LGBTQ+ History Month: A time to honor the past and build community in the present

After two years of being limited to Zoom events, LGBTQ+ History Month returns to live and in-person activities at USC in October with an ambitious slate of events scheduled throughout the month.

“Our goal is for students to connect with LGBTQ+ history but also to connect with each other and to find pride in our community,” USC’s LGBTQ+ Student Center Supervisor a.b. Monzon said. “This is our chance to come together as a community and to raise visibility about the LGBTQ+ communities and issues at USC.”

The center’s lineup of events kicks off on Oct. 7 with Drag Bingo followed by a faculty-staff social on Oct. 12. The center will honor International Pronouns Day on Oct. 19 with educational materials and giveaways in Hahn Plaza, followed a day later by Pride-Festwhich was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There will also be opportunities for students, staff, faculty and community members to volunteer at the Los Angeles LGBT Center South’s bimonthly Pride Pantry.

“We want to engage,” Monzon said. “We are focusing on pride and visibility and connecting to our history of finding community and creating spaces where you can have community.”

LGBTQ+ History Month, which originated in the United States as Lesbian and Gay History Month, is a celebration and observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history. High school history teacher Rodney Wilson, the first openly gay public-school teacher in Missouri, created the observance in 1994. It is intended to encourage honesty and openness about being LGBTQ+ and to develop a sense of belonging and empowerment for the community. October was chosen to coincide with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and to commemorate the first and second marches on Washington for LGBTQ+ rights, which took place in 1979 and 1987.

USC LGBTQ+ History Month: honoring the legacy of HIV/AIDS activism

Keck Pride, the LGBTQ+ employee resource group that spans Keck Medicine of USC and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, is one of the cosponsors of AIDS Walk Los Angelesand is fielding a team for that Oct. 16 event as part of its LGBTQ+ History Month efforts. The walk has not been held in person since 2019.

“We haven’t been able to be together as a community in so long,” Keck Pride Co-Chair Lindsey Morrison said. “Specifically thinking about history, what a huge impact HIV and AIDS has had on our community and its ability to rise to the occasion. We’ve seen again with the COVID-19 pandemic and monkeypox [MPX] outbreak, our community’s ability to come together, support each other and make sure we have access to whatever it is that we need. AIDS Walk is a way to celebrate who we are as a community and to honor our legacy.”

Keck Pride is also co-sponsoring an Oct. 14 webinar titled “A (Ridiculously Abbreviated) History of Gender-Affirming Care,” featuring Roberto Travieso, surgical director of the Keck Gender-Affirming Care Program.

“There is a misconception that gender-affirming hormonal and surgical care is new, but there is a rich history that Dr. Travieso will take us through, from over 100 years ago to today,” Morrison said. “This is just a natural variation of humanity that has existed as long as people have existed in every continent, in every culture.”

Coming out accelerates progress

Loni Shibuyama, librarian and archivist at ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, sees LGBTQ+ History Month as an opportunity to celebrate and learn about the past, and to be more visible in the present about your sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The more LGBTQ+ voices that are out there, the more the rest of the world can’t ignore them anymore,” Shibuyama said. “The idea of coming out is one of the distinctive things about LGBTQ people. You can keep it private, but the more people come out, the more others realize how many LGBT people are out there. That has accelerated the progress that has been made.”

ONE Archives, the largest repository of LGBTQ+ materials in the world, houses millions of archival items including periodicals, books, film, video and audio recordings, photographs, artworks, organizational records and personal papers. It has been a part of USC Libraries since 2010 and is expected to reopen to the public in early 2023 after months of renovations.

“A lot of generations think they are the first to do something,” Shibuyama said, highlighting that the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights has been ongoing from the early 20thcentury to today. “People have been fighting for certain rights for a long time and have had different strategies for doing it. The more we understand all these different ways people have fought for their civil rights, the more we can come together and make that progress.”

