Campus Update (5/5)

USC Office of the PresidentDear Trojan Family, I am writing to let you know that early this morning DPS, with the assistance of the LAPD, removed the occupiers who had rebuilt their illegal encampment in Alumni Park. The operation was peaceful. Campus is opening, students are returning to prepare for finals, and commencement set-up is in full swing.

Over the last few weeks, the university exercised patience and restraint as we worked to de-escalate a volatile situation. We’ve spoken to the occupiers daily, issued repeated warnings, and offered opportunities and locations for them to protest lawfully. We’ve supported their right to express strong opinions and passions for their cause, as always.

Yet when free speech protests devolve into illegal occupations, violating the rights of others, we must draw a line. The occupiers repeatedly chose to ignore university policies designed to benefit everyone, and to break the law. We needed to act quickly to protect the rights of our 80,000 students, staff, and faculty. We are in the critical period from the end-of-term quiet study week, through finals and our commencement ceremonies.

Despite our efforts to de-escalate, the occupation was spiraling in a dangerous direction over the last several days. Areas of campus were blocked, people walking down Trousdale, our main thoroughfare, were harassed, and iconic Trojan symbols were defaced. In addition, university property was stolen, and commencement structures were dismantled. Residence halls, campus throughfares, and libraries had become places of confrontation. Some finals were disrupted with noise and chanting during mandated quiet periods. Yesterday afternoon, outside agitators jumped the perimeter fencing and assaulted our officers.

This had to stop.

With no resolution in sight, I requested the LAPD to assist DPS in removing the encampment as peacefully and safely as possible. At 4:10 a.m., an order to disperse was issued, providing the trespassers one last opportunity to leave voluntarily. In 64 minutes, the encampment was abandoned and cleared. The operation was peaceful with no arrests. We will not tolerate illegal encampments of any kind at USC.

Over the last week, we methodically and carefully executed on our strategy. My goals were to prioritize safety and return our campus and our surrounding community to normalcy. We were determined to ensure our students could finish their exams without further disruption and that USC could host the commencement celebrations our graduates have worked hard to earn.

As I shared with the Trojan Family last Friday, freedom of speech is central to who we are as a university and is at the core of our democratic society. USC is home to 47,000 students with many different perspectives, and our policies are designed in a manner that allows people to express those opinions.  

In closing, I thank DPS and the LAPD for their swift action, professionalism, and concern for our students. I also thank the Trojan community and our neighbors for your patience as we navigate these challenging times.

Respectfully yours,

Carol L. Folt