The University of Southern California’s new president, Carol Folt, has inherited an institution still reeling from a wave of investigations. Disruptions have led to a string of departures across the university, including numerous administrators in the athletic and medical departments.
Some of the school’s top administrators have been ousted, including Folt’s predecessor, C.L. Max Nikias. Here’s a guide to the most notable departures since Nikias’ tenure began in 2010.
The series of scandals and investigations behind it all
USC is at the center of the growing college admissions scandal, in which actresses, tech figures and corporate power brokers were accused of hiring William “Rick” Singer to get their children into elite colleges through bribery and cheating. The university claims it was a victim of deceit perpetrated by just a few employees.
Women’s Soccer Coach
Khosroshahin was fired from his job running the women’s soccer team in 2013, six years before a federal indictment alleged that he accepted bribes totaling nearly $350,000 to fabricate fake athletic profiles for prospective students. He has pleaded guilty.
Assistant Women’s Soccer Coach
Janke, an assistant to women’s soccer coach Khosroshahin, left the university in 2014, five years before being implicated alongside her boss in the admissions scandal. She has pleaded guilty.
Senior Associate Athletic Director
Heinel, a top administrator in the athletics department, was indicted by federal prosecutors who allege she accepted more than $1.3 million in bribes and helped Singer enroll the children of wealthy clients into USC by falsely claiming they were recruited athletes. Heinel was fired from the university and has pleaded not guilty.
Water Polo Coach
Vavic, coach of both the men’s and women’s water polo teams, was fired following a federal indictment that alleged he took bribes totaling more than $250,000 in exchange for recruiting unqualified athletes to USC. He has pleaded not guilty.
Associate Professor and Director, Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry
Zadeh is on leave following a federal indictment alleging that he paid $100,000 to have his daughter recruited for lacrosse, a sport she did not play. USC has begun termination proceedings against Zadeh. He has pleaded not guilty.
Senior Associate Athletic Director
Orr, along with Steve Lopes and Scott Jacobson, was fired abruptly in connection with the college admissions scandal, and in part because of the desire of new athletic department leadership to bring in its own people.
CFO, COO, Senior Associate Athletic Director
Lopes was one of three senior athletic officials fired in January 2020.
Associate Athletic Director
Jacobson was one of three senior athletic officials fired in January 2020.
Following allegations of sexual abuse, ex-USC campus gynecologist George Tyndall was arrested and charged. He had been allowed to continue to practice and retire quietly despite numerous complaints, a decision that triggered an uproar in the campus community.
Gynecologist, Campus Services
Dr. Tyndall was accused of sexually abusing hundreds of students during three decades as a gynecologist at a campus clinic. The accusations, first reported by The Times, prompted a federal Title IX investigation, Tyndall’s criminal prosecution and the university’s multimillion-dollar settlement with his former patients. Tyndall has pleaded not guilty to the sexual abuse charges against him.
Lead Physician, Engemann Student Health Center
Leavitt supervised Tyndall in the clinic and was removed as lead physician when Tyndall’s history of abuse was publicized. He has accused USC of wrongly targeting him for dismissal and has sued the university for defamation. Leavitt still serves as a campus doctor while his litigation is pending.
Executive Director, Engemann Student Health Center
Akiyoshi was a leader in the clinic and was fired when Tyndall’s history of abuse was publicized.
C.L. Max Nikias resigned as USC president in August 2018, after more than a week of uproar over the university’s handling the Tyndall case. His resignation was followed by the departure of other key administrative personnel.
C.L. Max Nikias
After being named president in 2010, Nikias led initiatives that boosted the university’s fundraising and its position in academic rankings.
His sucessful run was ended in the uproar after allegations of sexual misconduct by a longtime campus gynecologist. Nikias stepped down under pressure and was given the title of president emeritus and a lifetime seat on the board of trustees.
After his departure, the university’s new leadership cleared out some of the school’s top administrative positions.
