Update from USC Interim President Wanda M. Austin regarding college admissions investigation

March 14, 2019

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;
  • begun 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.

Sincerely,

Wanda M. Austin
Interim President