Annual Address to the Faculty of the University of Southern California
by Steven B. Sample
President, University of Southern California
October 9, 1992
Carl Sandburg attributes a story to Abraham Lincoln about a frog that became mired in a deep wagon track. The frog’s friends came by and tried to get him out; they pushed and pulled and grunted and groaned, but nothing worked. So they gave up and went home. But the next day they saw that very same frog sitting beside the pond, happy and chipper and feeling as fine as could be. “Wait a minute,” they said. “What happened? We thought you were stuck in that wagon track and couldn’t get out.” And the frog said, “I was, and I couldn’t, but a wagon came along and I had to.”
So how did we get through this last year? We couldn’t, but we had to, and we did!
What a freshman year for a new president: earthquakes, riots, budget reductions, layoffs, my provost up and quits, and our football team goes 3 and 8. But there was also good news: a number of stellar faculty appointments, the largest single gift in our history, the new hospital opened and is doing well, two Olympic gold medals, our strongest freshman class ever, and a Trojan Family that pulled together beautifully during the riots. I’ll have more to say about some of these events later in my talk. But first, I want to attend to something of more transcendent importance than the successes and failures of a single year.
The Role and Mission of USC
All of you are aware that we are in the midst of an intense academic planning process.
The Strategic Planning Steering Group has been at work for more than a year, and it is an absolutely first rate group of faculty members — Scott Bice from law, Leo Braudy from English, Amy Lee from medicine, Alice Parker from engineering, Jane Pisano from public administration, Jerry Segal from the College, Barbara Solomon from social work and the Graduate School, Bill Spitzer from physics, Kevin Starr from urban planning, Les Weiner from medicine, and Bob Biller from public administration and undergraduate affairs.
The men and women in this Strategic Planning Steering Group care deeply about USC and are willing to grapple with some very hard questions. Under the leadership of Provost Neal Pings, they have worked hard to develop a planning framework that will enable us to develop, and subsequently integrate in a coherent way, detailed plans from individual academic units.
Several deans have already initiated intensive planning processes in their own units — for example, John Biles in pharmacy, Steve Ryan in medicine, and Jane Pisano in public administration. More recently the Faculty Senate has published what I believe is a very thoughtful document on the future of USC which presents some important questions and some very good ideas relative to long–range planning. I urge all of you to read that document.
This past April, in connection with the planning process, we did something very unusual, something that so far as I know had never happened before in the history of this university. What we did was use our annual three–day retreat with our trustees to involve them in strategic planning discussions at the front end of our long-range planning process.
Our trustees took these discussions very seriously, and along the way they asked a number of embarrassing questions. These questions might be summarized as follows: “Tell us, Mr. President, what is our mission? What is our role in Southern California and the nation and the world? What distinguishes USC from other academic institutions? What values do we hold most dear at this university? And Mr. President, please tell us all these things on one page.” Well that is quite a challenge, especially the one–page requirement.
Of course, I have been subconsciously collecting facts, anecdotes and opinions that bear on these questions ever since Kathryn and I were first being recruited for this post. I have read scores of letters and documents and have talked with hundreds and hundreds of people, all in an effort to understand this remarkable intellectual community — its role, its mission, its distinguishing characteristics and its values.
So I accepted the trustees’ challenge and set to work drafting a one–page “Role and Mission Statement” for USC. I have now invested close to a hundred hours of my own time on this project. There have been many drafts, and I have reviewed several of these drafts over the past two months with dozens of faculty members, trustees, alumni, students and staff. I must say it has been a most stimulating and illuminating exercise for me. Here is the most recent draft, freshly revised as of 9:30 this morning:
The central mission of the University of Southern California is the building up of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit. The principal means by which our mission is accomplished are teaching, research, artistic creation, professional practice, and selected forms of public service.
