USC schedules discussions and issues statements of support in wake of George Floyd protests

“This moment is our call to action,” says USC President Carol L. Folt. “It will be challenging to confront directly issues like racism in our community, but we must.”

June 22, 2020 David Medzerian

The USC community is marking the unrest and conversations in the wake of George Floyd’s death with a number of virtual events as well as statements of support from throughout the Trojan Family. The events and statements are being updated as additional information becomes available.

Last update: 1:10 p.m. June 22


Many already-held events can be viewed by following the respective links. Scheduled events include:

Tuesday, June 2:

  • The USC Kaufman School of Dance will participate in Blackout Tuesday today, refraining from social media posting and identifying actions to support the community. Learn more about the initiative at The Show Must Be Paused website.

Wednesday, June 3:

  • The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism will host a student-focused Dean’s Community Forum at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The program is exclusively for students, faculty and staff, who will receive a Zoom link by email.
  • The USC School of Dramatic Arts will hold a CommUNITY Conversation and Collective Call to Action hosted by Anita Dashiell-Sparks, associate dean for equity, diversity and inclusion, at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. The public can watch the event on YouTube; the school’s students, faculty and staff will receive a Zoom link to participate.
  • The Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs will host an open forum titled “Speaking Out Loud: Enough is Enough” at 1 p.m. Wednesday. This forum will provide a safe space for Black students, staff, faculty, and allies to decompress and have a rich dialogue about anti-Blackness and the many systemic issues that plague the Pan-African community in America. Join the event via the Zoom link.

Thursday, June 4:

  • The USC Race and Equity Center will hold a national forum for businesses, “Demonstrating Care for Black Employees This Week and Beyond,” at noon Thursday. Moderated by the center’s executive director, Shaun Harper, the panel discussion will address corporate responses to the murder of George Floyd, the resulting nationwide civil unrest, actions leaders and white colleagues can take to address racism in workplaces, and a range of other timely topics. Participants should register beforehand; a link will be sent to registrants two hours before the event.
  • The USC Mrs. T. H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy will host Open Community Circles for all of its faculty, staff and students via Zoom on Thursday and again June 8.

Friday, June 5:

  • At Keck Medicine of USC and the Keck School of Medicine of USC, staff will observe White Coats for Black Lives starting at 10 a.m. Friday. Participants are encouraged to stand alongside their colleagues for 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence to show solidarity for racial equality and justice for all. At the Health Sciences Campus, the event will occur on the Pappas Quad and in the plaza between HC1 and HC2 at Keck Hospital of USC. At the USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, the event will occur on the fourth-floor patio near executive offices. (Please remember to wear a mask while maintaining 6-foot social distancing.)
  • The USC Marshall School of Business’ Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is hosting the USC Marshall Community Conversation: A Collective Call to Action at noon Friday. The USC Marshall community will examine how it can lead the change to dismantle hatred, oppression, prejudice and discrimination, particularly anti-Black racism that has persisted over the past 400 years. Participants should register beforehand.
  • The Department of English at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences will cohost a conversation titled “Black Lives Matter: Writers Talk Back” at 4 p.m. Friday. The conversation, featuring authors and poets Ishmael Reed, Danzy Senna and Douglas Manuel and moderated by Dana Johnson, will be streamed live on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and

Tuesday, June 9:

  • The USC Office of Religious and Spiritual Life will host an online vigil at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The “Say Their Names: Honoring Black Lives” event, in which the university community is invited to gather and observe 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence together, will take place via Zoom.
  • The USC Gould School of Law will host a USC Gould Community Conversation: A Discussion on Law, Race and Inequality at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The program is open to USC Gould students, faculty and staff, who will receive a Zoom link by email.

