Nearly 400 USC faculty members have signed on to a letter criticizing the university’s efforts to address what they say are the problems of systemic racism and anti-Blackness on campus and to call for reforms, including a partial defunding of the school’s police department.

The faculty members who signed onto the letter said they appreciate President Carol Folt’s “communication with the university community,” but that her proposals “fall dramatically short of what is needed at USC.”

“Other peer institutions such as UCLA and Stanford have announced much more robust actions and plans for change,” the letter said.

The letter also calls on USC to create an institutional space for Black studies, called the Black Studies Center, in line with similar initiatives at Stanford and UCLA.

The center would create graduate and undergraduate fellowships and programs focused on the study of African American and African culture, societies and politics.

The letter went on to urge school officials to create a better plan to combat racism, get rid of sources harmful to Black students and staff and create an equal experience for any underrepresented student groups.

The faculty group also called for USC to cut the Department of Public Safety’s $49 million budget by 25% and redirect that money to help underrepresented students and community members feel safer on campus.

The letter was sent Wednesday to Folt, Provost Charles Zukoski, Academic Senate President Paul Adler and Board of Trustees Chairman Rick Caruso.

In late June, Folt announced in a letter to the Trojan community the university would take a series of actions in an effort to dismantle anti-Black racism at the school, including holding focus group interviews with Black students, faculty, staff and alumni over a four-month period, seeking “to hear more about racialized experiences from Black members of the Trojan Family.”

“We will see their findings and recommendations by mid-fall semester,” Folt wrote.

There will be five public forums this fall and spring, one each for Black undergraduates, Black graduate students, Black staff, Black faculty and Black alumni. The forums will be supplemented by panelists and audience participation, Folt wrote.

All USC undergraduates will complete the National Assessment of Collegiate Campus Climates survey this fall. There will be racial climate surveys for all USC faculty and staff in 2021.

“We need to know how every racial/ethnic group uniquely experiences our campus climate,” Folt wrote.

The USC Race and Equity Center will provide no-cost, multi-year professional learning experiences focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion for USC employees.

USC announced on June 11 that it would remove the name and bust of Rufus Von KleinSmid, its president from 1921-47, from a prominent historic building on campus because of his support of eugenics, the study and practice of conforming the human population to create a race of people alike in physical features.

“Some gestures like the Von KleinSmid Center name being removed are great first steps, and we are really conscious that we can do more, and that the faculty can support students in their struggle and demand for changes,” School of Cinematic Arts associate professor Laura Isabel Serna told the campus newspaper, the Daily Trojan.

Serna is the leader of the Concerned Faculty of USC’s Subcommittee on Racial Justice created following national protest over George Floyd’s in-custody death in Minneapolis and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.

Other steps announced June 11 were creating a Community Advisory Board for the Department of Public Safety on best practices regarding safety, policing and the engagement of the department; strengthening support for diversity, equity and inclusion programs, hiring a chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, and expanding on-campus spaces and programmatic support for students in underserved groups.

“We know that it is easy to say we are going to change, and that actions will fail unless they are strategic, realistic, committed, and tenacious, with ongoing learning, broad participation and modification to meet the goals,” Folt said.

“Dismantling racism is the responsibility of our time and I am honored to walk this path with you.”

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