Press and profs fire President, as Trustees dithered & kept Senate in dark

That would be President Max Nikias at USC. Jack Stripling in The Chronicle, last week:

Nikias Is Standing Firm as Scandals Mount at USC. But This Is What the End of a Presidency Looks Like.

The LATimes has an op-ed here, from a USC professor:

As Max Nikias pushed USC to prominence, checks and balances were missing

… President Nikias relied on a small circle of confidants and, as his troubles rose, the circle grew smaller. The university’s Board of Trustees, mostly captains of industry, seemed awed by his fundraising ability. They ceded power to their fundraising juggernaut.

John Mork, chairman of the USC Board of Trustees, admirably donated more than $100 million for scholarships for low-income students. When a reporter on the Daily Trojan asked how he saw the leadership job on the board, Mork said his task was to serve the university and “to facilitate President C. L. Max Nikias’ good work — I’m a servant in the deal.”

The Academic Senate sat passively by as problems unfolded. When The Times uncovered alleged misconduct on the part of medical school dean Dr. Carmen Puliafito, Nikias declined to accept individual responsibility. He ordered an independent investigation, but the report was provided only to executive committee of the Board of Trustees. The Academic Senate registered no public complaint. Last week, when the board announced yet another study in response to yet another scandal — the allegations about USC health center gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall — the plan again called for the findings to be reported only to trustees. That afternoon, the faculty representatives called for Nikias to resign.

A dramatic increase in non-tenured professors at USC has made the faculty hesitant to confront the administration, lest their jobs be put at risk. The result is fewer checks and balances on the office of president. In 2015, the trustees gave Nikias a $1.5-million bonus. The Academic Senate registered no public protest at such an outlandish handout. How can it be that a man who deserved such a bonus a few short years ago has been forced to resign in disgrace?

… To repair the storm damage at USC, we need a Board of Trustees that provides consistent oversight and does not see itself as the handmaiden to the president. We need an Academic Senate that ensures that the faculty is an equal partner in decision-making. …

William G. Tierney is Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education, a University Professor, and co-director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at USC.

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