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USC dean resigns after past relationship with student is revealed

A USC dean has resigned after a relationship he'd had with a student was revealed
The dean of USC’s School of Dramatic Arts resigned after a relationship he’d had with a student was revealed publicly.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The dean of USC’s School of Dramatic Arts resigned Thursday after information emerged about a relationship he’d had with a student.

A day after another woman described the relationship in a town hall meeting, Dean David Bridel sent a letter to faculty on Thursday acknowledging that he briefly dated a BFA senior in 2009. He said their relationship had ended amicably, but described the public characterization of the relationship as “grossly inaccurate.”

For the record:

12:44 PM, Jun. 26, 2020An earlier version of this article said Dean David Bridel’s relationship was revealed by the woman he’d dated. It was revealed by another woman.

“I fully accept, however, that my behavior in 2009 demonstrated a failure in judgment and evidence of irresponsibility,” he wrote. “I apologize, profusely, for any harm I caused by my conduct in 2009.”

USC Dean David Bridel’s resignation letter

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Provost Charles Zukoski announced in a memo to the school that he had accepted Bridel’s resignation, adding that the university is looking into the allegation. School of Cinematic Arts Dean Elizabeth Daley was named interim dean.

The relationship was revealed during a meeting for faculty, students and alumni of the MFA in acting program. News of the resignation was first reported by the Daily Trojan, which did not reveal the woman’s name. It was not cited in any of the official correspondence about Bridel’s resignation.

Bridel did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

One alumna who graduated in 2016 expressed disappointment in Bridel, calling his actions a “severe lapse of judgment.” Pallavi Srinivasan said his leadership, which included creating a diversity board, made her believe that the school was becoming a much more inclusive place for people of color.

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“Now I realize that I don’t know who he was, even though the version of him that was presented to me was everything that I’d ever wanted,” she said.

This story was reported with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Pallavi, who said she also suffered from an inappropriate interaction with former USC gynecologist George Tyndall, said Bridel was part of a “culture of abuse” that USC has yet to address. “That school hides a lot of dirty laundry in some really beautiful buildings,” she said.

Andrei Belgrader, a professor of theater practice in acting, said Bridel’s leadership will be missed.

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“He was an incredible dean, so I’m kind of in shock,” he said. “He’s one of the best I’ve encountered.”

Bridel is the second dean to resign under President Carol Folt, who took over in September. Jack Knott, the dean of the Price School of Public Policy, resigned in April after accepting a deanship at New York University.

Bridel was appointed dean in 2016 after serving on the faculty for 10 years. His university biography credits him with being the founding and artistic director of the Clown School in Los Angeles. He’s worked as a playwright, director and performer.

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He is the latest USC leader to depart from the university since April 2016, when medical school dean Carmen Puliafito resigned after a woman overdosed in his presence in a hotel room three weeks earlier. Other notable departures include President C.L. Max Nikias, who left his post after an uproar over USC’s handling of the Tyndall case, and numerous athletics department leaders, who were fired over their involvement with the college admissions scandal.


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