LOS ANGELES – The University of Southern California announced Wednesday the appointment of a new school president to usher in a "new era" following a series of highly publicized scandals that culminated in the last week to a case of corruption of scale in the universities.
Carol Folt, former Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will become the 12th president of the USC and the first woman permanent president of the school's history. This announcement was made a week after the announcement of the news of the bribery scandal.
Folt said the scandal did not prevent him from taking office.
"I want to help solve this problem," said Folt. "If you're trying to run an institution, you have to benefit from both correction and progression."
Folt said she was horrified to learn about this project, which involved wealthy parents paying bribes to get standardized tests passed by a university counselor or to have their children admitted as sports recruits. that they did not practice.
"Most of us (at universities) spend our life worrying about students and admissions and trying to do things fairly … so when you see something like that, you're just dismayed, "she said. "But most of us immediately started thinking:" OK, boy, we know how to get to the bottom of things, we will solve this problem and it's not something that I want to see it happen again. "
Rick Caruso, chairman of USC's Board of Directors, said problems would arise, but the measure of excellent leadership is how to respond to these issues.
"We have worked hard to try to take a turn, to change things," said Caruso. "Today, we hold firm to the reality of a dramatic cultural change in this university".
A long search for a new president has brought a 23-member committee to unanimously recommend Folt, Caruso said.
"If nothing else, these last nine months have shown us that this university can handle everything that is launched," he said. "We are ready to go ahead."
Folt will take over from USC at Interim President Wanda Austin, who stepped in after former President CL Max Nikias resigned last summer in the midst of two major controversies: his school ignored the complaints of "no one". widespread sexual misconduct emanating from a longtime gynecologist on his campus and an investigation into a dean of the medical school accused of smoking methamphetamine with a woman having overdosed.
Combined with the corruption scandal, Folt will have a hard time, said Roger Sloboda, a professor of biology in Dartmouth, who worked for Folt at New Hampshire School, where she began her academic career for three decades.
"Given recent events at the USC, I'm sorry for Carol who jumped into this mess but I think she'll clean it all up," he said. "It's a scientist and she's going to look at the data, understand what's happened and how to fix it."
After a crisis at his previous position at UNC-Chapel Hill, Folt just succeeded, said Jay Schalin, director of policy analysis at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, a right-oriented think tank .
At UNC, Folt inherited a department that offered irregular courses with a significant number of athletes registered for years before his arrival. The courses were incorrectly identified as non-meeting lectures that required a research assignment or two for generally high grades, with little or no faculty supervision.
Folt was also forced to leave his job early in January due to a controversy over a Confederate statue known as "Silent Sam" that was demolished on campus.
Schalin said Folt had angered the conservatives of North Carolina with "mixed signals" about Silent Sam that they felt emboldened by the protesters.
Regarding the academic scandal involving UNC athletes, he said the USC scandal seemed of lesser scope. "Folt should have little trouble managing this unless the media takes on USC in a major way," he said.
The president of the Association of Public and Territorial Universities, where Folt chaired a committee on science and technology policy, said that he had always "admired his ideas and his wisdom on how universities can better serve students and the general public. "
"Carol Folt is a highly accomplished and highly respected academic leader," said Peter McPherson, president of the association, in a statement.
Four USC students appeared before Folt's presentation to the USC to protest his actions during the confederate status controversy, claiming that she was pleased with the fact that she was "in the mood". to have conquered while it was a movement led by students.
One of the students, Rebecca Hu, said she would like to voice her concerns and felt that students should have been more involved in selecting a new president.
"I think the student community is really hurt by all members of the USC administration, and we just want to make sure they really hear us for once and take us seriously," said Hu, a graduate in philosophy.
Jason Chang, a 20-year-old accounting student, said he and his colleagues "simply wanted transparency" about the ongoing scandal.
"It's sad to say that it tarnishes the reputation of the school," he said.
Graduate student Myla Bastien also called for transparency and honesty. "I think if USC owned it and proposed a plan to prevent it from happening in the future, it would be useful," she said.
Folt said she was committed to addressing the concerns of the students and that the university was starting to "have an incredible start".
"I think people have been very honest and forthright about this," she said. "I'm certainly not encouraged to be anything other than direct, open and honest and try to do it the right way, it's really essential."
The authors Christopher Weber and John Antczak in Los Angeles, Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco contributed to the writing of this report.