Although the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village are regarded as history’s first major protest on behalf of equal rights for LGBTQ+ people, Shibuyama points to the AIDS crisis that began in the early 1980s as the historical event that galvanized the community and made it more radical about demanding rights.

“The coming together that happened during that time paved the way for more working together on other rights such as marriage equality,” she said. “Some of the rights we were fighting for we are still fighting for today. Some of the rights we have may be threatened. It’s an ongoing struggle.”

A full list of USC LGBTQ+ History Month events can be found on the university’s event calendar.

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Governor names USC’s Erroll Southers to Commission on the State of Hate

Erroll Southers, USC’s associate senior vice president of safety and risk assurance, has been appointed to the California Commission on the State of Hate. Gov. Gavin Newsom made the announcement on Friday.

The commission will assess data on hate crimes in California, provide resources for victims and make policy recommendations to better protect people’s civil rights.

“As a state and as a nation, we face a rising threat environment created by extremist narratives and the people who espouse them,” said Southers, the former director of the Safe Communities Institute at the USC Price School of Public Policy.

“This is a multidimensional problem, and the approaches to reducing hate, promoting tolerance and preventing violence are necessarily complex. Identifying those solutions requires collaboration, and I am honored to work alongside consummate experts and leading practitioners as an appointee to the Commission on the State of Hate.

“This is an opportunity for us to help the state and the country track and study hate crimes and extremist violence and develop the policy solutions that can lead to a safer and more peaceful society.”

Southers is a former FBI special agent and has served in counterterrorism and public safety positions at every level of government. He earned a Master of Public Administration degree and a Doctor of Policy, Planning and Development degree from USC.

Other appointees named Friday are Cynthia Choi, co-director of Chinese for Affirmative Action and a co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate; Brian Levin, founding director at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and a professor at California State University, San Bernardino; Bamby Salcedo, president and chief executive officer at the TransLatin@ Coalition; and Shirin Sinnar, a law professor at Stanford University.

Appointees are not compensated and do not require state Senate confirmation. Learn more on the governor’s website.

 

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First-of-its-kind media studies lab launches at USC to amplify Black social change makers on West Coast

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Amid increasing calls to restrict curricula that engage critical race theory in American classrooms, award-winning journalism instructor and scholar Allissa V. Richardson has founded the Charlotta Bass Journalism & Justice Lab at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to preserve Black media and amplify Black media makers, activists and social changemakers.

As the University of Southern California’s first media studies center dedicated to saving, studying and sharing the work of prominent and hidden figures who have been central to Black social justice movements in America, the Bass Lab will create a web archive that serves as a repository for Black media and activist journalism. The archive will include digitized newspapers, magazines, photojournalism and scanned 3D objects that tell the story of Black life and culture on the West Coast. Original content in the form of recorded interviews and oral histories will also be featured.

“The Bass Lab’s pioneering mission bridges traditional journalism with innovative media-making technologies to capture and preserve the many voices of the racial and social justice movements,” USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay said. “It will undoubtedly become a primary destination for Black media makers, scholars and journalists.”

Richardson, the bestselling author of Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones and the New Social Justice #Journalism, will serve as the lab’s inaugural director.

“When most people think of civil rights, they don’t tend to think of Washington, Oregon and California as hotspots for Black activism — but the Black Press tells us a different story,” said Richardson, associate professor of journalism and communication. “For the first time in history we are building a clearinghouse that will aggregate Black social justice journalism — in all of its formats – while uplifting the voices of the people who made it.”

The Bass Fellowship, which aims to increase the industry pipeline of talented journalists who are prepared to report on issues of race and social justice, will be the lab’s first academic initiative. Select USC students will be trained to produce original audio, video and photographic content and hone their skills in news-gathering, photogrammetry, drone photography and podcasting. Such content will be collected and curated for the Lab’s website, its forthcoming mobile app and the Voices of a Movement “virtual humans” exhibit, which will be presented on USC’s University Park campus during Black History Month in February 2023.

