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The old rich boys' club at USC is striking back against overdue cultural change

The old rich boys' club at USC is striking back against overdue cultural change
Interim USC President Wanda Austin on Oct. 19. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: As general counsel for a local nonprofit, I have been disturbed that some board members risk breaching the fiduciary duty to the corporation because of ego. That problem could not be clearer than from the quote by one major USC donor who said that Marshall School of Business Dean Jim Ellis is “not going quietly and we’re not going quietly.”

If you serve on a board, you can not pick and choose whom you serve — it’s only the corporation. All too often, major donors think they can tell officers and staff what to do and make all major decisions. It turns out the law states otherwise.

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A board is not a schoolyard playground where sticking up for your friend proves you are a trustworthy and powerful guy. I say “guy” because nearly all of these board situations involve powerful men who believe they should run the show.

All those ego-driven men trying to reverse a decision made by USC’s president should learn to focus exclusively on the interest of the corporation, not the business school dean being replaced, and not their hurt feelings.

William Brown, Topanga

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To the editor: The wealthy and powerful are not the only ones revolting against Ellis’ termination.

It is time for USC to distinguish between virtue and façade of virtue. Under pretense of heroics, USC raised an ax to a highly respected professor and rattled off the words “sexual harassment” in their effort to replace him.

However, Ellis did nothing wrong. The claims were directed at other faculty (not him), and many of these complaints never reached his desk. While USC must certainly begin to understand “accountability,” this firing is a political play and disgrace.

While at USC, I competed for the golf team and was honored as an NCAA team champion. Upon graduation in 2016, I delayed turning pro and returned as a redshirt senior. My Trojan loyalty runs deep, similar to Ellis, whom I originally met playing golf.

It is said that a golf round better exposes one’s character than a business meeting. Ellis embodies the utmost integrity. He should be celebrated, not tarnished by undeserved accusations.

Victoria Morgan, Pasadena

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To the editor: As the concerned parent of two USC Trojan daughters, I’ve heard interim President Wanda Austin speak about her determination to change USC’s culture.

I applaud her efforts to transform the toxic “bro” culture that enabled two USC physicians — a former campus gynecologist, and the former dean of the medical school — to continue in their jobs even though they clearly posed major risks.

I’m appalled that wealthy donors are challenging her mandate to exercise her best judgment to make these changes. Her decision to remove the business school dean appears to be a proactive measure to clean up USC.

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In Dr. Austin I trust.

Sharon Rosen Leib, Solana Beach

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