Wednesday, June 10:

  • The Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture is cohosting an online discussion, “Religious Responsibilities in Confronting Police Brutality,” at 11 a.m. Wednesday. Faith leaders will reflect on how Floyd’s death has influenced their communities. They will be joined by religious scholars to reflect on the ways in which local police departments interact with religious communities, as well as how religious communities might get involved in demilitarizing and training police. RSVP online.
  • The center previously hosted a virtual conversation, “Activism, Online and Off.” The event can be viewed on Facebook.
  • The USC Kaufman School of Dance will host a town hall at 4 p.m. Wednesday. USC Kaufman students, faculty, staff and alumni will receive information and Zoom link via email.

Wednesday, June 17:

  • The USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy will be host a closed space gathering for its LGBTQIA+ community members on “Pride in a Time of Solidarity” on Wednesday. Email to come with additional information and Zoom link.

Thursday, June 25:

  • USC Dornsife Dialogues presents “The truth of being Black in America,” an online discussion of the ways in which the health and lives of many Americans are in jeopardy simply because they’re Black, and some of the things the public can do to help change that. The event — featuring Jody Armour, Blossom Brown, April Thames and moderator Najuma Smith-Pollard — is at noon Thursday; register online.

Do you know of an event to share with the Trojan Family? Send information to us.


USC President Carol L. Folt:

“Let us, as Trojans, honor the Black lives lost, the protesters fighting for justice, the centuries of sacrifice and pain, with an enduring commitment to dismantling forever structural racism.

‘This means not just saying good things, but really opening our eyes to see that at USC, in spite of all our strengths, dismissal and denial are deeply embedded in our culture.

‘It means listening to our Black students, faculty, staff and neighbors, and admitting that we have been blind to and actively ignored what is happening to them, right in front of us — that we, even those with the best of intentions, have been complicit.”

Read Folt’s full remarks

Varun Soni, dean of religious and spiritual life and vice provost of campus wellness and crisis intervention:

The old plague of anti-Blackness demands that we socially reengage and spiritually reconnect — right here, right now, with each other.

Varun Soni

“Several months ago, a new plague drove us all indoors and away from each other. And several weeks ago, an old plague drove us all outdoors, into the streets and back towards each other.

“Whereas the new plague of COVID-19 mandates that we socially distance and physically disconnect, the old plague of anti-Blackness demands that we socially reengage and spiritually reconnect — right here, right now, with each other.”

Renée Smith-Maddox, clinical teaching professor in the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work: 

“I am humbled by these times, yet remain energized by the possibilities ahead. The diverse crowd of protestors around the country illustrates the power of the people.”

Joelle Ferguson, 2020 graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism:

Just because we know how to turn grief around doesn’t mean we should be forced to do it nearly every day of our live.

Joelle Ferguson

“I want to take this time to applaud the Black community for consistently and swiftly turning suffering into hope. From taking the senseless killings of millions and turning it into an opportunity for reform, unity and love.

“But just because we know how to turn grief around doesn’t mean we should be forced to do it nearly every day of our lives.”

Greedley F. Harris III, director of the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs:

“Although it seems we’ve come far as a nation, these issues are still relevant today. When is true change going to come? How many more brothers and sisters can we allow to be snatched away? How many more families will we allow to become fatherless?”

The Rev. Najuma Smith-Pollard, program manager of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement:

“Sometimes the most radical thing we can do corporately, but more important individually, is to do just that: the right thing.”

Senior Vice President for Human Resources Felicia Washington:

“I refuse to believe that we’re helpless and can’t change this. I’m challenging myself, and I’m challenging each of you to figure out what our personal commitments will be. What will they be to end racism?”


From the president:

“Many of you have told me that you are feeling sad, angry, desperate and despairing as you face such grave injustices and the escalation of tensions, and you are trying to find a way forward.

We can make a positive difference, as we have for more than 100 years.

