When parents send their children off to college, it's natural for them to be initially concerned for the students' well-being and safety, especially if the students are in a new city far away from home. But most don't expect their children to experience serious harm, let alone death.
Tragically, that's just what happened last month to two Chinese graduate students attending the University of Southern California. The students, both 23 and studying electronic engineering, were fatally shot in what police believe was a botched robbery. The students' parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against USC, accusing the university of claiming to have a safer environment than it actually does. USC is attempting to have the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, thrown out.
No arrests have been made yet in the shooting, which happened as the two were sitting in one of the student's BMW April 11. One of the students was found in the passenger seat; the other was found collapsed on the steps of a nearby home. Their parents' lawsuit says they were misled by USC's claims that it ranks among the safest universities and provides 24-hour security on the campus and in surrounding neighborhoods. The suit says that in reality, USC "provided no patrolling" in the area where the students were shot and kept up its "clearly misleading" claims to safety even after the shooting occurred.
University officials sent a letter to the USC community after the shooting, stating that crime in the area is low in comparison to other areas of Los Angeles. But the Adams-Normandie neighborhood, where the students were killed, ranks 27th out of 209 Los Angeles neighborhoods in violent crime -- earning a rank in the top five of the city's most violent areas.
Every parent of a college student has high hopes for their child, along with a reasonable expectation that the campus where they live and study will offer adequate protection from harm. It's upsetting that a learning institution that goes out of its way to make claims of safety is now refusing to acknowledge that those claims may not hold any weight.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Parents of slain students file suit claiming USC lied about safety," May 17, 2012
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