Dear Members of the USC Community,
I want to share that this morning, I announced my plans to run for mayor of Los Angeles. I am running for mayor because I love Los Angeles and believe we must enact real, meaningful change in this city. Once a transition process is completed, I am also planning to step down as Chair of the USC Board of Trustees. Serving as Chair has been one of my greatest honors. I am grateful for your support, dedication, and partnership over the last four years, as we addressed and resolved tough issues and built a solid foundation for USC’s future.
I was asked to lead the Board in 2018, during a turbulent time of revelations about our university. These incidents hit at the core of who we are and the values that we hold dear. As a Board, we were called upon to restore trust in the university’s leadership and to strengthen the fabric of our community. I pledged that we would bring accountability, responsible leadership, consistent oversight, and effective and transparent reporting practices to our campuses.
Working together with this passionate community over the last four years, we were able to right the ship. We recognized that as a Board, we had become disconnected from the very people who are the heart and soul of this university. Working with Interim President Wanda Austin, we conducted extensive and numerous listening sessions with students, faculty, administrative leaders, and members across our USC community. These sessions were the direct catalyst for our new Unifying Values and culture change, and also helped us identify what the university needed in its next leader.
Ultimately, this thorough and intelligent process led us to select our new, world-class President, Dr. Carol L. Folt, who began her term in the summer of 2019. Since her arrival, President Folt and the Board have worked together to implement critical changes across our campuses, including creating a new stand-alone Health System Board to oversee our health enterprise, overhauling Student Health Services, and establishing a new EEO-TIX office. Each of these has been critical to ensuring that our students are protected and cared for, that our employees are held accountable for their actions, and that the horrific events of the past will never be repeated.
On the Board of Trustees, we overhauled our governance model, leveraging best practices across private and public sector boards to institute new bylaws that better defined the Board’s size, responsibilities, and the remit of each committee. We created new processes, such as an evaluation model for trustees and a skills analysis, that are helping us identify the right new trustees to help guide this great institution. We created new oversight models, including launching the Office of Professionalism and Ethics and a new Compensation Committee, that ensure we are conforming to best practices in compliance, accountability, and quality across every aspect of our work. These changes, along with many others, have led to more consistent, thoughtful oversight, and accountability among our Board and university leadership.
Amidst a destabilizing pandemic, President Folt and her leadership team continued the foundational work to improve our culture and lead us into the future. From building a world-class leadership team to implementing other crucial priorities, such as an athletics overhaul – culminating in the recent hire of our promising new football coach, Lincoln Riley – sustainability, and a student-centered vision, Carol expects and delivers excellence at every level.
We are now in open waters with the wind at our backs. Nothing is out of our reach. I am very proud of how far we’ve come and the consequential and transformative changes we have achieved together, and am especially grateful to my fellow Trustees for their hard work and support. I look forward to working through an orderly and transparent process with the Board and President Folt to ensure the right leader is selected as the next USC Board of Trustees Chair. The university, and the Board of Trustees, are strong and stable. I am confident that our Board is in a position to continue supporting the university with the integrity, accountability, and strategic leadership that it deserves.
As noted in our mission statement, USC is a place where “an extraordinary closeness and willingness to help one another are evident among USC students, alumni, faculty, and staff.” I know that each of you share this sentiment and mission. Let’s turn to our bright future with the knowledge that USC is and will continue to be one of the premiere educational institutions in our country.
Thank you for your support, friendship, courage, and steadfast commitment to our mission.
For me, it has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as your Chair.
Rick J. Caruso
Chair, USC Board of Trustees