The virtual humans concept was pioneered by the USC Shoah Foundation through its Dimensions in Testimony exhibit. Dimensions allows visitors to “speak” with survivors of the Holocaust through advanced recording and display technology. When people ask a virtual human a question onscreen, the software retrieves the appropriate video snippet from a previously filmed interview, as a reply.

“During the last two years, Black America has lost so many of its history makers — from civil rights leaders, such as Rep. John Lewis and CT Vivian, and socially conscious actors, like Nichelle Nichols and Cicely Tyson,” Richardson said. “There has never been a more imperative time to capture the voices of Black icons who are still with us. When we honor them, we help future generations connect the dots between social movements.”

The Bass Lab has been named in honor of Charlotta Spears Bass, the first Black woman to be nominated as vice president for a major political party in America. Bass was also the first Black woman to own and operate a newspaper on the West Coast. The California Eagle debuted in 1912 and is credited with sparking a mass migration of Black people from the American South and Midwest who sought promise and opportunity in California.

“Charlotta Bass’ pioneering leadership and tireless advocacy for Black people helped establish the culture and makeup of the West Coast that we experience today. Our goal for the lab is to highlight the stories of those who carry on this legacy,” said Myah Genung, the lab’s chief program officer.

The Bass Lab’s efforts will also include collaborating with various media industry partners to develop academic and experiential programming that will reflect its mission.

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USC kicks off Latinx Heritage Month: ‘As individuals we are strong, but as a community, we are powerful’

With the theme of Unidos — Inclusivity for a Stronger Community setting the tone, Trojans shared their personal stories and thoughts during a virtual event streamed online, which also included a festive viewing party at Tommy’s Place on the University Park Campus hosted by Latinx Chicanx Center for Advocacy and Student Affairs (La CASA).

“Unity takes work because it’s more than the identity that will bring us together,” USC Rossier School of Education Dean Pedro Noguera said during the program. “We have common needs, common challenges that we face — especially in this country at this time. My hope is that Latinx Heritage Month will serve as a time for conversations and dialogue about those issues.”

Noguera added that unity is something that cannot be imposed — it requires consistent effort.

“It’s so important that here at USC we have a strong Latinx presence,” he said.

This year’s celebration comes as 18% of all incoming undergraduates at USC, including transfer students, and 14% of incoming graduate students identify as Latinx (including those whose preferred terms include Latino/a, Chicano/a/x and Hispanic).

During the program Janette Hyder, a USC Rossier doctoral candidate who said the thought of attending USC had seemed “unattainable” growing up, talked about how proud she is of being the first person in her family to attend college.

“As a third-generation Chicana, I am proud of being Mexican, of sharing my culture with others, and representing my community in higher education,” Hyder said. “It has kept me grounded, self-aware and motivated to continue to be a change agent.”

Hyder said she loves being part of a community that is “filled with powerful stories, rituals, food, music, dances, spirituality and traditions.”

“Embracing our culture regardless of our differences only makes our community more resilient,” she said. “As individuals we are strong, but as a community, we are powerful.”

Maria Belen Polanco, a first-generation college student whose family came to the United States from El Salvador when she was 3 years old, shared how she has overcome “unique challenges” connected to how she initially felt about being a Latina student at USC.

“Many of us come to USC with little resources of our own … and sometimes we even convince ourselves that we don’t belong here,” she said. “That couldn’t have been further from the truth because the real richness comes from within.”

The USC Marshall School of Business student credits her mother with teaching her resilience and inspiring her to have dreams.

“I was raised by a single mother who just doesn’t quit and got my brother and I through everything poverty threw at us — including homelessness,” Polanco said. “Many people think being a Trojan just means attendance at a very prestigious school. But they don’t realize the work, the grit and the resilience it takes.”

Alberto Ortega, a USC Marshall MBA candidate who is taking a pause from his studies at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, has already earned two undergraduate degrees from USC. He initially planned to be a Spanish teacher but shifted to health care because of his “lived experience.” He now plans on being a physician.

