A new chapter: USC installs 12th president Carol Folt

first_imgPresident Carol Folt throws up a “Fight On” sign to the crowd at Alumni Park during her inauguration ceremony Friday. (Andrea Diaz | Daily Trojan) “I think she comes in with a lot of energy [and] motivation, and so many changes,” Umugiraneza said.  Former Interim President Wanda Austin presents President Carol Folt with a gold medal to officially give over the position. (Andrea Diaz | Daily Trojan) Folt discussed her goals to limit student debt, increase sustainability, form stronger partnerships with the surrounding community and work to rebuild trust and accountability at the University.  The inauguration marked a moment in history. USC was thrown into the spotlight multiple times in the past few years — following lawsuits in which hundreds of patients accused two former campus doctors of sexual assault and following the revelations of Operation Varsity Blues,  When new Provost Charles Zukoski starts his position Oct. 1, Folt said he will head a group to “overhaul admissions” following the FBI investigation that found over 20 students had been admitted to USC as part of a backdoor scheme that involved bribe money and false athletic profiles.  Carol Folt has emphasized that she wants her tenure to be a “student-led” presidency. As students processed to their seats at the inauguration Friday, Folt ran down from the stage to take a photo with them before the ceremony began.  Thousands of faculty, students, staff and alumni crowded Alumni Park Friday to watch Carol Folt be sworn in as the 12th president and the first female president to lead the University. Accompanied by the USC “Fight Song,” Folt made her way from the Bovard Administration Building to the steps of Doheny Memorial Library, sporting a cardinal robe, high-fiving students and throwing up a “Fight On.” Raymond Rapada contributed to this report. “I want to assure you that we will continue to tackle these problems until they are corrected,” she said to the audience. “We’re going to do it with urgency, and we’re going to do it with your involvement, with the involvement of the community and our governance structures.” President Carol Folt came down from the stage at Doheny Memorial Library to take a photo with students before her inauguration Friday. (Andrea Diaz | Daily Trojan) “I know that people are concerned about that, and I know there’s been a whole committee put in place to consider naming, which we need to do,” Folt told the Daily Trojan. “That would be a really good thing to do. It actually comes up through the Provost … but I’ll get involved in it.” President Carol Folt and Board of Trustees Chairman Rick Caruso embrace at her inauguration ceremony Friday. (Andrea Diaz | Daily Trojan) Earlier Friday morning, the Daily Trojan reported that a bust of Rufus von KleinSmid, USC’s fifth president who was heavily involved in the eugenicist movement, was found covered with a cloth scribbled with the words “Rename VKC,” accompanied with a sign that read “Nazi.”  “She really values what students want,” Abbattista said. “I just would encourage her and hope that she continues encouraging interaction with students and open dialogue.” “We are going to do a deep dive into this whole thing that happened through Varsity Blues, that we are going to understand our admission process from the start,” Folt said in an interview with the Daily Trojan following the ceremony. “… And that’s not because I think we have lots of problems, but … we have to make sure first, we need to make sure how it happened, how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” She trailed behind Wanda Austin, who served as the interim president for the 2018-19 school year until Folt assumed the position July 1. At the ceremony, Austin presented Folt with a gold medallion, officially handing off the office of president. “It shows all of us female students that we are well-represented within the USC community, and I think it makes us feel really comfortable that we have someone to look up to so it’s an inspirational thing as well,” Seth said.  “We talked about the really deep needs of our communities, about how we could work together to combat inequities in health, in wealth and in education,” she said. “And we agreed that everyday that we delay on taking meaningful action on sustainability, we are pushing the environment into futures that we don’t want for our kids or our grandkids or any of your families.” Folt has also said that she will listen to perspectives from across the University community in her decision making, including consulting faculty and staff on changes. Edith Umugiraneza, an indexer at the Shoah Foundation, said she is excited for the changes to come with Folt, including a transportation subsidy program that was announced Sept. 17 that will cover half the cost of public transit for all staff that will begin Oct. 1.  Once she stepped on stage for her speech, Folt was interrupted by about six protesters shouting, “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” from the steps of the von KleinSmid Center. The protesters held a banner that read “#SilenceSam,” referencing the 8-foot commemorative statue of a Confederate soldier that marked the entrance of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s campus until it was toppled by protesters in August 2018.  As she settles into her role, Folt has said she will continue to meet with students and other campus stakeholders to include them on decisions. She recently announced a search committee for a new athletic director, which will include school officials as well as two student athletes. Two student representatives were also included in the provost search committee  after the University was criticized by Undergraduate Student Government for not involving student voices.  “After the most turbulent period in USC’s history, today is a reflection on the actions we have taken, and the work that will begin anew,” Caruso said. “We are in the midst of relieving and restoring the original fabric of this great University.”  Lauren Abbattista, a junior majoring in environmental studies, said she was excited to hear about Folt’s focus on campus sustainability efforts. Before leaving UNC in January, Folt, who was then the chancellor, removed the statue’s base, but UNC students previously told the Daily Trojan they felt this action should have come sooner.  Folt said in her speech that she spoke with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — who was in attendance Friday — last week to discuss how the University and city could work together to create change. Before Folt took the stage, the ceremony started with an invocation from Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni, with Board of Trustees Chairman Rick Caruso coming forward to celebrate USC’s new chapter with the University community.  In her interview with the Daily Trojan, Folt said she is excited about upholding the University to proper sustainability practices, but in the process, bring the USC community together.  With this inauguration, USC is filtering out years riddled with scandals in exchange for Folt, who aims to bring the University to new heights. Folt said she expected protests over the building’s name and would be looking further into the issue with Zukoski once he comes to campus.  “The fact that I get cheers for sustainability is just music to my ears, I love that, but it’s much more than just cheers,” Folt said. “We can start making progress, but what I have to do is tap into everybody. It’s one of those ones where everyone can be going in so many different directions — what if we all came together?”  “I have been around protests my entire life at a university, and as a student I think universities have and must and should allow protest,” Folt said.  Malika Seth, a graduate student studying computer science, said seeing Folt installed as the first female president of USC should encourage women in the USC community and in general to rise to the highest levels in whatever they do.last_img read more