USC shootings come as prospective students tour campus
Hours after the fatal shootings of two USC graduate students, the university was swarmed with groups of high school students touring the campus with cameras and gold folders that said "Come here ... go anywhere."
Lori Gioia, 49, and her daughter Madison, 16, said no one mentioned the tragedy on their 3.5-hour tour -- and none of the visitors asked about it.
"They kept saying we're in an urban area," Madison said of the tour guides. "But really they meant unsafe."
Gioia's husband had texted them with the news -- that two students had been shot in a BMW -- earlier in the day.
"It didn't happen on campus, so that was comforting," Madison said. "Still, they were USC students."
Madison's friend Jesslyn Giese, 17, got a text from her boyfriend, begging her to be careful. Both girls are juniors at a Fountain Valley high school and were well aware of the reputation of USC's surrounding streets.
"When I told people I was visiting here, they said be careful, it's in the ghetto," Madison said.
"You think, I want to go here, but there's that one thing -- it's a really good school in a really bad area," Jessica said.
Madison is also looking at UC Davis, Jessica at Washington State. Neither girl was ready to rule out USC completely, though. Gioia wasn't either.
"We'd take precautions if she went here," Gioia said. "She'd take a self-defense class before coming."
Also, Gioia said, she wouldn't feel comfortable with Madison living off campus. They'd picked up on a common refrain here: that USC was sort of walled off from the dangers of the neighborhood around it.
"I know the campus is safer, and I'd feel better if she was in the protected area," Gioia said.
In an email to USC students and staff Wednesday about the slaying of two graduate students near campus, university officials said they are "saddened and outraged by this callous and meaningless act" and they were "working aggressively" to solve the crime.
"This incident occurred outside the neighborhood areas where over the past several years we have steadily increased our security presence, adding dozens of security and license plate recognition cameras, uniformed officers, and yellow-jacketed security ambassadors," said the email from Michael L. Jackson, vice president of student affairs, and Todd Dickey, senior vice president of administration.
"However, tragedies such as this morning's remind us that we all need to be continuously vigilant about safety and security," it continued.
-- Ashley Powers at USC