“There is no doubt that being a part of the Trojan Family changed my life,” Ortega said. He credited his success to all the role models and mentors who opened doors for him and helped him to believe in himself.

Remembering a legendary mentor during Latinx Heritage Month kickoff

USC President Carol L. Folt recognized one of USC’s most legendary Latino mentors, the late Edward Zapanta, in her remarks at the event.

Zapanta was the first Latino member of USC’s Board of Trustees and was the only Latino in his class when he entered what is now the Keck School of Medicine. When Zapanta struggled to pay his medical school bills, a local Latino doctor gave him a scholarship and encouraged him to pay it forward.

He did that and more. Zapanta and his brother Richard, who graduated from the Keck School in 1968, became co-founders of what is now known as the USC Latino Alumni Association. Since its founding in 1973, the association has awarded more than 94,000 scholarships totaling $22.5 million across the university.

“Learning from the generations before us, the ones that are beside us, and those following us is what helps us all build a better future for everyone,” Folt said. “Diversity makes our USC community so much stronger.”

Latinx Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

It began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 with a proclamation signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson; in 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded the celebration to a month, through Oct. 15.

USC celebrations had been limited to being virtual the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s viewing party provided a long-awaited opportunity for some in-person fellowship and food from different Latin American countries.

“It feels good being around a lot of other Latinos, meeting new people,” USC Marshall freshman Ivan Gallegos said at the party. “I like how the speakers talked about inclusivity and trying to feel like a part of USC. I think a lot of people can relate to that – especially me.”

Itzel Villanueva, a junior studying computer science and business administration at USC Viterbi School of Engineering, was also glad to be able to gather with her fellow Latino students.

“We don’t really see multiple opportunities here at a PWI [predominantly white institution],” Villanueva said. “Having this event is really special. It’s about being proud of who I am and embracing it.”

Latinx Heritage Month: In-person viewing party has been a long time coming

USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism master’s student Valeria Ortiz was executive director of the Latinx Student Assembly during the pandemic and said an in-person event such as the viewing party had been a long time coming.

“It feels amazing to see everybody come out and it’s obviously clear that we needed this as a community,” Ortiz said as she finished her lunch. “Something as simple as having food and talking to one another is really unifying in a very special way.”

After the virtual program ended, USC Rossier Associate Dean for Diversity and Community Engagement Darline Robles made remarks to the crowd that resonated with many of the students.

“You being here today is a testament to you being proud, caring, loving and supportive of your culture,” she said. “That doesn’t happen often, particularly if you’re in a primarily white institution, right?”

Robles encouraged any Latino students in attendance to continue to get rid of any feelings of “imposter syndrome.”

“You deserve to be here, and you deserve to go as far as you want in this world,” she said. “Don’t ever forget that.’

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Keck Medicine of USC names Shannon Bradley as health system’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer

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Keck Medicine of USC names Shannon Bradley, MBA, health system’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer

Bradley will develop strategies and initiatives to foster an equitable and inclusive environment and ensure culturally sensitive care for patients

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LOS ANGELES — Keck Medicine of USC has named Shannon Bradley, MBA, the health system’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer, effective Sept. 26.

In this new role, Bradley will develop strategies and initiatives to recruit and retain an equitable and diverse workforce and ensure culturally sensitive care for patients. She will lead diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts already in progress at the health system and create and track metrics to measure these efforts.

“Bradley brings years of health care experience and a track record of success implementing diversity, equity and inclusion strategies to this inaugural position,” said Ekta Vyas, PhD, chief human resources officer for Keck Medicine. “Creating a diverse and inclusive health system that fosters a culture of belonging is a top priority for Keck Medicine and allows us to address areas of opportunity and growth. We are very excited to welcome Bradley as an integral member of our Keck Medicine leadership team.”

Additionally, Bradley will work closely with Christopher Manning, USC’s chief inclusion and diversity officer, to collaborate on DEI strategies and initiatives and to prevent and address potential situations of bias.