Carol L. Folt

“It weighs heavily on all of us. But we are Trojans, united as a university dedicated to the fundamental principles of equality and inclusion, education and discovery for the good of humanity. We can make a positive difference, as we have for more than 100 years. …

“This moment is our call to action. It will be challenging to confront directly issues like racism in our community, but we must. We have started discussions with our students, faculty, staff, and alumni organizations, our civic leaders and our neighbors in the community. We recognize the need for continued conversations around policing, and our chief of the USC Department of Public Safety will be partnering with our campus and the broader community to find collective answers to persistent inequities. We will engage you to break down silos that separate us, encourage thoughtful debate, and protect the dignity of every individual in our community. Together, we will stand for justice and embrace a culture of respect for all.”

— USC President Carol L. Folt

Read Folt’s full statement

From the vice president for student affairs:

“As a Black male and child of the South, I have (like too many others I know) spent my entire life confronting, overcoming and at times simply surviving issues of racism, bias, and systemic intolerance and discrimination. I am frustrated, angry, and so very tired of the unending cycle of Black and other lives lost to racism, bias, and intolerance for difference. I am tired of sharing in the grief of families destroyed in the name of fear and bigotry, and by the senseless acts of violence they produce.

“But I also continue to cling to hope and resolve that we will not be defeated, and that we can and will continue to work to end this cycle and finally live up to our promise as humans, a nation, and a world. For me, there is no other choice.”

— Winston Crisp, vice president for student affairs

Read Crisp’s full statement

From the vice president of human resources:

“No community in this nation has been untouched by these events and, like many, I struggle to find the words to express all that I am experiencing right now.

As a Black woman who grew up in the rural South, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t pray for my 17-year-old son, as well as my almost-grown daughter. Will they come home tonight or will they have the unfortunate occasion of coming into contact with some form of authority who just can’t get past their Blackness? The adults I knew growing up had a personal commitment to eliminating systemic discrimination and racism. The heaviness of these past weeks has reinvigorated my commitment to doing the same.

“But this I know: the status quo cannot continue; each of us must do our part to eliminate such injustice.”

— Felicia Washington, senior vice president of human resources

Read Washington’s full statement

From the USC Department of Public Safety:

“I must extend respect to the women and men who make up the vast majority of peace officers in this nation, who continue to model the best of compassionate public service. However, let me be blatantly clear: The actions of the officers responsible for Mr. Floyd’s murder (who, in my opinion, do not deserve to be called either peace officers or public servants) were cowardly, heinous, and criminal. I am angry at the officers responsible for murdering Mr. Floyd who, in less than 10 minutes, managed to erase years of public service provided by the vast majority of peace officers who have worked diligently in communities across America to try to repair procedural justice, address quality of life issues, and build mutual respect, many while trying their best to keep many of our most challenging communities safe. …

“Although Mr. Floyd’s execution came as a shock to many, as an American society, we need to recognize that the attitudes and behaviors that led to his murder have been deeply rooted in the institutionalized subjugation of Black people on American soil since we first arrived in 1619. For many of us, the “knee on the neck” may feel like a metaphor for how Blacks in America are held down, particularly at the hands of those whose duty it is to keep us safe. This has been the unfortunate legacy of American law enforcement in its relations with the Black community. It is time for us in law enforcement to own up to this legacy, take a deep, hard look at how we engage with Black communities, and collectively work to rebuild our institutions so that Black communities are served as equitably as any other community in America. We must do these things to ensure that Mr. Floyd’s death was not in vain.

“On a more personal note, as a Black man, I know all too well what if feels like to be accosted by law enforcement and to feel the sting of having been racially profiled by those whose duty it is to keep us safe. Growing up in South Los Angeles, and, always as a law-abiding person, I had countless encounters with members of law enforcement, none of which were positive. Over 40 years later, I can still remember every single incident where I was mistreated by a member of law enforcement. These events were traumatizing and the mental scars from these events will remain with me for the rest of my life. While I hope that other Black Americans never have to go through similar experiences, I also know the unfortunate reality that, by virtue of just being Black in America, the likelihood of similar encounters with the police are prevalent.

