Starting April, USC will have more oversight in the student-athlete admissions process to "safeguard the integrity of our admissions process," Interim President Wanda Austin announced in an email to the USC community Wednesday.
According to her email, Austin highlighted three procedural changes and said the new policy is "is currently in force for any student-athlete considered for admission during the 2019-20 academic year." These changes are in response to college admission bribery investigations that the Department of Justice revealed in March.
First, student-athlete applicants will now be reviewed by three levels of USC faculty, including the "head coach, the senior sports administrator overseeing the team, and the USC Office of Athletics Compliance– before being sent to the admissions staff."
In March, USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann told the Los Angeles Times in an interview that the university was "blindsided" by admission bribery allegations, specifically referring to Donna Heinel, former USC senior associate athletic director. Heinel was fired after the news broke.
“The reason why no one would know that this was happening is because we had one person in charge of submitting the academic records to our admissions department,” Swann said. “And that one person was in charge of getting that information back and distributing it to the coaches and letting other people know. So when there’s trust that this one person is doing the right thing, which Donna had been doing for years, there’s not a problem. … So a coach could give her a list of five names and she could add a sixth name, give it to admissions, have it go through, admissions gives it back to her, she gives it back to the coach with only the five names that the coach gave her. The coach doesn’t know, no one knows, except for the person who added the extra name.” —Swann told LA Times in March.
In addition, the athletic rosters will be audited every year and "cross-checked with admissions lists." The head coach will also have further responsibility to "certify in writing that the student is being recruited for athletic abilities."
Last month, Stanford University President Marc Tessier -Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell announced a similar procedure change that all varsity recruits that get a coach's"athletic recommendation" for admission will face a background check from a Stanford Athletic executive for "a second, higher-level verification of the athletic credentials of recruited student-athletes," according to The Stanford Daily reports. The change comes in response to the indictment against its former head sailing coach John Vandemoer, who was accused of taking bribes. Vandemoer pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice in March.
In Wednesday's email, Austin provided updates regarding its previously announced case-by-case review of current students linked to the bribery scheme. Austin wrote that "each of those students has been notified of the review and given a deadline for response" and "the possible outcomes range from no finding of violation to revocation of admission, and will depend on the facts of each case."
According to information on USC's website, the students were given five days to respond to schedule an interview with the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards (SJACS). The interview will allow students to have an advisor present. Investigators will review students who declined to be interviewed based on available evidence. USC Division of Student Affairs will determine possible outcomes based on findings.
Austin added that while the investigation is centered on the student-athlete admissions, the university plans to "examine the wider scope of how students gain admittance to our university."