USC Student Leader Details Racist Encounter on Campus


The student body president of the University of Southern California has reported an incident on campus involving a racial epithet, a fraternity member and a thrown drink.

Rini Sampath described the incident on her Facebook page earlier this week, sparking a campus-wide discussion on racism, as well as a call for a formal investigation.  According to her post, she was walking by a fraternity house when one of the members yelled out, “You Indian piece of s–t,” and threw his drink at her.

“Once his fraternity brothers realized it was me, they began to apologize,” she wrote in her posting. “This stung even more. Today, as I try to unpack these events, I couldn’t quite figure out why their after-the-fact apologies deepened the wound. But one of my friends explained it to me the best this morning: ‘Because now you know, the first thing they see you as is subhuman.’ And that’s the first thing some students on our campus see when they look at anyone who looks like me.”

Her post did not identify the name of the fraternity or the name of the person involved in the incident, writes Larry Gordon for The Los Angeles Times.

According to Varun Soni, USC’s Dean of Religious Life, Sampath has filed a formal complaint with the campus public safety office.  Soni went on to say that a thorough investigation of the incident would be conducted by either that agency or another committee at the university.

He added that the incident was in violation of the school’s “principles of community” and may lead to a disciplinary action.  Although he could not say what punishment would be meted, he said other students in similar situations have been suspended or expelled.

“The university will not tolerate any threatening or intimidating conduct directed at another student,” Soni said.

Originally from India, Sampath is the first female to be elected student body president at the school since 2006.

In Sampath’s post, she said: “Whether racism or sexism or homophobia or transphobia happens on the internet, or behind closed doors, or in a small group setting, or as “just a joke,” it’s not okay. It’s never okay.”

A campus-wide letter was released this week jointly signed by Ainsley Carry, Vice President for Student Affairs, and by Sampath.  The letter mentioned the “strong reactions” felt by the student body as a response to the act of racism which had “brought shame to all of USC.”  The letter concluded that all students and staff have a right to “feel included, respected and safe.”