Exclusive: USC Interim President: "We're Learning"

- In her first television interview since taking over as Interim USC President, Dr. Wanda Austin said the university is “making some course corrections.”


Dr. Austin replaced C.L. Max Nikias after hundreds of Trojans accused former campus gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall of sexual assault. Then President Nikias was criticized by some for a lack of transparency. 


The school is now facing lawsuits from multiple women.  Dr. Tyndall denies any wrongdoing. 


“As a woman, as an alum, I’m really saddened to know there were women that were not served well on our campus,” Dr. Austin told Elex Michaelson on the FOX 11 political show “The Issue Is:”. 


Dr. Austin said that more female doctors have been hired and the campus health center is now under the authority of the Keck School of Medicine. She said the school is taking concrete steps to open up lines of communications. 


“My bottom line is that we’re learning and we’re taking those lessons learned and we’re making changes, systemic changes in terms of our H.R. practices,” Dr. Austin said. 


The school has faced multiple scandals in recent years after lengthy Los Angeles Times investigations. In addition to Dr. Tyndell, the paper reported on former medical school dean Carmen Puliafito’s alleged secret double life. He was reportedly partying with prostitutes and doing drugs while serving as a prominent fundraiser for the school. 


Michaelson asked Austin if there was a culture of corruption at USC? “I think the cultural issue is people being able to raise their hands and say, ‘I think there’s something going on here that’s inappropriate and need to be heard.’”


Dr. Austin earned a doctorate from USC in 1988 and served as CEO of the Aerospace Corporation from 2008 to 2016. She’s a member of the USC Board of Trustees. 


Michaelson asked if the Board should have done more to prevent USC’s scandals? “As a board, you look for indications that things were being managed well and when you detect something isn’t, as they did this summer, you take action.”


Interim President Austin said she is “focused on what changes we need to make” in order for academic excellence remains the priority. U.S.C. has established an Office of Professionalism and Ethics. 


Dr. Austin is the first African American and first woman to lead the University of Southern California. 
“I think I serve as a role model for many people on our campus that say you too can set your goals very high and achieve your goals,” she said. 


But Dr. Austin said that it’s not her goal to serve as permanent USC president…even if asked. “I’d say I’m happy to be the interim president.”


“The Issue Is: with Elex Michaelson” airs Fridays at 10:30PM on FOX 11 Los Angeles. 

 

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