“I look forward to leveraging Keck Medicine diversity, equity and inclusion efforts to provide the best outcomes for our patients and an inclusive workplace for all employees,” said Bradley. “Keck Medicine has the commitment and resources to become not only a regional, but a national leader in this area.”

Bradley brings a unique personal dimension to the role. “At one time in my life, I myself did not have access to adequate health care,” she said. “I understand firsthand what it means to have an inequitable health care experience, which drives me to advocate even harder for patients who have been underserved or undervalued.”

Hiring Bradley as chief diversity and inclusion officer is the culmination of recent DEI-focused initiatives at the health system.

“With Bradley onboard, we are confident that Keck Medicine can progress even further on its journey to inclusion,” said Smitha Ravipudi, MPH, chief executive officer of USC Care Medical Group and chair of Keck Medicine’s Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee. “Together, we will create a lasting road map for change.”

Previously, Bradley served as the assistant vice president/division director of diversity, equity and inclusion for HCA Healthcare’s Gulf Coast Division in Houston, Texas. During her tenure there, she increased the diversity of the health system’s board members for Asian and Black members by 45% and 24% respectively.

She also launched multiple networks bringing together employees of common demographics, backgrounds and interests, and increased participation in the networks from just under 300 participants to over 3,000 in three years. In addition, she initiated a health equity collaboration that resulted in significant improvements in maternal health outcomes among women of color.

Bradley holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, and a Master of Business Administration degree with a health care administration specialization from Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She was named Outstanding Diversity Champion in 2021 and Outstanding Head of Diversity in 2022 by the Houston Business Journal.

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For more information about Keck Medicine of USC, please visit news.KeckMedicine.org.

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Title IX contributed to gains in entertainment fields, USC School of Cinematic Arts dean says

Title IX logoEditor’s note: Title IX — the landmark legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding — was signed into law on June 23, 1972. In recognition of this anniversary, we’ll be profiling Trojan Title IX trailblazers throughout the year.

As USC’s longest serving dean, Elizabeth M. Daley of the USC School of Cinematic Arts has had to tackle some university practices we now take for granted, including prioritizing equity issues.

“When I came to USC, there was only one woman on the cinema production faculty,” said Daley, who joined the school in 1989 as chair of the film and television production program before assuming the deanship in 1991.

“I went to my first faculty meeting, and I was the only woman in the room besides my assistant. Coming out of the industry, I had been used to at least pitching to women — even if I knew they had to go sell it to a male boss.”

Today, 40% of the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ tenured faculty members are women. The school’s student body is also gender-balanced — even in areas like feature-film directing and game design, where the professional fields are still lagging.

Daley said these gains would not have occurred without the spotlight of Title IX.

“What’s been wonderful about the law is the recognition that it gave to the very fact that discrimination was occurring,” she said. “Fifty years ago, there were a lot of people who felt that discrimination didn’t exist, and if it did, it didn’t matter. It was endorsement at the federal level that indeed something had to be done.”

Title IX trailblazer sees lessons in team sports

She pointed out that Title IX provided more opportunities for girls to participate on team sports, allowing them to “learn critical skills of collaboration and cooperation, which are important to success in the cinematic arts, where development of creative work and scholarship are highly collaborative.”

Before coming to USC, Daley was director of Taper Media Enterprises and a producer for MGM Television. She’s also worked as an independent producer and media consultant.

When Title IX was signed into law in 1972, prohibiting sex-based discrimination in any school or other educational program receiving funding from the federal government, Daley was already embarking on her professional career. She had earned a doctorate in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater from Tulane University in addition to building her resume as a producer.

Possibilities offered to Title IX trailblazer

Still, she remembered feeling overjoyed at the possibilities Title IX would afford women.

“It was a first step against the misogyny that still lives with us every day,” Daley said of the landmark legislation, noting that women of her mother’s generation could not pursue the education or careers they desired.

“My mother wanted to be a lawyer, but there was no chance of that,” she said, adding that her mother instead went to college to become a teacher. “She was the first person who ever talked about pay discrimination in front of me, when I was very young, and I became aware of the unfairness.”

