Sun, Jul

South Central Tenants Write Open Letter to USC President Carol Folt


As tenants in South Central, we have been fighting against USC's displacement of our community. We are proud to support students protesting USC's complicity in the genocide of Palestine and denounce the violent repression President Folt unleashed against them.
OPEN LETTER - This letter comes from the South Central Local of the LA Tenants Union. We organize with tenants across South Central to fight against displacement, evictions, and harassment, and defend the human right to dignified housing.

This is how we begin our letters to the slumlords, abusive property managers, and greedy developers that wage a constant war on working class tenants in South Central. Today we are addressing President Carol Folt and USC, an institution that has been part of this war, but in the past weeks has focused their repression, surveillance, and harassment against their own students.

Students organized with the Divest from Death Coalition have had the courage to speak out against the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza and demand an end to USC’s complicity in the Israeli occupation. Beyond exercising their right to protest, students have acted on their moral duty; to not speak out against this genocide is to abandon one’s own humanity.

The students have also done what the University claims to want yet seems to fear; forge real connections with the neighboring community, who have responded with overwhelming support for the students’ demands. USC’s historic role in the neighborhood has created serious divisions between the student body and the long-time residents and working-class community; the University and its alumni are directly involved in the forced displacement of tenants, from the neighbors evicted to develop USC Village to the tenants fighting for their homes on Flower Drive today. However, members of the Los Angeles Tenants Union have been unequivocally supportive of the student protestors, who have included in their demands an end to displacement from Palestine to South Central.

Demands from the Divest from Death Coalition. Photo © Jordan Renville.

USC’s response to nonviolent protest has been to brutalize and silence their students and militarize their campus, setting up checkpoints and intensifying surveillance of their own students and the surrounding neighborhood. In her recent letter, President Folt decries property damage and obstruction of the normal function of the university, including commencement. Is she unaware of the damage in Gaza, where 408 schools and universities have been destroyed? How about the over 14,500 Palestinian children who have been killed, who will never graduate? Does Carol Folt oppose property damage when an entire block of homes on Flower Drive is demolished by USC alum Scott Gale, to build luxury USC student housing? Has she forgotten it was USC, not the students, that is responsible for canceling commencement and silencing their own valedictorian speaker? The hypocrisy of USC has been on full display to the entire world and has only underlined the principled stand of the student protestors. 

We write today after USC flooded their campus with armed LAPD units to launch an assault against the dedicated students who have stuck to their demand that the University divest from death. We echo the coalition’s demands to stop the retaliation and drop all suspensions and evictions against students who have exercised their right to protest. Despite this violent crackdown, it is clear that the students have already won. President Folt and USC have shown their true colors and forever exposed the violent reality of the institution, losing the support of students, faculty, alumni, and staff en masse. In the process, students have been part of a historical movement that has the support of their peers, community members, and people of conscience the world over - above all the people of Palestine, who from the refugee camps of Rafah sent students the message, “The students give us hope; the children of Gaza are proud of you.”

A message to student protestors from Palestinian children in the Without Tears refugee camp in Rafah, Gaza.

(The Los Angeles Tenants Union is the largest autonomous tenant union in the country, composed of diverse residents from neighborhoods across the city who come together to fight against displacement, eviction, and social cleansing and demand the human right to housing for all.  The South Central Local of the Union includes the Flower Drive Tenant Association, who have been organizing since 2021 to defend their block against mass evictions for a student housing development planned by USC alum Scott Gale.)