USC's First Generation Student Letter to Admin

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USC's First Generation College Students
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 April 17th, 2019

To USC Administration,

On behalf of the first-generation student community at USC, we ask that you commit to working with our community to formally address and find solutions to the concerns and issues facing first-generation college students at USC. For far too long, USC’s past administrations have failed to take the concerns of first-generation students seriously. As we transition into the upcoming school year with a new president, vice president, and provost, we ask that USC creates new and improved efforts to build more accountability and transparency among its administration to better address the concerns and issues of first-generation students.

The recent college admission scandal highlighted the inequities that exist among the USC student community. First-generation students were reminded that they have to confront and overcome many obstacles to attain higher education. Not only are first-generation college students responsible for figuring out how to get access to higher education, but they are also left with the burden of navigating the system on their own once they get in. There is a need for a clearer pathway that allows first-generation college students to access USC’s existing resources, as well as the need to expand the number of resources for our community.

USC’s community of first-generation college students has grown to consist of approximately one-fifth of USC’s student body, yet the progress to address the concerns of our community has remained stagnant. USC’s Administration has neglected past attempts to address the needs of first-gen students, such as creating a centralized first-generation resource center. USC should learn from the efforts of other prestigious universities, such as UCLA, Yale, and Stanford, all of which have their own established office for first-generation college students.

To better cater to USC’s first generation community, we ask that USC’s administration considers the following:

Expand Resources for First-Gen Students

We ask that the University maintains and updates its resource guide for first-generation students annually so that students have access to accurate information about resources including study abroad programs, research opportunities, scholarships, and organizations. For example, when searching for USC’s first-generation professors on the first-generation website, we noticed that many of the professors were no longer working here and that the list had not been updated in years. Incoming first-generation students often have limited knowledge of the needed resources to navigate campus. Therefore, students need a revamped and comprehensive resource guide.

We ask USC to collaborate with us in starting an affordable professional attire initiative in which students receive professional attire for low-income students. This can be accomplished by reaching out to local clothing stores, (i.e. Macy’s, JCPenney, etc.) to donate any old or outdated professional clothing. In addition, many students cannot afford expensive textbooks, therefore we ask the University to fund and create a Textbook Lending System to alleviate the costs of textbooks for students in need. By doing so, it will allow students to save the money they would have spent on renting or buying textbooks.

We ask that USC creates a physical space where first-generation students can come together to receive catered guidance, meet other first-generation students, and obtain information to resources. There is currently no physical meeting space for first-generation students. The office we ask for should be mirrored off of the cultural centers’ offices.

Engage Parents of First-Gen Students

We ask that USC makes efforts to be more inclusive of our families by providing translating services, at convocation and commencement to parents of first-gen students who do not speak English. Many parents of first-generation students are not native English-speakers, therefore this is an important need for our community. By providing these services USC will create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for our families when commemorating all of our accomplishments and experiences.

Accountability and Transparency

We ask USC to create an Official First-Generation Advisory Board in which first-generation student representatives can meet with all Diversity and Inclusion Directors to voice the needs of first-generation students at USC and to serve as liaisons between the first generation community and USC administrators. In the past, the concerns and needs of the first-generation community on campus have not been acknowledged or heard and this initiative would create a bridge, ensuring that first-generation students have the chance to advocate and voice their needs.

Expand Outreach to First-Gen Community

We ask the University to guide first-generation students to attain career success through comprehensive training in professional etiquette, networking, and career exploration. This will ensure that first-generation students have a successful experience navigating life post-graduation. We ask that USC invests more time in spreading awareness about established programs such as the First-Generation Mentorship Program so that students are aware of these resources and are able to access them. First-generation students are unaccustomed to the culture that accompanies higher education and this can inhibit students from accessing the resources provided by the university.

The University of Southern California’s first generation student community is here and will continue to strongly advocate for itself for as long as it is needed. In order to make sure that action results from this letter, we ask the USC administration to reach to out to USC’s First Generation Student Union to create an action plan moving forward.

We understand that implementing our current themes would not resolve all the issues prevalent amongst our student body; however, we also understand that USC has the ability to implement certain programs to streamline the assimilation process into university grounds and promote student growth. By working closely with the first-gen community, we know that this university will be able to resolve issues that are not only beneficial for the first-gen community but the campus climate as a whole.

USC is a world-class institution in a world-class city. But there is no denying that USC has lost its way. There is no better time to take action than in this age of new leadership, to set new paths forward to protect marginalized communities on campus and break down the historical barriers to access that have existed for communities of color. We ask that you take action here and now, by listening to our stories and respecting the identities that make us strong. We will no longer be satisfied with second-class Trojan status.