LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – In the wake of multiple scandals, the University of Southern California’s Board of Trustees Wednesday announced that it has chosen Dr. Carol L. Folt as the school’s twelfth – and first female – president.
Folt, the former chancellor at the University of North Carolina, will take the helm at USC beginning July 1. She will be the first female president in the school’s history. Folt will take the reins from Wanda Austin, who has served as interim president since the resignation of Max Nikias last May.
“When people come here they think anything is possible,” Folt said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. “And there probably isn’t a city other than L.A. that can claim that as strongly. This is where dreams grow, this is what USC symbolizes to me. And so to be a part of that is such a gift.”
As a student, Folt spent two years at Santa Barbara City College and then got both her bachelor’s degree in aquatic biology and master’s degree in biology from UC Santa Barbara. She followed that up with a doctorate in ecology from UC Davis.
Folt began her academic teaching career as a biology professor at Dartmouth College, where her husband still teaches.
“As I have come to know Dr. Folt and how she thinks, it is clear that USC has chosen a brilliant, principled leader with clarity of purpose and integrity to lead the university forward and upward,” said Rick Caruso, chair of the USC Board of Trustees.
Folt was forced to resign from UNC in January over controversy regarding a Confederate statue on campus. Her last act as chancellor was to order that the statue be removed.
Folt will have her work cut out for her, as USC has been plagued by a series of scandals over the past few years. Earlier this month, USC was one of several elite schools named in the nationwide admissions bribery scandal in which wealthy parents paid millions of dollars in bribes to get their children admitted.
In January, a former USC men’s basketball assistant coach pleaded guilty for his role in a pay-for-play scandal in which schools would funnel money through shoe companies to a player in exchange for their commitment.
In May of 2018, USC revealed that longtime former USC gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall was being investigated for sexual misconduct. Since then, hundreds of women have come forward accusing Tyndall of misconduct and alleging the school attempted to cover up his behavior. That scandal prompted Max Nikias to step down.
In August of 2018, USC revealed that it had hired and fired former California Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-West Los Angeles) as a professor. USC asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to conduct a criminal investigation into a recent suspicious $100,000 donation from a campaign fund controlled by his father, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. The 30-year-old Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was hired by USC as a professor despite not having a graduate degree.
In April 2016, Carmen Puliafito stepped down as dean of the USC Keck School of Medicine after it was revealed he had partied with underage girls and provided drugs to his girlfriend, who was a prostitute. The California medical board later ordered Puliafito be stripped of his license to practice medicine.
In November 2016, Dr. Rohit Varma, a noted ophthalmologist, was named dean to replace Puliafito. However, in October 2017, however, he also resigned amid a report that 15-years-prior, USC reached a financial settlement with a female researcher who accused him of sexual harassment.