In an interview on Tuesday morning, USC Board of Trustees Chair Rick Caruso said that the search committee dedicated to finding a permanent replacement for Interim President Wanda Austin has been formed and the search is underway. Caruso believes the 23 people who make up the committee are "representative of the faculty, the deans and the trustees," but some members of the USC community are concerned by the lack of student representation.
Jocelyn Yip, president of Graduate Student Government (GSG), sent an email addressed to new and returning graduate students expressing her disappointment that there will be no student voices on the search committee.
"The Board has denied us a seat at the table, even though students have been impacted the most by the recent scandals," Yip writes. "In short, the Board of Trustees has voted to exclude students and staff on the Presidential Search Advisory Committee this fall."
Although Caruso confirmed no students will be members of the search committee, he said the opinions of current students, alumni, and administrators are important in the selection of a new president.
"There are many, many constituents that USC has, all of which are very important," he said. "Unfortunately, we can't have an unlimited group of people on the board."
In response to the claim that students are being actively excluded from the committee, Caruso disagreed.
"We didn't exclude anybody," he said. "We voted to include trustees and faculty members representing the deans… but nobody voted against having students."
He also said that, in order to hear students' concerns, the committee will be organizing a series of open forums and making a website for students to send their recommendations and share their opinions. The website is set to go live this afternoon.
Despite the concerns of GSG and other community members, the search committee is continuing on. The trustee portion of the committee met last week, and a full committee meeting is planned to occur later this week. The committee is also consulting with two nationally recognized search firms, Isaacson, Miller and Heidrick & Struggles.
Caruso said that although the committee began working on a schedule, there is currently no timeline for when they will find and announce a new president. Even though Austin's interim presidency is a temporary role, there is no limitation for how long she can remain as president.
Austin replaced former President C.L. Max Nikias in early August. Nikias announced his resignation in May amid calls from the faculty for him to step down after students accused a campus gynecologist of sexual misconduct. Last year, Nikias also faced criticism after the L.A. Times published an investigation into former Keck Medical School Dean Carmen Puliafito. The story claimed Puliafito did drugs on campus, among other indiscretions. Last month, the state of California revoked his license.
According to the email announcing Austin's appointment, the USC alum is an advocate for women and minorities and a renowned engineer. She is also the university's first African-American and female president.
Although the search for Austin's replacement is only beginning, Caruso knows what qualities he is looking for in USC's next president. He cites academic credentials such as a history of teaching, research or medicine, and an energetic personality well-equipped to handle the complexities of the job as important qualities.
"I think a good sense of humor is always good too," he said.
Following the Tuesday morning interview with Annenberg Media, Caruso detailed the search process in a school-wide email.