Prominent faculty members unite to voice concerns over USC bribery scheme

As USC handles the fallout from the Varsity Blues probe, the “Concerned Faculty of USC” calls for greater transparency.

Statements written by concerned USC faculty members have become a staple in each scandal uncovered this school year, and the latest one sent Thursday captures the fire of faculty reactions to the recent college bribery scheme.

"Concerned Faculty of USC" is a group of 350 active members led by a steering committee of eight faculty members. According to an email to Annenberg Media, Ariela Gross, president of the committee and professor of law, said the leading faculty group also includes Larry Gross, former director of School of Communication; Tara Mcpherson, professor of cinematic arts; Sharon Orrange, clinical associate professor of medicine; Manuel Pastor, professor of sociology; Hilary Schor, professor of English; William Thalmann, chair of classics; and Jody Vallejo, associate professor of sociology.

In the statement obtained by Annenberg Media, the faculty members denounced Varsity Blues as a symbol of "corruption, greed, and a failure of administrative oversight and accountability" and sent their concerns to USC President-elect Carol Folt and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Rick Caruso.

The faculty wrote that "USC's handling of past wrongdoing has engendered so much distrust in our community that we bear an extra burden to act in this case." The statement also demanded for university leadership to "recommit ourselves to the academic and ethical values at the center of the University's mission, and to stop allowing important decisions to be driven by financial concerns as our paramount value."

In response to Varsity Blues, the statement called for the USC administration "to appoint a faculty-led committee to oversee an investigation of admissions and athletics" and recommended "structural changes to make sure [scandals] like this could never happen again."

To enhance transparency, the faculty also asked for the release of the university's findings into the completed investigations of former dean of the Keck School of Medicine Carmen Puliafito, who engaged in drug use during his tenure at USC, and former health center gynecologist George Tyndall, who is facing allegations of sexual assault from hundreds of women.

"Transparency means, in the case of the Puliafito and Tyndall reports, releasing the findings, redacted as necessary to protect the privacy of personnel files to the extent employment law requires," Gross wrote. "In the case of admissions and athletic recruitment, it means a faculty-led committee having access to all of the files, working confidentially as necessary to protect individual students, but making their broad findings public about administrative processes that need to be improved."

Gross also said that she will be meeting with Mark Schoofs, visiting professor of journalism and former head of the investigative reporting division at BuzzFeed, next week to discuss this push for transparency especially since USC Annenberg's journalism and public relations faculty pledged to launch a collaborative student-faculty reporting initiative March 18 to investigate the admissions scandal.

"Concerned Faculty of USC" started off as an informal group of senior faculty when they banned together last May to call then-president C.L. Max Nikias to step down in light of the sexual abuse allegations against Tyndall. They hope to keep USC accountable for its actions and to uphold the values of the university.