Daley said she has experienced gender discrimination firsthand, an experience she shares with working women everywhere.

“I don’t believe anybody who tells me, if they are female, that they have not experienced discrimination,” she said. During one project she was producing, Daley remembered a male line producer saying he didn’t care who she hired as first assistant director as long they weren’t female, because being responsible for safety on set would be too dangerous for a woman. Daley did a double take, causing the man to say, “Don’t take it personally.”

The incident cemented her resolve to succeed.

‘We spent a lot of time making choices’

“Women of my generation, we spent a lot of time making choices,” Daley said. “Sometimes we had to just ignore comments because you needed to get on with your work. You had to decide whether or not it was strategic to fight about it at that moment. Many of us got to the point where we thought, ‘They can say what they want; I’m not going to let them deter me from moving ahead.'”

Daley said that her goal now is to make sure that the young women at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and those of future generations, are fully able to reap the promise of Title IX and grow their opportunities in whatever professional avenues they dream of pursuing.

“What Title IX did is put women in visible roles you hadn’t seen them in before,” she said. “Title IX was a cornerstone to begin to fight these other battles. It was a huge, huge building block.”

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USC, Hebrew Union College celebrate 50 years as partners — and look ahead

USC and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on Monday celebrated their partnership that has spanned a half-century and marked their continued relationship – recently extended for at least another 25 years.

“It is an honor to be here today to celebrate the great vision that led to this partnership, the work of so many who have contributed to it over the years, our shared history and our continued responsibility to educate future generations in Jewish studies and to build a better and more just future,” USC President Carol L. Folt said during Monday’s celebration at USC’s Town and Gown facility.

Through the two schools’ partnership, HUC’s Louchheim School for Judaic Studies serves as USC’s undergraduate Jewish studies program, and a graduate certificate program allows USC doctoral candidates to enroll in for-credit courses at HUC. USC students also have access to HUC’s library of 700,000 volumes, one of the largest Jewish libraries in the country.

In turn, students in HUC’s Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management pursue a variety of dual graduate degrees at USC. HUC students also can participate in events through USC organizations including USC’s Casden Institute, USC Chabad, USC Hillel and USC Shoah Foundation, with its deep collection of Holocaust testimonies and extensive research on genocides worldwide.

There really isn’t anything else like it in this country.

Carol L. Folt, USC president

“There really isn’t anything else like it in this country,” Folt said.

USC today has a significant population of Jewish students — about 2,000 Jewish undergraduate and 1,500 graduate students, Folt said.

When the USC-HUC agreement began, Folt said, USC had just a handful of courses in Jewish studies. Today, the schools jointly offer one of the nation’s strongest Jewish studies programs, with hundreds of undergraduate students enrolling in courses every year.

The partnership between the two schools began in 1971 when HUC moved its Los Angeles campus from Hollywood to University Park.

Just a year later, anti-Jewish hatred stole international headlines as 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by terrorists at the Munich Olympics.

“We have to remember our history,” Folt said. “It is our responsibility to teach our history to every generation.”

USC-Hebrew Union College: A “special relationship”

Joshua Holo, dean of the HUC campus just steps away from USC’s University Park Campus, compared the schools’ partnership to the “special relationship” the United States enjoys with the United Kingdom, in which the Atlantic Ocean unites rather than divides.

“Jefferson Boulevard has proven not a barrier, but a bridge,” Holo said. The partnership, Holo added, “embodies a fundamental shared goal: excellence in higher education.”

He also praised Folt’s support of USC’s Jewish students, especially during recent instances of anti-Semitism.

In January, Folt created the Advisory Committee on Jewish Life at USC amid an increase in anti-Semitism in the United States and at campuses nationwide, including USC. She noted that several of the committee’s recommendations are already being implemented, including establishing a kosher kitchen; improving holiday policies; including Jewish voices in the university’s discussions of diversity, equity and inclusion; and providing training about anti-Semitism to students, faculty and staff.