Carol Mauch Amir
Senior Vice President for Legal Affairs and Professionalism
In her role as general counsel, Amir helped oversee the legal response to a wide array of scandals and complaints, including accusations against campus gynocologist George Tyndall. She retired from her post following the departure of USC President C.L. Max Nikias. At the time, the university’s interim leader praised Amir’s efforts to reform the university’s governance.
As provost, Quick handled many of the complaints against former medical school Dean Carmen Puliafito. Quick left that post and returned to teaching after the departure of USC president C.L. Max Nikias.
Dean, Marshall School of Business
Ellis was fired from his post overseeing the business school after an outside review of harrassment and discrimination complaints made against faculty and staff. Administrators have not publicly revealed what specifically prompted his removal, sparking anger from some who say he’s being unfairly treated. Ellis wrote an op-ed in The Times denying any wrongdoing. He has returned to teaching as a tenured professor.
A star football player for the Trojans in the 1970s, Swann was named head of USC’s athletics department in 2016, despite having no prior experience managing college sports.
During his tenure, the department was hit hard by two FBI investigations, one into admissions fraud and another into corruption in basketball. Swann said he was “blindsided” by what happened. Despite having said he planned to stay in the job for 10 years, Swann unexpectedly announced his resignation.
“He felt that this was the professional thing to do, to resign and allow me to build my team,” USC President Carol Folt said.
Sexual harassment allegations, alongside the nationwide #MeToo movement, led to several key departures within USC.
Dean, Keck School of Medicine
Dr. Rohit Varma resigned while The Times was preparing a story revealing past discipline for sexual harrassment.
Vice President of Advancement and Health Sciences Development
Carrera, a leader of USC’s historic fundraising campaign, left his post amid an investigation into his treatment of women launched by a string of complaints.
Men’s health physician
Graduates filed a lawsuit in 2019 accusing former men’s health doctor of sexual battery and harassment during appointments. He denied any inappropriate behavior toward patients and called the allegations “terribly hurtful.” In 2020, he surrendered his medical license for reasons unrelated to the accusations.
Questions about the handling of donations for nonprofits led to three departures.
Haden, a former USC quarterback, returned to the school in 2010 to head its athletics program. In that role, he led the program out from under past NCAA sanctions and garnered large donations that helped expand the school’s athletic facilities.
In 2015, The Times reported Haden had pocketed more than $1 million in his role as chairman of a foundation that gave academic scholarships to students studying at USC and elsewhere. He also came under scrutiny for allowing Steve Sarkisian to continue as football coach despite reports of alcohol abuse.
The next year, Haden announced his retirement.
Professor, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
Ridley-Thomas, a former state Assemblyman recently appointed as a professor, was fired after questions were raised about a $100,000 donation to the school from campaign funds of his father, a Los Angeles County supervisor that ended up in a think tank Ridley-Thomas controlled. Ridley-Thomas said the university was wrong to fire him.
Dean, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work
Flynn stepped down after an internal investigation found that she transferred donations to Ridley-Thomas’ nonprofit. Flynn’s lawyer said the former dean discussed budget issues “openly and transparently” with faculty and administrators.
Drugs and alcohol
Two top leaders left following reports of intoxication or involvement with drug users.
Sarkisian served as the school’s head football coach for only a season and a half before reports of public intoxication led to his eventual firing. Sarkisian filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the school, which he eventually lost. He has publicly admitted to having an alcohol addiction.
Dean, Keck School of Medicine
Dr. Carmen Puliafito stepped down as medical school dean three weeks after a 21-year-old woman overdosed in his presence in a Pasadena hotel room. A later Times investigation found that he associated with a circle of addicts and received a settlement to leave. He has publicly admitted to having a drug addiction, and his lawyers have said the doctor was plagued by bipolar disorder that altered his judgment.
A 2017 FBI investigation into bribery and corruption at NCAA basketball programs led to the arrests of coaches at Louisville, Miami and USC, among others.