Leaders are usually the first people considered for removal after a huge scandal rocks the organization they are running. Even if they are not directly responsible, they act as figureheads for the organization, and their removal is sometimes necessary for a fresh start.
Despite the amazing feats USC has accomplished under former president C. L. Max Nikias’ leadership, he had little choice but to resign in May.
The question now becomes whether a change in leadership will actually effect change or whether Nikias’ resignation is merely an act of pacification meant to quell the community’s concerns. The answer is most likely the latter.
What the University really needs to reset its direction may be more than just a new president.
Moving forward, the lesson USC should learn from this fiasco is simple: The administration must practice transparency.
Transparency entails coming clean after an incident — no matter how unpalatable and regardless of whether students, faculty or administration leaders are involved.
The executive committee of the Board of Trustees announced the formation of a special committee that has hired external counsel to lead an independent investigation regarding the misconduct allegations against Tyndall. This committee’s investigation will help hold those who knew about Tyndall’s alleged miscunduct and failed to protect students. Ultimately, the goal of the committee is to look forward and ensure that no future Trojan will be left in the dark about horrific actions taking place on their campus.
And the solution to that is to simply listen, to take students seriously and not dismiss their complaints. While college students are legally considered adults and are bound by certain adult responsibilities, many decisions are still made on their behalf by authoritative figures who presume to know better.
Students make a conscious and deliberate choice to apply to and enroll to this university. As much as universities want to believe they possess the power in selecting candidates during the admissions processes, ultimately it is the school that is — or at least should be — working for the students. After all, we are paying for the school’s services, and it should in turn respect our wishes.
Subsequently, the University ought to give students the full picture: highlight the good, but never cover up the bad.
If students make a willful decision to come to this school as opposed to the hundreds of others across the country, they must truly love it. When bad things happen (which they inevitably will), the University must take responsibility and make an honest effort to communicate with its students, staff and faculty.
Let’s hope that when calamities unavoidably occur, our University keeps us informed. Let’s hope the administration works with the student body to resolve ongoing problems instead of against them in an attempt to conceal wrongdoing.
Nikias elevated USC to the same level as some of this country’s finest institutions of higher education, and brought in billions in donations. He not only oversaw the school’s tremendous strides in research and fundraising but also helped saw the University soar in the national rankings.
So was the Tyndall scandal enough to justify Nikias’ ousting? Well, if Nikias receives applause for all the ways he benefited the University, he must also be held accountable when scandals break.
If Nikias was aware of and deliberately tried to cover up the sexual misconduct that occurred at Tyndall’s hands, his resignation is all the more just. But even if he didn’t, his stepping down is necessary for at least the appearance of a fresh start on the University’s part. Whether the University will indeed start anew is still unclear.
To interim president Wanda Austin: We hope you continue maximizing USC’s potential as a world-class institution, just as Nikias did in the last eight years. We value your leadership during this difficult time. But in the same vein, please listen to student voices and engage in conversation with us. USC is our home and our community, as it is yours, and we hope that you hold us to the high standards that this institution is capable of meeting.