Felipe Osorno knows that culture change initiatives can work. “When we communicate often about the things that matter, people pay attention. But when there are gaps in information, people fill in those gaps and make assumptions about what matters and what doesn’t,” Osorno said. He encourages staff who haven’t gotten involved in the university’s culture change efforts to speak up, to volunteer to help, and more importantly, to live their personal values.
USG president Debbie Lee, a member of the President’s Culture Commission, hopes that the work being done will reap real change and bring healing to campus, even if it comes after she’s graduated and moved on. “I think society tells us that we need instant results and instant impact. And there should be a sense of urgency around fixing things and doing the right things. But long-term healing [and changing culture] takes patience and continuous work,” says Lee. “It doesn’t get fixed by one certain action or one certain statement or one action plan. It’s a series of things, building upon days and days of work.”
Michael Quick, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, and Carol Mauch Amir, senior vice president for legal affairs and professionalism, have formally signaled their intent to retire from their positions, effective June 30, 2019.
Stacy Giwa has joined USC as vice president of ethics and compliance — with a focus on values and culture and the goal of strengthening integrity and ethical decision-making across the university. “For all the right reasons, USC is taking a step back to see what we can learn from our key stakeholders about our values,” said Giwa. “It’s a really pivotal time. There are a lot of great things happening here, so to be part of helping people engage around values as a core element of meeting our objectives of being a top research university and outstanding medical enterprise is exciting.”
USC has launched a new Office of the Ombuds to provide independent, confidential and impartial support for the university community. After a national search, Katherine Greenwood (University Park Campus) and Thomas Kosakowski (Health Sciences Campus) are the university’s professional ombuds.
“The USC Office of the Ombuds will provide a safe place on both campuses for faculty, students and staff to navigate policies, issues, concerns and conflicts without fear of reprisal or judgement,” Quick and Soni wrote in an email sent to faculty, staff and students. “In doing do, the office will promote and embody an ethical, empathetic and engaged university culture committed to problem-solving, dispute resolution and workplace wellness.”
The Task Force on Workplace Standards and Employee Wellness provided its final culture-related recommendations to the Culture Commission. Its primary recommendations were to 1) proceed with a university-wide cultural values assessment using a survey created by Barrett Values Centre, and 2) convene a working group that will help implement culture initiatives and ensure the commission is receiving input from our community.
“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.