“As the chief of the USC Department of Public Safety, I want you to know that you have a right to feel safe and protected by those of us who took the oath to serve you. Moreover, I want you to know that if you ever feel, or have ever felt, discriminated against by a USC DPS officer, I want to personally know about it and help you get redress. Additionally, know that we are accountable to you, the community that we serve, and if you have any input or ideas as to how we can provide better service for communities, I want to listen to them.”

— Chief John Thomas

From the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences:

“The cruel and senseless death of George Floyd amplifies our collective responsibility to meet racism not with the force of brutality, but with decency and solidarity. I am encouraged by the diverse group of people who are coming together to grieve and protest — passionately and peacefully.

“As a USC Dornsife community, I promise you that we will continue to dedicate ourselves together to valuing different perspectives and achieving true diversity, equity, and inclusion. Because without this, we cannot, together, meet our full potential. We will continue to show the world that we truly live and act on our core values.”

— Dean Amber D. Miller

From USC Annenberg:

“As an academic community, the most important thing we can continue to do is to fill this moment with the strength of our collective voices, especially those of our students, and to bring our research, teaching and scholarship to face this ongoing crisis.

“We must not only condemn the killing of Black Americans and the continued violence against and harassment of people of color, we must use our voices to demand change and take actions to ensure that change begins — and does not stop — with us.”

— Dean Willow Bay

From the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology:

“The unrest we are currently witnessing is a symptom of the deeper issues we all need to work together to address, including how to dismantle systemic racism and create a culture of understanding, justice, and dignity for everyone.

My hope is that this time of upheaval will compel us to tackle the challenges and have the tough conversations that are needed to bring about comprehensive change.

Pinchas Cohen

“The USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology community has a particularly strong understanding of just how interconnected we all are to one another. We know how critical it is for conversations and communities to span generations, disciplines, and socioeconomic divisions to make meaningful changes in policy, science and society. We also know how to address tough problems with sound science, innovation and inclusion in mind. My hope is that this time of upheaval will compel us to tackle the challenges and have the tough conversations that are needed to bring about comprehensive change. I firmly believe that our school, our university and the entire Trojan Family can and will come together and use our talents, courage and compassion to address these critical issues and create a more equal and just society.”

— Dean Pinchas Cohen 

From the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work:

“As social workers, we must work toward changing policies, fostering communication between groups and demonstrating the communication that we so desperately need. Racism and discrimination do not just affect some within our society, they affect all of us. We cannot allow ourselves to shake our heads, wring our hands and wait until the next injustice occurs.

“It is vital that our school’s faculty, students, staff and alumni work in concert with the communities in which we live and serve to examine and address the root cause of intolerance, incorporate this new understanding into our teaching and research and demonstrate the optimal respect, tolerance and equality to others that will save our souls. While this is an enormous charge, it is fundamental for all social workers to be leaders in this effort. If we do not do it, who will?

— Dean Sarah Gehlert

From the USC School of Dramatic Arts:

“We stand with our Black colleagues, students, alumni, families, and stakeholders at this time to unequivocally repudiate police brutality, racism in all its forms, and the ongoing and gathering threat of white supremacy, which seeks to destroy the basic notion of equality and justice for all. We stand with all people of color who face, in a current climate of almost intolerable partisanship, the realities of fear, stigmatization, and dismissal.

We commit to the opening of space, both personal and creative, in order to allow the voices of those who have been, and are, oppressed to take center stage.

David Bridel

“We urge our community to engage with both histories and futures, works that have been written and works yet to be formed, that address the intolerable but entrenched existence of racism in this nation’s soul.

“We commit to the opening of space, both personal and creative, in order to allow the voices of those who have been, and are, oppressed to take center stage.”

— Dean David Bridel

From the USC Gould School of Law:

“It is all too easy to despair during times as challenging as these, but we must not cede the field to most destructive elements of our nation. On the contrary, we must redouble our efforts to uphold and sustain our most fundamental commitments. This includes defending the laws of the nation, standing for the moral principles to which we remain committed, affirming the dignity and equality of all persons, and rejecting racism and bigotry in all its forms.