During a discussion moderated by USC Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life Varun Soni, Folt and HUC President Andrew Rehfeld were asked how the two institutions can work together to fight growing sentiments of anti-Semitism. (“What happens in the world happens on campus,” Soni said.)

Rehfeld identified three steps to deal with such hate: Name it; condemn it; and do something about it. Folt said that, because of social media, it is often unclear where the remarks are coming from — or even how widespread those sentiments really are.

Developing leaders on both campuses

Folt also noted that society’s approach to developing leaders has changed dramatically.

“We used to think about leadership as something that happened to a person over time,” Folt said, and that some people are considered born leaders. Now, people realize that “there are so many aspects of leadership that can be taught, be mentored, be modeled,” she said.

In addition, she said students today equate leadership with impact, and that leaders must act with integrity, be open to difference of opinion and show humility.

Diversity and inclusion are not just moral values that we share. They are intellectual values.

Andrew Rehfeld, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Folt also mentioned USC’s new “student commitment” — introduced at last month’s new student convocation — as a blueprint for sharing Trojan Family values, including acting with integrity; embracing diversity, equity and inclusion; engaging in open communication; and being accountable for one’s actions.

Rehfeld — who leads HUC’s system of four campuses in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, New York and Jerusalem — noted the two institutions’ shared moral and civic values.

“Diversity and inclusion are not just moral values that we share. They are intellectual values,” he said, adding, “Reason and science are driving our understanding of the world.”

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USC Latinx Heritage Month to celebrate inclusivity starting Thursday

A monthlong celebration of Latinx Heritage Month begins Thursday with USC President Carol L. Folt, students, faculty and staff sharing their thoughts around this year’s theme of Unidos — Inclusivity for a Stronger Community during a virtual kickoff event.

The kickoff has a unique hybrid element this year in the form of an in-person viewing party hosted by Latinx Chicanx Center for Advocacy and Student Affairs (La CASA), USC’s first cultural center, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

“This is a great opportunity to come together as family and also an opportunity to educate others on who we are,” La CASA Supervisor Leticia Delgado said. “We welcome anyone who wants to join and watch together.”

Latinx Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. It began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 with a proclamation signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson; in 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded the celebration to a month, through Oct. 15.

Sept. 15 is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.

Juan De Lara, director of the Latinx and Latin American Studies Center at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, said the month is an ideal opportunity to place Latinx communities on a national stage.

It’s really up to us to decide how we decide to use this platform.

Juan De Lara, USC Dornsife’s
Latinx and Latin American Studies Center

“But it’s really up to us to decide how we decide to use this platform,” said De Lara, an associate professor of American Studies & Ethnicity at USC Dornsife.”Institutions, including universities, can use it as an opportunity to discuss what we can do as individuals and as an organization and as a society to make sure that Latinos and Latinas have what they need in order to flourish and to thrive in however way they decide to do that.”

Latinx Heritage Month: Nearly half of L.A. County residents are Latinx individuals

De Lara explained that Latinx individuals make up about 48% of the population in Los Angeles County. That’s 4.9 million people, about 3.7 million of whom are of Mexican descent and about 800,000 of Central American descent.

“That’s a significant population to consider when we think about things like diversity, equity and inclusion and when we think about racial justice,” he said. “Latinx Heritage Month is about issues related to social change and transformation and social equity. We want to recognize how far we’ve come and also make decisions about how to reconcile some of the issues and inequities that continue to exist.”

Watch Latinx Heritage Month event online or in person

The Latinx Heritage Month kickoff will begin at 12:15 p.m. Thursday. Those attending virtually can view the event on Zoom.

The in-person viewing party will take place from noon-3 p.m. on campus at Tommy’s Place, USC’s concert venue in the basement of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center. Appetizers from different Latin American countries will be served.

In addition to Folt and several USC students, kickoff event speakers will include: Darline Robles, USC Rossier School of Education associate dean for Diversity & Community Engagement; USC head baseball coach Andy Stankiewicz; associate athletic airector (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) Julie Rousseau; and USC alumna Xiomara Mateo-Gaxiola.

