“This office was created to address challenges in a new and creative way and to maintain a high level of communication, accountability and transparency,” says new USC professionalism and ethics director, Mark Manley. “As we move forward and look at metrics for success over the next year or two, my hope is that this becomes an office that other universities across the country look to model as a success story.”
From Interim President Wanda Austin: “I am pleased to announce the launch of the President’s Culture Commission, which will oversee our efforts to improve campus culture. I am personally chairing this group and have attached the roster of students, faculty, and staff who will serve with me on the commission. They represent a broad range of perspectives from our university community.”
From Interim President Wanda M. Austin: “The university has reached agreement in principle on a $215 million class action settlement that will compensate students who received women’s health services from Dr. George Tyndall at USC’s student health center. Our Board of Trustees supports this settlement, which was reached in collaboration with plaintiffs’ counsel, and which will provide relief to those who have been impacted by this difficult experience. By doing so, we hope that we can help our community move collectively toward reconciliation. I regret that any student ever felt uncomfortable, unsafe, or mistreated in any way as a result of the actions of a university employee.”
From Rick J. Caruso, USC Board of Trustees Chair: My fellow Trustees and I also pledged to ensure a cultural shift within the University that places the safety of students and patients as our top priority. Beginning with the appointment of Dr. Wanda Austin as our interim president, we have made sweeping changes including forming the Office of Professionalism & Ethics, strengthening the health center’s leadership, and creating the President’s Culture Commission.
I also want to share that we are completing the independent investigation into the USC student health center, and you will receive an update after it is concluded. The Board’s Special Committee on Governance Reform is also proceeding with its work and is engaging our University community in their efforts. Finally, the search for our next president is underway as planned. I will continue to share our progress as it continues.
In recent weeks, I attended listening sessions for the presidential search on both campuses, and met privately with a range of groups, including the Academic Senate. In smaller settings I met with deans and faculty, boards of councilors, undergraduate and graduate student leadership, leadership of the staff senate, and gatherings of university departments and units. I have also had some very insightful conversations with student, staff, and alumni groups and community leaders. Many of you have provided feedback via digital media. These interactions have provided critical insights into the range of perspectives on a number of important issues.
Listening is crucial if we hope to effect meaningful change, as is deeply considering others’ perspectives. Overall we are aligned regarding the importance of living our values. Our commitment to excellence, trust, and transparency is foundational to our success. We will encourage everyone on our campuses to strengthen our culture by being collaborative, being better listeners, and being part of the solution.
USC’s next president should have unimpeachable moral character and integrity, embrace meaningful community involvement and exhibit a deep commitment to transparent and accountable leadership.
That is the overarching message that USC faculty members, students, employees and other stakeholders emphatically shared with university leaders as the search for the institution’s 12th president continues.
Currently, our anticipated changes encompass the broad areas of ethics and core values; culture change; reporting and investigations; and human resources. As part of these changes, we will introduce needed infrastructure and technologies, recruit new leadership in critical areas, and revisit important policies and procedures with far-reaching input. Among our most pressing priorities, there was a clear and immediate need to improve in the area of complaint reporting, so we have already established the Office of Professionalism and Ethics (OPE). This new unit is transforming USC’s system for complaint monitoring and investigation, creating a centralized flow of information that improves our ability to address sensitive matters swiftly and systematically.
With the addition of ten new counseling positions, new counseling and mental health services director Dr. Robert Mendola is expanding capacity to better meet mental health needs of USC students. Brenda Ingram, who came to USC in July to oversee relationship and sexual violence prevention and services, is already workings towards creating a cultural sea change. USC Student Health has also created a series of patient education materials (including several videos) to help them navigate to resources, understand standard of care for sensitive exams (publication is available in Chinese translation), and advocate on behalf of their own health.
Attorney and USC alumnus Michael Blanton oversees the university’s new Office of Professionalism and Ethics, a new office dedicated to handling complaints and sensitive investigations across the university. The new office will streamline and update the university’s processes for registering and dealing with complaints at all levels on both campuses. By introducing a centralized tracking system, USC administrators can spot trends and respond swiftly when necessary. Blanton, USC’s vice president of professionalism and ethics, expects the office to be formally announced and operational in the next two to three weeks.
The chair of the executive committee of the USC Board of Trustees, Rick Caruso, announced in an August 28 message, the process leading to the selection of the 12th president of the University of Southern California. The search process includes all-campus “listening sessions” (Sept. 13, 17, and 25) on both the University Park and Health Sciences campuses.