“The tragic events of recent days remind us all that we still have a long way to travel if we are to become the society we aspire to be. They also offer painful evidence of why it is imperative that we work to accelerate that journey.”

— Dean Andrew T. Guzman

From the USC Iovine and Young Academy:

“We, all of us, together and as individuals must choose to harness anger, sadness and disappointment into new ideas, and new paths to transformational change. And while doing so, remember that the most important choice we make every single day is the choice to see and care for each other as human beings, without bias or limitations, as we are.”

— Erica Muhl, dean; Jessica Vernon, associate dean for admission and student affairs; and Amber Bradley, assistant director, inclusion, diversity, equity and access

From the USC Kaufman School of Dance:

“Since its inception, USC Kaufman has strived to embrace individuality, inclusion and equity. We seek to create a kind, generous and welcoming culture. Goals like these are ongoing journeys and there is still important work to do. We pledge to increase our efforts, to invite honest conversations and to do our part to create meaningful change, in the short term and the long. The time is now; we must.

“We speak for all of USC Kaufman when we say we are standing with the Black and Brown community, holding space for you, sending love to you. You matter. You are loved. You are deeply cared about. You are part of us.”

— Dean Rob Cutietta and Vice Dean Jodie Gates

From the Keck School of Medicine of USC:

“When some don’t have health care or reasonable access to it, when some are forced to choose between homelessness and working under dangerous conditions, when some don’t have access to healthy foods or a safe environment for healthy behaviors, we must take notice. I personally have been inspired by the words of Martin Luther King Jr: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”

— Dean Laura Mosqueda

From the USC Marshall School of Business:

“The business community can be a powerful and positive force for social change. In these unprecedented times, I believe it is our duty at Marshall to use our knowledge, voice, and influence to bring about meaningful, equitable, and unifying change, both at our School and beyond. In this regard one of our greatest contributions is the education of individuals, not only to lead corporations, but to lead in society. In this dark period I increasingly find our students to be a source of hope for our future.

In this dark period I increasingly find our students to be a source of hope for our future.

Gareth M. James

“As I noted at our recent Marshall commencement, those who have had to overcome the most have often also scaled the highest pinnacles. That is why I am predicting that the Marshall Class of 2020 will help to transform the world and, that when the history books are written on this period, they will note that it ended up producing some of our greatest leaders.”

— Interim Dean Gareth M. James

From the USC School of Pharmacy:

“The demonstrations across the country reflect decades of frustration and a pent-up anger against the multiple, structural injustices against African Americans, including in the criminal justice system, housing, educational system, and health disparities. We stand in support of the African American community, and all those on the front lines of protests nationwide. Black lives matter.”

— Vassilios Papadopoulos, dean, and Melissa Durham, assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion

From the USC Price School of Public Policy:

“Looting, the setting of fires, and full-scale destruction that is occurring harm in our communities and local businesses and are not the way to bring about change. The demonstrations across the country, however, reflect decades of frustration and a pent-up anger against the multiple, structural injustices against African Americans, including in the criminal justice system, housing, poor educational system, and health disparities, among other injustices. And over the past few months, these pervasive injustices have been exacerbated by the disproportionate loss of jobs and number of deaths brought about by the coronavirus.

We need to think carefully about how to create the change that must come unless we want our nation to fracture further through extreme polarization.

Jack H. Knott

“Martin Luther King once said that ‘a riot is the language of the unheard.’ Unless we listen, and try to understand, and work toward a change in our institutions and behavior, we risk even further social unrest and political turmoil.

“As a policy school and a community of those who value evidence-based inquiry, we need to think carefully about how to create the change that must come unless we want our nation to fracture further through extreme polarization. As Maya Angelou said, ‘When you know better, you do better.’ How can we as policy experts lead the way for true systemic change?”