Our first priority as faculty and staff is the education of our students, from freshmen to postdoctorals, through a broad array of academic, professional, extracurricular and athletic programs of the first rank. The integration of liberal and professional learning is one of USC’s special strengths. We strive constantly for excellence in teaching knowledge and skills to our students, while at the same time helping them to acquire wisdom and insight, love of truth and beauty, moral discernment, understanding of self, and respect and appreciation for others.
Research of the highest quality by our faculty and students is fundamental to our mission. USC is one of a very small number of premier academic institutions in which research and teaching are inextricably intertwined, and on which the nation depends for a steady stream of new knowledge, art, and technology. Our faculty are not simply teachers of the works of others, but creators and shapers of what is taught and practiced throughout the world.
USC is pluralistic, welcoming outstanding men and women of every race, creed and background. We are a global institution in a global center, attracting more international students than any other American university. And we are private, unfettered by political control, strongly committed to academic freedom, and proud of our entrepreneurial heritage.
An extraordinary closeness and willingness to help one another are evident among USC students, alumni, faculty, and staff; indeed, for those within its compass the Trojan Family is a genuinely supportive community. Alumni, trustees, volunteers and friends of USC are essential to this family tradition, providing as they do, generous financial support, participating in university governance, and assisting students at every turn.
In our surrounding neighborhoods and around the globe, USC provides public leadership and public service in such diverse fields as health care, economic development, social welfare, scientific research, public policy and the arts. We also serve the public interest by being the largest private employer in the city of Los Angeles, as well as the city’s largest export industry in the private sector.
USC has played a major role in the development of Southern California for more than a century, and plays an increasingly important role in the development of the nation and the world. We expect to continue to play these roles for many centuries to come. Thus our planning, commitments and fiscal policies are directed toward building quality and excellence in the long term.
Let me now present what clerics would call a brief exegesis of the text. What does this one–page statement say about our mission? I must admit to having gone through a kind of epiphany myself on this point. Prior to this exercise I would have said that our mission is simply teaching and research. But after working through it for a hundred hours, I have come to understand that our mission is not teaching and research. Rather, it is the building up of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit. In other words, we are in the people–development business. Teaching and research and artistic creation and professional practice are not ends in themselves, but are instead means to a higher end.
What is our role? In particular, what is our role in Southern California? That question is very much on the minds of our trustees. Certainly, USC has helped grow this region from its beginnings. Southern California would not have developed as rapidly as it did without the constant help of the university that is its namesake. For more than a century we have produced a steady stream of leaders and professional people for Southern California. We are Southern California’s only comprehensive private university. We provide extensive public service and public leadership for this whole region of the state.
We are also an anchor institution in Southern California. That is an important role for us, particularly as other anchor institutions leave the area or die off. USC is here for the long term; we will not be sold or merged or moved to Phoenix. And increasingly, as L.A.’s largest private employer and export industry, we are an economic engine for Southern California. That was not a role that USC played directly in the late 19th century, but it is very much our role today.
We play a special role in the nation because we are a research university. There may be a hundred or so institutions in the United States that call themselves research universities, but no more than 60 really deserve that title. And that is a very small fraction of the more than 3,400 colleges and universities in this country. What’s so amazing is that this tiny group of research universities conducts most of the nation’s basic research and produces most of her Ph.D.s and doctoral–level professionals.
We play a role internationally as a global university in a global center. Both parts of this statement are important. USC not only has a long history of being internationally oriented itself, but it is located in Southern California, which has become a global center of commerce and culture. It is the juxtaposition of these two — an internationally–oriented university in a truly international region — that makes USC’s world role so important.
On the question of role, there is a subtle point in the last paragraph that I should like to emphasize:
USC has played a major role in the development of Southern California for more than a century, and plays an increasingly important role in the development of the nation and the world. We expect to continue to play these roles for many centuries to come [not for decades — but for centuries to come]. Thus our planning, commitments and fiscal policies are directed toward building quality and excellence in the long term.
