End-of-the-Semester Update

Message to USC Faculty and Staff

From: Paul Rosenbloom, President of the Academic Senate and Co-Chair of the Task Force on Workplace Standards and Employee Wellness; Jeffrey de Caen, President of the Staff Assembly and Co-Chair of the Task Force on Workplace Standards and Employee Wellness; Todd Dickey, Senior Vice President for Administration; Michael W. Quick, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

April 24, 2018

As the 2018 Spring semester comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment to provide a brief update on the status of the external review of the former dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the work of the Task Force on Workplace Standards and Employee Wellness, and several changes the university has recently undertaken to improve our processes and our culture.

External Review.  As you know, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees commissioned the legal firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to conduct a review of the events related to the Carmen Puliafito incident and the University’s handling of it.  John Mork, Chairman of USC’s Board of Trustees was kind enough to meet with us last week to brief us on that review.

Mr. Mork informed us that the examination continues, and that it is in its final stages. He said the Board of Trustees is ensuring that the review is thorough and that all of their questions are answered.  He noted that the review is expansive, involving over one million documents and many dozens of interviews with witnesses willing to come forward and tell their stories in confidence.  He is aware that our community is very much interested in receiving an update when the report is completed.

Mr. Mork stated, as President Nikias noted in his State of the University address, that as a final component of the review, the Board has asked President Nikias to work with his senior leadership to put forward an action plan to guide the university going forward.  The Board asked for that plan to be crafted on: issues conveyed to the Board of Trustees from the external review team, issues identified and recommendations in the interim report from the Task Force on Workplace Standards and Employee Wellness, and issues identified by the administration’s own review of the matter.

President Nikias, with members of the senior administration, are in the process of developing a draft of the action plan.  The president has met with the four of us to discuss next steps.  Over the next several weeks, he will meet with, and solicit feedback from, the Executive Board of the Academic Senate, the Executive Committee of the Staff Assembly, and the Task Force on Workplace Standards and Employee Wellness in order to solidify the action plan.  This plan, once finalized, will then be delivered to the Board of Trustees.  Mr. Mork also informed us that, as part of the review process, the Board of Trustees and the external review team will brief in person representatives of the Academic Senate and the Staff Assembly.

Task Force.  The work of the Task Force on Workplace Standards and Employee Wellness continues.  The co-chairs of the Task Force sent its interim report to the USC community on February 15th and received excellent feedback.   Subcommittees of the Task Force have used that feedback to create draft reports on the topics of core values, concerns, leadership, training, and the standing Council that is to replace the Task Force.  It is anticipated that these drafts will be finalized and combined into an addendum to the interim report by next month.

One of the most fruitful areas of discussion among members of the Task Force, the Executive Board of the Academic Senate, the Executive Committee of the Staff Assembly, and university administration has been in the area of culture change.  Much progress was made on this issue at this Spring’s joint Academic Senate/Provost Retreat.  Discussions have included how culture must be central to the new USC Strategic Plan and how best to organize university-wide efforts on culture change.  We have also contacted a number of external entities that may assist us, as well as to peer institutions who have recently implemented such changes in their organizations.

Recent and Upcoming Actions.  The administration is making changes we hope improve our university, and which have been suggested by the Task Force and members of our community.  Varun Soni, the vice provost overseeing the Office of Campus Wellness and Crisis Intervention, has been making significant progress in establishing USC’s ombuds offices.  Spaces are currently being identified on both UPC and HSC, and we are beginning the hiring process.  These offices will be up and running in the new academic year.

We are grateful to the members of our community who have come forward to report issues that they feel do not represent the values of USC.  Reporting concerns is a vital step if we are to improve as an institution.  Because of the increase in the number of reports, we have significantly increased the staffing necessary to look into them in a timely manner.  In addition, we have instituted improved background checks during the hiring process for leadership positions, and we have begun the process of improving information centralization, security, and data sharing in order to minimize the errors that come from making decisions based on faulty or incomplete data.

We will continue to update you on our progress.  We thank each one of the members of the USC community who has provided feedback aimed at improving our university.  We are better every day because of your commitment.

Cc: C. L. Max Nikias
Academic Senate
Staff Assembly
Academic Deans
President’s Cabinet
Provost’s Cabinet