There will also be a musical performance by Afro-Latin American Jazz Enemblefrom USC’s Thornton School of Music.

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Trojan Title IX trailblazer never hesitates to challenge the status quo


Editor’s note: Title IX — the landmark legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding — was signed into law on June 23, 1972. In recognition of this anniversary, we’ll be profiling Trojan Title IX trailblazers throughout the year.

When Dorothy Wright Nelson became dean of the USC Gould School of Law in 1969, it would still be three more years before Title IX became law.

But the determined legal pioneer, who became the school’s first female law professor when she joined the faculty in 1957, was already focused on doing all she could to make USC Gould more diverse by encouraging more women to enroll, as well as Black, Hispanic and Asian students.

“We went out into high schools and colleges to encourage young women and racial minorities to prepare to apply to law school,” Nelson said. “USC was traditionally a very conservative school that would not reach out. I took aggressive steps.”

Title IX changes everything

Things became easier in June 1972 when Title IX became law, prohibiting sex-based discrimination in any school or other education program that receives federal funding.

“This legislation was very helpful to me — especially internally with the administration,” Nelson said. “We wanted money from the federal government and were going to have to welcome everyone. It was a thrilling victory.”

Nelson’s commitment to diversity ran deeper than rectifying past ills in society. She believed that a variety of perspectives was critical in the classroom — especially in such courses as constitutional law. By the time she stepped down as dean in 1980 to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, more than half of USC Gould’s students were either female or a racial minority.

One of the keys to her success was her insistence on remaining collegial and being true to herself and her values no matter what she was up against.

The women Nelson grew up around fed this sense of integrity. Her mother taught high school and community college classes, her maternal aunt was a teacher, and her sister also became a teacher.

“I was greatly influenced by my immediate family,” Nelson said. “It was not a question of, ‘What are you going to do when you grow up?’ It was, ‘What are you going to be when you grow up and what are you going to do for the community?'”

A member of the Baha’i faith, Nelson was an early proponent of mediation and arbitration and, in what was a controversial move at the time, introduced those alternative dispute resolutions in her courses well before they became common practice.

Challenges of being a ‘first’

But it was not all smooth sailing for Nelson, the first female dean of a major American law school.

“Not everybody in the world was anxious to have a woman as dean of the law school,” Nelson said.

She didn’t feel discrimination coming from the faculty, but felt a wariness from their spouses. To remedy this, Nelson invited the families to her house for dinner so they could meet her husband — she was married to longtime Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge James F. Nelson from 1950 until his death in 2011 — and two children.

“I took a lot of time to win over the spouses knowing it would affect the rest,” she said.

Nelson wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers. After she helped establish the Western Center on Law & Poverty, which sued the Los Angeles Police Department for racial and sexual discrimination, she was advised to keep a low profile.

She stayed put and with the women’s rights movement soon in full swing in the mid-1970s, she suddenly found herself with more clout than ever before.

The question then became, “What will it take to keep you?” Nelson responded with a request for more money for faculty and the law school’s library. She got it all.

“I finally had the leverage I needed but it wasn’t pleasant,” she said. “Instead of being put in the back of the room at the big banquets, I was put at the head table as our wonderful woman dean.”

Title IX trailblazer: From UCLA to USC and beyond

Nelson, 93, was born in San Pedro. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from UCLA in 1950 then a Juris Doctor from the UCLA School of Law in 1953. Nelson then attended USC Gould, from which she earned a Masters of Law in 1956 while working as a research associate fellow. Her teaching career at USC began the next year as an assistant professor and she was an associate dean by 1965.

After stepping down as dean to serve on the bench, Nelson continued to teach as an adjunct professor at USC Gould until 1985. She assumed senior status on the largest of the United States’ 13 courts of appeals in 1995.

The post Trojan Title IX trailblazer never hesitates to challenge the status quo appeared first on USC News.

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