Here we’re talking about the long term in a way that many Americans cannot comprehend, because in most cases the notion of “long–term” in our society involves a few years or a few decades. But universities are very long–lived institutions that tend to outlast the political entities by which they are initially encompassed. In all probability USC will outlast the current governmental structure of the state of California, and indeed will probably even outlast the Constitution of the United States.
What is there in the one–page statement that makes USC unique? What are our distinguishing characteristics? No one characteristic makes us unique because on any one point there are at least some other universities that have that same characteristic. But we can easily identify from the “Role and Mission Statement” a combination of characteristics which, taken together, makes us unique. Some of these have already been mentioned in the foregoing discussion of our role, such as: our location in Southern California; our international orientation; the fact that we are a research university; the fact that research and teaching here are inextricably intertwined; the fact that our faculty members are not simply teachers of the works of others, but creators and shapers of what is taught and practiced around the world.
There are other characteristics that contribute to our uniqueness. We are private; most universities are not. We offer a much broader array of academic and professional programs than most universities; we are comprehensive. There is an integration of professional and liberal learning here, and there is the tradition of the Trojan Family.
It is thus a combination of characteristics that makes USC different from any other university. Let me give you an example of how this process works. Consider our location in Southern California, and consider also our comprehensiveness and the fact that we are private. There is only one comprehensive private university in all of Southern California. Thus, that group of only three characteristics already defines a template that uniquely fits USC. The other five or six characteristics I’ve mentioned bring our uniqueness into even sharper relief.
Finally, what are our underlying values? Certainly, respect and appreciation for other people is one such basic value. Another is the fact that we are pluralistic – that we welcome, not just tolerate, men and women of every race, creed and background. That is an important part of this institution’s heritage, going back to the 19th century. Many distinguished private universities in the East did not really begin to welcome women or people of various ethnicities and religions until after World War II. But when USC was founded in 1880, it explicitly welcomed both men and women, as well as people of all other religions and races.
Another important value for USC is the fact that we care deeply about our students, and especially about their education. Strange as it may seem, that kind of commitment to students is not prevalent in all research universities. We encourage our students to acquire wisdom and insight, love of truth and beauty, and moral discernment. We do not teach morals per se, but we try to transmit to students the importance of a moral perspective on professional and scientific and public issues.
We are strongly committed to academic freedom. We are strongly committed to the concept of community — in our neighborhoods, and in the Trojan Family, and in Southern California as a whole. We are entrepreneurial, perhaps more so than any other major university in the country.
So there you have it — my attempt to capture USC on a single page. I’ve asked the provost to include a copy of this draft of the “Role and Mission Statement” in the planning guidelines that he will soon be circulating to deans and faculty. Though I am the author of record of this statement, let me assure you that every good idea it contains has been proposed or polished by someone else.
I hope this draft reflects in large part your own perceptions of the role and mission of USC. If you have a suggestion for improving it, or if you come up with a complete revision, please send it to me — I’d like to read it. But remember: one page, in 12–point type!
A Review of the Year
Let us now descend from this rather lofty philosophical plane and take a look at the nitty–gritty of the year just passed. There have been several painful adjustments and losses. The first for me was the untimely death of my predecessor and friend, Jim Zumberge. I had counted on his wise counsel for many years to come; I, like you, will continue to miss him.
In what was the first major downsizing in our university’s history, we lost many staff and faculty positions this past year through layoffs, early retirement and attrition. The personal and professional loss attributable to this process has been profound.
Our staff colleagues have borne the brunt of these cuts. USC staff members are truly being asked to do more with less, and in almost all cases they are accepting this challenge with good grace and determination. I know that many faculty members are appreciative of this extra effort on the part of our staff, and that faculty throughout the university are going out of their way to express that appreciation to, and be supportive of, their staff colleagues. I hope all faculty will do the same. A simple “thank you” to a secretary or groundskeeper or clerk can go a long way toward helping that person know how important he or she is to USC.
