In his kinda, sorta mea culpa last week, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein announced that he was creating a $5-million foundation to give scholarships to female directors at USC.
It’s almost laughable that Weinstein thought that trumpeting his largesse would help him fight off allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Of course, that’s how powerful men and their protectors have often dealt with harassment: Pay off the accuser and hide the accusation. Paper over the problem with some reparations, and move on.
It took them five days, but the USC School of Cinematic Arts finally concluded on Tuesday just what a bad, bad idea this was. In a statement, the school announced that it would not proceed with Weinstein’s pledge to endow the fund for female filmmakers.
Smart move. This, after all, is a university that is already reeling from multiple, high-profile scandals that have led critics to accuse its leaders of putting fundraising and rankings above ethical matters and safety concerns.
This summer, USC was forced to launch an internal investigation after The Times revealed that the dean of its medical school, Dr. Carmen Puliafito, had regularly abused drugs and associated with addicts and prostitutes. Just when the university might have hoped the uproar was calming down, Puliafito’s replacement, Dr. Rohit Varma, was removed as dean after Times reporters uncovered that he had been disciplined by the university 14 years ago in response to a sexual harassment and retaliation complaint by a female fellow he supervised. Both doctors were known as prolific fundraisers for the school.
And last month the associate coach of USC’s basketball team, Tony Bland, was arrested on bribery charges. He was caught up in a federal investigation into fraud and corruption into pay-to-play recruitment practices among elite college athletics program.
After all that, why would USC want to take money that is, by all appearances, designed to give cover to Weinstein as he is facing allegations of sexual misconduct? The university’s response suggests that it may be learning something from the scandals of the past few months. It’s about time.