, University of Southern California
Sabeen Ahmad, Vanderbilt University
Jackson Christopher Bartlett, Northwestern University
Jean Clifford, Loyola University of Chicago
Elizabeth Eikmann, Saint Louis University
Max Freeman, Northwestern University
Connor Gadek, American University
Justin Hubbard, Vanderbilt University
Lisa Madura, Vanderbilt University
Paulo G. Martinez, Vanderbilt University
Ben Meiners, Washington University in St. Louis
Jesse Montgomery, Vanderbilt University
Imani Mosley, Duke University
Aitza M. Haddad Nuñez, J.D., Howard University
Sebastian Ramirez, Vanderbilt University
Lyle Rubin, University of Rochester
Shahrazad Shareef, Duke University
Kelly Swope, Vanderbilt University


Are they Students? Or are they Employees? NLRB Rules that Graduate Students are Employees

The Washington Post reports on the NLRB’s landmark ruling clearing the way for graduate students to organize unions on their campusesL

The National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday that graduate students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities are school employees, clearing the way for them to join or form unions that administrators must recognize.

Debates about the role and rights of graduate students have emerged as more universities rely on low-paid adjuncts and doctoral students, rather than full-time professors, to teach — a model that has been widely criticized as exploitative. Though adjuncts are making inroads in their fight for higher wages, graduate students have struggled, in part, because the work they do is often a component of their education.” 

Read the whole thing here.

NLRB Reports USC Violated Federal Laws

From the Daily Trojan: “A report released by the NLRB Monday supported these objections and rendered the original Dornsife vote invalid. The ruling, issued by NLRB Hearing Officer Yaneth Palencia, found that Quick and the USC administration broke federal labor laws by attempting to dissuade adjunct faculty from voting for the union. Though the University will face no legal action, the vote results will be set aside and a new vote will take place within the coming weeks. Votes at the Roski School of Fine Arts and the USC International Academy, which voted to unionize, will remain in place.”

NLRB: USC Broke the Law in Faculty Unionization Vote

Inside Higher Ed reports on the lengths USC administrators are willing to go to stop faculty unionization efforts: “’Provost [Michael] Quick engaged in conduct that was so aggravated as to create a general atmosphere of fear making a free election impossible,’ such as by allegedly suggesting that joining a union would make faculty members ineligible for various forms of shared governance.” More here.

USC's Tuition Will Top $50,000 for the First Time

The Los Angeles Times reports: “USC, always striving to reach new heights, is set to cross a dubious milestone: Tuition for the 2016-2017 academic year will surpass $50,000 for the first time.” Read the whole article here.