Also on the painful side is the fact that the shock waves caused by the riots of this past spring continue to reverberate throughout our city. All of us have compassion for our friends and neighbors who were injured or who lost their homes and businesses. But there has been another loss — a loss of mutual trust among Angelenos generally, and, in a real sense, a loss throughout Southern California of a sense of community.
We had some close calls in ’91–92. Remember that decision day for prospective freshmen nationwide was May 1, just when the Los Angeles riots were at their most intense. Fortunately, despite formidable obstacles, we succeeded in bringing in a freshman class this year that is slightly larger than last year’s.
We also dodged a major budgetary bullet by finishing the year in the black. In fact, we had a year–end surplus of almost $75,000 out of nearly $600 million of general fund revenues, which is a margin of roughly one one–hundredth of one percent.
But along with the pain and the close calls have been great achievements and successes that we can and should celebrate as an academic community. I should like to highlight a few of these.
We have added six new members to our Board of Trustees since I became president. These men and women represent excellence in a broad variety of ways. Five of the six are alumni; five have graduate degrees; three have doctorates; one is a Rhodes Scholar; four are business executives; one is a venture capitalist; and one is a distinguished educator. Three of the six are women, and three are members of ethnic minority groups.
Let me describe one new trustee in particular who might well serve as a paradigm for the others. Dr. Ray Irani is a distinguished research chemist who currently serves as chairman and CEO of Occidental Petroleum Corporation. When Irani was a student here — a graduate student in chemistry in the early 1950s — his major professor was Art Adamson, now a distinguished professor emeritus of chemistry. It was Professor Adamson who gave Dr. Irani his introduction to USC and to the United States. When Irani first arrived at LAX from Lebanon, the only phone number he had was that of Professor Adamson — whom he called from a phone booth at LAX with what may well have been his last dime. After Irani explained his situation, Professor Adamson replied: “Ray, wait right where you are and I’ll come and pick you up.” Dr. Irani will never forget that moment; indeed, it has affected his view of USC to this very day. In fact, now that Irani is a naturalized U.S. citizen, he refers to USC as his “home town.” And I might note that, thanks to Dr. Irani’s leadership, Professor Adamson became one of the few living chemists to be honored by a named prize — in this case the Adamson Prize in Surface Chemistry, which is awarded annually by the American Chemical Society in conjunction with Occidental Petroleum.
On other fronts, you all know that Provost Cornelius J. Pings will be leaving USC this coming February after 12 years of distinguished service to assume the presidency of the Association of American Universities. What a great loss for us! But what a great gain for America’s research universities, and indeed for all of American higher education! Neal has made an important contribution to USC’s academic development during this past decade. We will all miss him, and no one more than I.
The selection of a new provost is one of the most important decisions we will make as an academic community in this decade. I plan to chair the search committee myself, and I have asked Professor Bill Spitzer to serve as vice chairman. Fifteen tenured faculty members, all distinguished scholars and teachers, have also agreed to serve on this committee, along with three staff members, two trustees and a student.
Another important personnel change has been the appointment of Professor Alan Kreditor as our new senior vice president for university advancement. Alan replaces Roger Olson, who retired after 32 years of outstanding service to USC. As most of you know, Alan was dean of the School of Urban and Regional Planning and has an excellent track record as a fund-raiser and academic planner.
Professor Bob Biller has a new role in the administration. He was, until recently, vice president for external affairs. We have now asked him to take on a new portfolio, that of vice president for undergraduate affairs. He has undertaken this new assignment with characteristic vitality and enthusiasm; and already one can sense a higher level of commitment throughout the whole university toward improving student recruitment and retention.
Five new permanent deans have taken office since I joined USC. They are all high quality scholars and practitioners; three of the five are women. When decanal vacancies are taken into account, there are new faces in nearly half of our deanships university–wide.