— Dean Jack H. Knott

From the USC Rossier School of Education:

“So much of the work of USC Rossier’s faculty and research centers is focused on identifying racism and providing solutions for educators, schools, and organizations.

I hope we can take heart in doing work that addresses the very issues that are again playing out in our nation — work that can and does improve equity across our country.

Karen Symms Gallagher

“We are so weary of the setbacks and new barriers we see occurring around our mission of social equity. But at this difficult, disappointing and maddening time, I hope we can take heart in doing work that addresses the very issues that are again playing out in our nation — work that can and does improve equity across our country.

“To repeat the words of James Baldwin: ‘The paradox of education is precisely this — that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.’ We have to address the ever-growing issues around hatred, bigotry and violence as we prepare and train the next generation of researchers, practitioners, and teachers.”

— Dean Karen Symms Gallagher

From the Bovard College:

“Today, we stand together with millions of people all over the world, as we call for an end to racism and inequality. It is clear that as a society, we have an immense and critical need for change. As we look ahead, our school’s core values can guide us, and our community can inform and inspire us. …

“We will continue our work, with open minds and open hearts, standing against injustice and firm in our commitment to a more inclusive and equal future. I truly believe that our diversity is our greatest strength.”

— Dean Anthony Bailey

From USC Mrs. T. H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy:

“As Chan occupational scientists and occupational therapists, we uphold the right of every human being to be able to participate fully and safely in our communities, without discrimination, harassment or stigma. We denounce acts of racism and violence across the country, we mourn the loss of innocent lives of adults, as well as children in our society, and we stand united against such injustices, calling for transparency and accountability. We will not stand silent. We will continue to advocate for all people, especially those most vulnerable, and work to find a more socially just path forward.”

— Associate Dean and Chair Grace Baranek

From USC Undergraduate Student Government and Graduate Student Government: 

“We have seen our Black friends, neighbors, peers and community members fight for basic rights and the repeated failure of those in power to act in meaningful ways to prevent further pain. Racism has no place in our nation, nor on our campus. We, as a community, ?must do better so that Black lives are no longer disregarded and taken in senseless acts of hatred.”

— Truman Fritz, undergraduate student body president; Rose Ritch, undergraduate student body vice president; Melisa Osborne, graduate student body president; and Sam Garza, graduate student body vice president

From the USC Black Alumni Association:

“We need many to support our vision for the future that must be built collectively. This must be what we seek for our new normal — and we must lead the way forward in order for racism to be thoroughly examined. We have much to offer and much to do.”

— Executive Director Michèle G. Turner

From the USC Fisher Museum of Art:

“We stand in solidarity and mourning with Black Lives Matter and the communities around the nation who have experienced injustice and are peacefully protesting against state-sponsored racist abuses of power. As a museum on a university campus, we can and must work towards creating an environment of anti-racism for our current world and for future generations.”

— Selma Holo, USC director of museums and galleries

From USC Libraries:

“We understandably tend to focus on the intellectual and service aspects of libraries and librarianship. Now is the time to emphasize the moral imperatives of our profession. Libraries are not free of systemic, historical bias or its consequences, and no matter our intentions, biases influence how we provide services, build collections, and organize our institutions.

“If we are to contribute to and help make possible substantive change, we will engage in thoughtful critique of libraries, our practices, and the history of our profession.”

— Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries; Nancy Olmos, head, metadata and content management; Louise Smith, digital library project manager; Chiméne E. Tucker, communication and journalism, gender and LGBTQ studies librarian

From USC Student Health:

“We have been able to support each other because we share an intrinsic belief that our differences make us a stronger community, that our individual experiences inform and enrich the ways in which we practice care, professionally and in our personal lives. Our diverse views, backgrounds, and identities continue to be the way forward to heal our communities, and our selves.”

— Sarah Van Orman, chief health officer, USC Student Health