University of Southern California
Students watch the USC Teach-in on March 27

Down the Road Together

By Gia Scafidi

In times of global uncertainty, emergency and war, life away from home can be unnerving for many college students.

But a strong, surrounding sense of community can ease the weight of anxiety sparked by crisis, said Rabbi Susan Laemmle, USC’s dean of religious life.

And, for this reason, there is ONEUSC.

Planted as a post-9/11 seed, the initiative has grown into a source of support and education for the entire campus – students, faculty and staff – during destabilizing times.

“ONEUSC actualizes the Trojan Family,” said Laemmle. “The program’s foundation rests on the fact that the university should be a cohesive community, especially during times of crisis.”

“The importance of ONEUSC lies in its essential reminder that we share common ground as a community devoted to freedom of speech and to respect for the informed opinion of others,” added Philippa Levine, USC’s academic senate president and a professor of history.

The purpose of ONEUSC is twofold: to promote unity among USC’s Trojan Family and to offer interdisciplinary perspectives during difficult times.

“Universities have a critical role to play in times like these -- fostering debate, allowing space for a variety of views and helping students explore the abundance of issues at hand,” wrote Levine and Lloyd Armstrong Jr., USC’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

“If we must have this war,” added Laemmle, “then let’s learn the most we can from it.”

To forge strong connections between USC’s diverse groups, while strengthening academic and community values, ONEUSC offers interdisciplinary teach-ins, community conversations, non-denominational prayer services and online chat rooms where students and faculty can freely express their ideas about the war.

“Learning isn’t all about the classroom,” said Laemmle. “It also takes place on park benches and in concert halls and book salons. Events like the recent teach-in on the war in Iraq exemplify the type of interdisciplinary learning that can go on outside of the classroom.”

During the last teach-in, faculty speakers addressed war and its impact on five facets of society: politics, ethics, the media, the economy and peace. More than 250 USC students, staff and faculty attended.

Laemmle credited USC’s Mark Kann, chairman of the political science department, for making such events possible. In 2001, Kann established the Academic Culture Initiative as part of a USC campaign to encourage intellectual thought and discussion outside the classroom.

“If we, as a school, can get through a war, stimulating reasoned thinking and promoting freedom of speech, and still hold fast as a community,” said Laemmle, “it says a lot.

“And if we can do that here in Los Angeles, one of the most diverse places in the world, we could set the example and lead the way elsewhere.”

For more information about ONEUSC and a list of upcoming events, go to:

This site is sponsored by the Office of Religious Life
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