We have recruited some outstanding new faculty to USC this past year. We continue to be able to recruit first–rate faculty from first–rate universities because it is well–known around the country that USC is a university on the move academically. Some 70 new faculty members are joining us this fall, ranging from a world–renowned cardiac surgeon whom we lured away from Stanford University, to a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator in mathematics who comes to us from MIT.
I want to cite three specific examples that represent the quality of our incoming faculty. First is Professor of Classics Tom Habinek. With his appointment, USC is now considered to have one of the best Latin groups in the country. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard and comes to us from Berkeley. He is known for his teaching excellence at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and he will serve as the undergraduate advisor for the Department of Classics.
Another stellar faculty appointee is Professor Kathryn Anderson, a highly respected and widely published pediatric surgeon. Dr. Anderson joins us as surgeon–in–chief and vice president for surgical administration at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles, one of the four major hospitals which USC staffs. Dr. Anderson was previously senior attending surgeon at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and a guest scientist in the molecular hematology branch of the National Institutes of Health.
When we recruited Professor Kathryn Anderson, we were also able to attract her husband, Professor French Anderson. French Anderson is a pioneer in human gene therapy who comes to us from the National Institutes of Health in Washington. He will conduct his trailblazing research at the USC/Norris Hospital as part of our gene therapy program. Dr. French Anderson is the first scientist in the United States to conduct approved gene therapy for the treatment of genetic disorders.
Another area of great success for us this past year has been fund-raising. 1991-92 was the second most successful fund–raising year in our history, second only to the final year of The Campaign for USC. We raised nearly $106 million in cash gifts from private sources this past year. That’s a 12 percent increase over the previous year, which, in light of the economy, is really amazing.
What pleases me most is that standing behind that $106 million are 70,000 individual donors. I want particularly to mention two major gifts. Ambassador Walter Annenberg gave us $25 million to fund a comprehensive communications center. That is the largest single gift in our history, and brings Mr. Annenberg’s total gifts and pledges to USC to nearly $75 million over the past 25 years. And the Thomas Lord Estate has just given us $10 million in cash to establish a special endowment which will support academic enhancements for business administration, engineering, medicine and chemistry.
We also completed our $5 million endowment drive for the humanities collection in the library, which was inspired in the first place by a $1 million, 4–to–1 challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
There is another area that relates to fund–raising in which we can all take pride — namely endowed chairs and professorships. Endowment gifts to support academic chairs date back to the 16th century in England. They enable a university to honor and financially support gifted men and women who are outstanding scholars, scientists or artists.
Endowed chairs are very important to our fund–raising because they allow a donor to invest directly in the very best faculty. In so doing, these donors reinforce the idea that great faculty members are the heart of a great university.
Last year 32 people were appointed to endowed chairs and professorships here at USC. During this same period, donors to USC endowed 12 new chairs and professorships in public administration, law, social sciences and communication, medicine, natural sciences and mathematics, dentistry, and business administration. These new chairs and professorships give us a total of 169 endowed faculty positions.
We had a great year with respect to sponsored program support. USC broke the $200 million per year mark for the first time in our history. We were one of only two universities in the country that experienced double–digit growth in grant and contract income over the past year.
The grants and contracts that make up this $200 million generally come in very small units, and are won by the efforts of individual faculty members or small groups of faculty. It is a very, very competitive process. So our success in this field is an important measure of how hard our faculty have been working over the past 12 months. We now rank ninth among all private universities in the country in terms of sponsored program support.
The research interests of our faculty members show an enormous range and variety. Funded projects include curriculum development in cultural diversity; definitive analysis of housing and homelessness; molecular dynamics of chemical reactions; designing computer programs that design computers; and human genome sequencing.
