The Daily Gamecock

Editorial: USC administration is unacceptably dishonest, unaccountable

The Daily Gamecock has repeatedly witnessed dishonesty and a lack of accountability from university administrators towards students, faculty and staff.

While we will continue to report on the administration’s actions — and inactions — we also must demand that our school’s leadership start acting on the promises it makes in the interests of the USC community.

We are embarrassed about our own university’s lack of accountability and regard for the safety and wellbeing of its students. Several instances of the administration choosing its own public image over the interests of the USC community have shown where the loyalties of the administration truly lie.

In October, The Chronicle of Higher Education used a FOIA, or a request to access public records, to reveal no USC administrator had any intention of listening to the Presidential Commission on University History’s recommendation to rename buildings named after defenders of slavery and segregation.

This report provides key evidence of university leaders such as interim university President Harris Pastides blatantly lying to the student body in order to feign passion for university reform.

When describing the purpose of the Presidential Commission on University History in an email on July 14, 2021, to students, Pastides said the commission's report would be used “to consider and act upon and I embrace it as such.” This languages suggests that the interim president would act on suggestions to further the process of renaming buildings.

That wasn’t the case. The disappointing reality is that Pastides’ email had gone through 14 drafts and had been revised for months before the commission even released its recommendation.

Another act of deception from our school’s leadership is the supposed $11 million budget over the next five years for diversity and inclusion, a supposed initiative “to further the commission’s recommendations.”

 Despite the implication that this money was new funding, it was actually the already existing diversity budget being marketed as new, in an attempt to offset the administration’s egregious inaction.

Just in the four years the class of 2022 has been on campus, we have seen near-constant examples of the administration choosing its own self-interest over the interests of the USC community.

We have seen the administration refuse to fire faculty and staff such as David Voros, Robert Richmond and Michael Dollar, who were accused of sexually harassing students and co-workers, despite student protest and public outcry

We have seen the administration’s complacency and vagueness regarding Title IX violations on campus, which are violations of a federal law meant to stop discrimination based on sex.

Even beyond its mishandling of student and staff complaints, the administration illegally withheld public records from a FOIA request The Post and Courier made about sexual misconduct in the athletic department. 

We have seen the board of trustees choose a university president based on political ties when it selected former President Bob Caslen in July 2019 despite opposition from students, faculty, alumni and donors.

We have seen the administration fail to provide adequate mental health resources and make empty promises about adding to its counseling staff in August. Today, students still wait weeks to be seen by a therapist at the Center for Health and Wellbeing, according to an interview conducted by The Daily Gamecock opinion editor Audrey Elsberry with April Scott, associate director of mental health initiatives. 

As student-journalists, we have also been confronted with the opaque nature of our university’s administration. Our newsroom is constantly frustrated with the lack of communication from the administration regarding controversies on campus.

The Daily Gamecock has reached out for comments from the administration on several occasions for topics ranging from COVID-19 procedures to the removal of alleged abusers from classrooms to Student Government election results. Many failed to receive any response from the university.

We understand that journalists should not expect to simply be handed information, but we also believe it is unacceptable for an institution funded by taxpayer and tuition dollars to hide from public scrutiny.

Journalists, both student and professional, should have an open line of communication with public officials. Newspapers should not have to file lawsuits for USC to comply with public records laws.

The university’s actions, or lack thereof, have disappointed students, faculty, staff and alumni. If the university wants its students to take pride in their alma mater, the administration needs to start leading with integrity.

To the administration: While you might recite the Carolinian Creed and try to placate us with promises of change, we see you now, and we will see you until you follow through on the promises you refuse to keep — and we’ll keep reporting the truth until you do.