USC president’s culture commission releases Values Poll to students, staff and faculty

The poll comes as the first phase of a campus-wide initiative called “Culture Journey.”

USC on Monday launched its first values poll in an effort to help open a dialogue around desired changes in campus culture.

Developed by President Carol Folt’s culture commission, the online questionnaire aims to draw in a variety of perspectives from students, faculty and staff about what USC’s campus values are and should be, according to the Values Poll Fact Sheet.

The poll is part of an initiative from Folt, who was inaugurated as USC’s first female president in September, to adjust USC’s culture and policies to better fit what the public finds important. It comes amid a tumultuous period in the school’s history, following the “varsity blues” scandal and recent sexual assault revelations.

It features five questions that survey the USC community’s personal values, opinions on current campus culture and desired campus culture. It also asks demographic questions to gauge where responses come from.

Stacy Giwa, the vice president of ethics and compliance, said that this will be an excellent time for students to ask “how do we enable systems and processes” that can aid those who feel unheard and “how do we want to shape the [campus’] code” around that.

“The concept here is really to engage our community,” Giwa said. “President Folt is very committed to having an open and inclusive dialogue. So, even if someone chooses not to participate [in the poll], we’re hoping that over the course of the [Culture] Journey, each person will find a way to engage and feel like they’ve been heard.”

A timeline posted on USC’s website, titled “Commitment to Change Culture Journey,” shows this is the first phase of a multi-step process that will end with the commission “aligning and reinforcing [the surveyed] values and behaviors” by May 2020.

Sabrina Pasztor, director of culture transformation for the “Culture Journey” program, said she sees the process as something that can allow USC to capitalize on its strengths in fostering community.

“We’ve been doing work on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives so that USC is a phenomenal place,” Pasztor said. “I think what the Culture Journey is reinforcing [gives] us an opportunity to highlight those areas [that] want to do well [in] and leverage moving forward, and the areas where we have opportunities to improve.”

Findings from the Values Poll will be published in December. After the data is compiled, breakout sessions and town halls will take place in the spring semester in response to the data, according to the website.

Pasztor explained that the breakout sessions “are when we really open up the dialogue so that the folks from our community can come and share their perspectives” firsthand.

Giwa said the commission is aware that the polling size may be too big to draw a response from everybody on campus, but they are hopeful that nobody will be overlooked in the grand scheme.

“Even if people didn’t take the poll, we’re hopeful that they may choose to engage in a town hall, and no matter what we are going to share [our] results with the university,” Giwa said.