Again let me offer two particular examples that I think are paradigmatic of the whole. The first is the Keck and Powell Laboratories of Photonic Technologies, which we dedicated yesterday. These new laboratories were made possible by a $2.9 million grant from the Keck Foundation and a $1.25 million challenge grant from the Powell Foundation. Based on these grants, our faculty have gone on to win almost $13 million in photonics research funds in rigorous national competition. We were selected by the U.S. Defense Department to lead the National Center for Integrated Photonic Technology. And thanks to these new facilities, USC has already attracted several outstanding new faculty members. Finally, the new photonics facility will help us double the number of advanced degree candidates at USC in photonics, and we are already the national leader in this field!
A good example of what sponsored research can do to bring various schools and disciplines together is the major grant we recently received from Sankyo Company, Ltd. This program is an interdisciplinary research project aimed at exploring the causes of Alzheimer’s disease and seeking interventions appropriate thereto. The contract involves $5 million over five years. But of equal importance to the funding is the fact that this project brings together the School of Medicine, the School of Gerontology, and the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences through its program for Neural, Informational and Behavioral Sciences (NIBS).
The investigative team on this project is led by Dr. Les Weiner, who is chairman of the department of neurology in the School of Medicine. Some 200 universities competed for this grant nationally, and there were only 20 finalists. Sankyo retained Stanford Research Institute as a consultant in the selection process when they got down to the final 20. When SRI looked at Alzheimer’s programs around the United States, they concluded that USC was the best of the best.
We have great potential for expanding sponsored research at this university, especially in the School of Medicine. But we recently had to close a major research building on the Health Sciences Campus because the building was declared seismically unsafe. Thus, obtaining a new research building for the School of Medicine must become a high priority for the entire university.
We have made great strides in sponsored programs in the humanities. This year we received $700,000 from the Mellon Foundation for the advancement of the humanities. The principal investigator on this grant is Professor Marshall Cohen. The grant was awarded in order to strengthen USC’s departments of linguistics, Slavic languages and literatures, and classics; it is intended to encourage sharing of resources among and between these departments. The grant will fund two assistant professorships in humanities and provide for six renewable graduate student fellowships. It is a very prestigious award given only to a very few select universities.
I want to say that all of us are, and should be, proud of our principal investigators. They represent academic excellence and integrity at its best. You may know that USC was the only major private university to survive the Dingell audits unscathed. As a consequence, Senior Vice President Dennis Dougherty was able to negotiate slightly higher overhead recovery rates for this university.
Ours is certainly one of the most productive and hard–working scholarly faculties in the country. Collectively, our faculty publish about 70 books each year, and this past year was no exception. Each year Phi Kappa Phi gives special recognition awards to faculty members for achievement in scholarly books, reprint collections, or other creative work. The winners this year were Dru Gladney in anthropology, Stephen Lansing in anthropology, Marcus Levitt in Slavic languages and literatures, and Michele Marra in East Asian languages and cultures.
Earlier I mentioned student recruitment under the “close call” section of this presentation. But now I want to repeat it in a different context, in the area of great successes. One reason for this success was the degree to which this faculty became involved this past year in the recruitment process. Hundreds of you wrote letters, made phone calls, gave tours, and answered questions of prospective students and their parents; as a consequence, we have recruited the strongest class in our history. SAT scores are up by 24 points, and about 45 percent of our freshmen now come from the top 10 percent of their high school class. We nearly doubled the number of National Merit Scholars — from 33 last year to 56 this year — and we have quadrupled the number of Trustee Scholars in this year’s class over last year’s.
Our goal for 1993 is 2,800 freshmen and 1,700 new transfers. We want to achieve an increase in SAT scores of at least 15 points, and we want to double once again the number of matriculating National Merit Scholars. To reach these goals we are going to have to work very hard throughout the coming year. I hope all of us will give Vice President Bob Biller and his colleagues every possible support and assistance.
We are beginning to make solid progress in the area of undergraduate retention, which may well be our single greatest challenge. Student registration numbers this fall are on target. The riots could have knocked those numbers into a tailspin, but that in fact did not occur. The return rate for undergraduates in the College is up about 7 percent over plan, while the overall return rate for graduate students is up very substantially.
