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Opinion

Opinion: What did USC’s leaders know about Dr. Puliafito’s double life, and when did they know it?

Carmen Puliafito
USC moved to cut ties with former medical school dean Dr. Carmen Puliafito four days after The Times published a report about his drug use.
(Alex J. Berliner / AP)

To the editor: In 2010, The Times published my letter about the sanctions levied against USC’s football program, which denied knowledge of its players receiving anything improper. The people running the program were wildly successful and brought in money, talent and prestige to the university. Apparently that was sufficient to satisfy the administration. (“USC’s silence on its medical school dean’s double life is deafening,” editorial, July 19)

Fast forward to now, and we have Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito, the former dean of USC’s Keck School of Medicine. The Times states that “it is unclear why USC was so reluctant to discuss” Puliafito’s double life.

However, in established USC tradition, Puliafito seems to be cut from the same cloth: He brought in money and raised the ranking of the medical school. He was still representing the school at a function last weekend.

The leadership of the university apparently still pursues money and prestige, apparently at any cost.

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Susan Fredericks, Calabasas

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To the editor: High marks to The Times for turning up long-concealed facts about Puliafito’s illicit drug activity and association with criminals. Plaudits to columnist Steve Lopez too. He focuses on USC administrators’ assiduous efforts to keep The Times, and the public, in the dark about the professor and supernumerary fundraiser.

As a UCLA alumna, I’m proud to have attended a university whose venerable motto is “let there be light.” I especially appreciate Lopez’s take that the shady Puliafito episode “might make any self-respecting Trojan root for UCLA.”

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An utter shame, that Puliafito let success go to his head. Perhaps USC will consider changing its motto, “let whoever earns the palm bear it,” to something less subject to misinterpretation.

Devra Mindell, Santa Monica

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To the editor: On the front page of Friday’s Times, O.J. Simpson’s parole was reported.

In Wednesday’s paper, it was reported that USC President C.L. Max Nikias expressed contrition and promised to “examine and address” the after-hours activities of Puliafito.

In Friday’s Sports section, a spokesperson was quoted as saying that USC recognizes Simpson for his football accomplishments, and his off-field behavior is beyond USC’s scope.

In spite of Nikias’ words, the university’s actions speak louder and reveal its blind eye for integrity.

Jeffrey R. Knott, Fullerton

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To the editor: Am I the only person who doesn’t care about what Puliafito did in his private life?

From what I’ve heard, he was a brilliant surgeon who never put his patients or students at risk and worked hard on behalf of USC. I imagine he is not the only high-achieving professional to have personal problems.

How does this qualify as front-page news?

Paula Goldman, Santa Monica

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To the editor: As a graduate of USC with a doctorate, I am appalled at the lack of an appropriate response to the outrageous behavior of the former Keck dean.

Steve Lopez stated at the end of his column that if Nikias doesn’t come clean about what he knew and when, USC would be better off without him. I could not agree more.

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Carol Woodward, Agoura Hills

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