University of Southern California

Office of the President

C. L. Max Nikias

Democracy and Tragedy: Discussion with USC Student-Athletes

President C. L. Max Nikias speaking to student-athletes

Photo/Dietmar Quistorf

On Nov. 16, 2011, USC president C. L. Max Nikias took on a different, albeit familiar role—that of teacher—as he introduced student-athletes to the classic tragedy of Sophocles’ Antigone.

In an intimate Galen Center classroom setting, 35 USC students participated in the lecture-and-discussion session, part of an academic enrichment program sponsored by USC Athletics that is intended to fully immerse student-athletes in the academic and cultural life of the university.

“Sophocles’ choice to make a woman, and particularly a very young woman, the main character of this play was very unusual for that time,” said Nikias. “Athens in Sophocles’ day, although a democracy, was a culture dominated by men.” Drawing a parallel to contemporary American politics, Nikias pointed out that sex equality is a relatively modern event in history, with women’s right to vote legalized in the 20th century, and the first woman Speaker of the House in the 21st century.

Nikias also engaged students in a discussion of the play’s broader themes, including the rights of individuals in a free and democratic society.

“If there is one thing that I took away from that lecture, it’s that every individual has the right to reject society’s infringement on his or her freedom,” commented Alison Ramos, captain of the USC women’s tennis team. “Every individual has the right to stand up for what they believe in.”

Topics: Athletics, News, Student-Athletes, USC Students