USC TRIES TO STOP TRUSTEES FROM SPEAKING OUT IN SUPPORT OF THE DEAN
Greif, too, has written the trustees about Quick’s gag order on Dean Ellis, who has consistently declined to speak with Poets&Quants or any other media outlet since the controversy broke nor has he written another email to faculty or staff about the decision. “By, in effect, threatening to terminate Jim for cause were he to dare to be so bold as to speak the truth on a college campus and defend himself and his good name, the administration succeeded in muzzling him,” wrote Greif to the board. “Retaliate? Seriously? Since when is a lame duck dean who is on his way out the door going to be able to pressure or retaliate against his faculty? Is USC so worried that Marshall School faculty will come out strongly in support of retaining Jim that they wanted to undermine and taint any such action by the faculty before it even happens?”
Hoping to stem leaks from its board of trustees, the university last week sent a “reminder” to board members on “confidentiality as a fiduciary obligation.” In a Jan. 18th email, obtained by Poets&Quants, SVP of Legal Affairs Carol Mauch Amir and Secretary Carolyn Domen-Broshears told trustees that “maintaining the confidentiality of boardroom discussions and deliberations and of the university’s confidential information to which all trustees have access is an essential way in which trustees fulfill the duties of office. Disclosure of nonpublic information can breach a trustee’s duty of loyalty and, equally importantly, can bring unintended harm to the university by opening the university to claims, breaching the law and diminishing the university’s stature and reputation.”
The email was sent after Poets&Quants‘ series of articles quoting directly from the correspondence of several trustees as well as interviews with some trustee members. “The recent press coverage of confidential board discussions and information from a confidential internal report underscores the need for all trustees to maintain in strict confidence the nonpublic information and boardroom confidences entrusted to you,” wrote Amir and Domen-Broshears.
‘THE GAG ORDER ATTEMPTS TO EXTEND THE MUZZLE FROM ELLIS TO THE ENTIRE BOARD’
Greif, the MBA alum from Marshall who organized the petition drive and letter drive supporting Dean Ellis, believes the email to trustees is little more than an effort to muzzle dissent, no different than the deleting of Facebook posts from supportive parents. “The gag order attempts to extend the muzzle from Jim Ellis to the entire Board of Trustees,” he says.
Greif says that after he wrote a Nov. 30th email to his fellow members of Marshall’s Board of Leaders and Corporate Advisory Board, apprising them that Ellis had been terminated, the university administration had launched what he calls “a disinformation campaign while endeavoring to silence its critics, both from within and without.”
He received a Saturday phone call from Senior Vice President for University Advancement Al Checcio who, Greif says, suggested that he was hurting the university by supporting Dean Ellis. “I told him that I was fighting for the very heart and soul of USC, at which point he lamented that this was going to be ‘another bad year for the University.'”
In the years from 1991 until 2010, when USC was transformed into a world-class research university, then USC President Steven B. Sample would commonly refer to the university’s VIPs as “Very Important Parents.” “To treat parents this way,” adds Greif, “is so against what Steve Sample stood for. He must be turning over in his grave.”