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USC Tragedy Demands Unity, Not Division

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From the Daily Trojan Editors

On Wednesday, graduate students Ying Wu and Ming Qu were fatally shot in front of Wu's residence west of campus.

The university has delivered a heartwarming response to the shooting. But varying community responses have also highlighted campus divisions. Wu and Qu were international students from China -- and that fact has received more attention than it deserves.

The response should not be about race, wealth or country of origin.

As we cope with the aftermath, we can't lose sight of the fact that the shooting isn't just a tragedy for the international student community: It's a tragedy for the entire Trojan Family.

As of 2011, USC had 8,615 international students. About 2,500 of those students are from China. The group's size is a source of pride for the administration, but it also makes the formation of separate communities within USC more likely.

For one, the majority of students who attended the vigil were Asian. Word about the vigil circulated through social media, including RenRen.com, a Facebook-like social network based in China. Many students who did not attend said they simply didn't hear about the vigil soon enough.

Further highlighting the divide, the media has repeatedly framed the incident in terms of nationality. On Thursday, LA Weekly reported that a Chinese media outlet blamed the shooting on the students' supposed display of wealth. (The Daily Trojan initially reported that Qu drove a late-model BMW. Later sources clarified that the car was a used 2003 BMW.) Neon Tommy published an article about the vigil titled "USC Shooting Brings Together Divided Asian Community." The headline seemed to suggest that the shooting was an event to be mourned largely by Asian students.

Finally, some students have claimed that Wu and Qu became victims because, as international students, they had a poor understanding of safety in Los Angeles. One comment on the Daily Trojan website said that "international [students] should... make an effort to assimilate with their native U.S. classmates."

This line of thinking might allay the fears of non-international students, but it disregards the fact that, as second-year Viterbi graduate students, Wu and Qu were hardly naïve newcomers. Moreover, throngs of students -- students of all backgrounds -- walk, bike and drive home from Leavey Library in the early hours of the morning.

What happened to Wu and Qu could have happened to anyone. Their plight is our plight.

Staff editorials are determined by the senior editorial board. Its members include Maya Itah, Melissa Caskey, Sean Fitz-Gerald and Giovanni Osorio.

This post was originally published in the Daily Trojan.