Update from USC interim President Wanda M. Austin regarding college admissions investigation
Released Thursday, March 14, 2019, at 7:22 p.m.
Dear USC community,
I write to update you on actions we have taken in response to the U.S. Justice Department’s ongoing investigation of the college admissions scheme that targeted several universities across the country, including USC. I want to assure you that I share your disappointment and concern about this matter.
These recent revelations run counter to our values, which prioritize admissions based on merit and opportunity for all qualified candidates. Our record of diversity among students selected for admission is a particular point of pride for me.
We will do all that is necessary to continue to strengthen our culture and to restore trust within our community. This morning, I briefed members of the USC Board of Trustees on the steps we are taking, and they voiced their full support for any and all appropriate actions.
On Tuesday, we announced that we terminated two employees associated with the allegations. We also placed on leave a faculty member, who was named in the federal indictment as a parent. This leave is a required procedural step in the process for terminating tenured faculty. More employment actions may be possible as new facts come to light.
Since that time, we have also:
- Opened our own investigation into the matter while remaining in full cooperation with the U.S. Justice Department.
- Began the process of identifying donations that may have been received in connection with the alleged scheme. We will determine how best to redirect those funds for scholarships benefiting underserved student applicants.
- Announced our decision to deny admission to applicants in the current admissions cycle who are connected to the alleged scheme.
- Initiated a case-by-case review of current students and graduates who may be connected to the alleged scheme. We will make informed decisions about those cases as the reviews are completed. USC’s Office of Professionalism and Ethics, Student Affairs, and Admissions and Enrollment are conferring on this process to ensure the university follows the appropriate course.
Moving forward, we will take all necessary steps to safeguard the integrity of our admissions process and to ensure we conduct ourselves with integrity and ethics consistent with our values.
Wanda M. Austin
Letter from USC interim President Wanda M. Austin regarding college admissions investigation
Released Tuesday, March 12, 2019, at 7:58 a.m.
I want to inform you of an ongoing wide-ranging criminal investigation involving universities nationwide, including USC. The government will be making a public announcement and disseminating the charging documents. The federal government has alleged that USC is a victim in a scheme perpetrated against the university by a long-time Athletics Department employee, one current coach and three former coaching staff, who were allegedly involved in a college admissions scheme and have been charged by the government on multiple charges.
At this time, we have no reason to believe that Admissions employees or senior administrators were aware of the scheme or took part in any wrongdoing—and we believe the government concurs in that assessment. The government has repeatedly informed us that it views USC as a victim and that these employees purposefully deceived USC.
The Chair of the Audit and Compliance Committee was previously informed of the government’s investigation; given the nature and scope of this matter, the government did not authorize us to inform any other Trustee until the indictment was announced today.
We have planned significant remedial efforts. We will take all appropriate employment actions. We will review admissions decisions. We are identifying all funds received that may be connected to the government’s allegations. And we will be implementing significant process and training enhancements to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.
We expect that this matter will garner significant media attention. We have a crisis communications firm engaged and Brenda Maceo is leading our efforts in that regard. We have enclosed our press statement and a set of talking points for your use. Please contact Deputy General Counsel Laurie Barnes (213-740-9667) if you have any specific questions.
Wanda M. Austin