Why are we beginning to turn the corner on retention? I think it is because we are increasingly focused on giving students what they most want — that is, access to great teachers inside and outside the classroom. Students want more faculty involvement in advising, and you are providing it. We are creating research–mentoring opportunities for undergraduates, and we are stressing minors in the professions, which are two of the great educational opportunities available only in a comprehensive research university like USC.
The Student Academic Record System — the STARS reports — is up and running. For the first time you as faculty advisors, and your professional staff colleagues and the students themselves, will all get a progress–toward–degree report every semester, starting in the student’s sophomore year. This report details for each student which courses she has taken to date, which courses apply to the requirements, which requirements have been fully satisfied, which requirements remain to be satisfied, and what options the student has to complete her degree in four years. I think STARS will make a big difference in our ability to advise students effectively, and it will make it easier for you, as faculty, to become more involved in the advising process.
The data indicate that we are doing a better job of student retention here at USC, but we still have a very long way to go to catch up with other major private universities in this country. We are now about in the mid–60s percentage range in terms of our five–year graduation rates. We hope to be in the mid–70s before the end of this decade, and we need to get to the mid–80s. All of us are going to have to work very hard at this. Bob Biller and his colleagues can provide leadership, but it will take the collective efforts of all of us as faculty to make a real difference.
I have a special concern with respect to undergraduate education that I would like to address very directly here — namely, the need to recruit and retain more minority faculty at USC. I believe greater numbers of minority faculty will enhance the overall quality of our undergraduate programs. We need more minority faculty, and especially more Latino–American and African–American faculty, to serve as role models for our minority students and for our majority students as well.
On another front, we have started construction on the new Leavey Library, which will open at the end of 1993 and which will provide much–needed space for undergraduate study and research.
Let me say just a word about doctoral and professional education. The number of new and continuing doctoral students on our two campuses has risen to more than 5,600. Our Merit Fellowship Program has caused a dramatic increase in the quality of our doctoral applicant pool. The rising quality of our graduate and professional students is contributing to our fine national and international reputation for academic excellence. Consider one example: the School of Pharmacy now accepts 164 students a year from more than 800 applicants. Today USC has the highest entry standards of any school of pharmacy in the nation.
Post–doctoral education is also an area of great strength for us. We have more than 300 post–docs, primarily in engineering, natural sciences and the basic medical sciences. I would like to make USC a place of first choice for post–doctoral students. We have a task force now looking into ways in which we can make the post–doctoral experience here especially attractive to the best new Ph.D.s, both in terms of their relationships with their research laboratories and in terms of the benefits, status and amenities which they enjoy in this university. These post–doctoral students are more like junior colleagues than students, and they deserve to be treated as such.
I’ve been talking for the past few minutes about undergraduate teaching, research, and graduate and professional education. The one thing that all of these endeavors have in common is the fact that they exist right here in the real world of our surrounding neighborhoods. USC’s outreach and community leadership was outstanding before the riots, and it has grown even stronger since then. Our neighborhoods present a great opportunity for research, for service, and also for exercising leadership in developing new approaches to complex problems.
Our long relationship with the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center is a primary example. This hospital is at the forefront of the care of the medically indigent in Los Angeles County. USC assists the county in carrying out its health care mission by providing all of the attending physicians and faculty at this hospital on a contractual basis. Unfortunately, there are not enough resources at the L.A. County Medical Center to do the job it is being asked to do — that is, to provide absolutely top–level care for all the people the hospital is expected to serve. This leads to de facto rationing of care based on the medical crisis of the month, as defined by the media or by various special–interest groups. It is a dangerous kind of shell game that diverts resources from many other underfunded departments in order to fix the one problem of the moment. Fixing that one problem makes everyone feel good, but in a couple of months, another crisis or deficiency pops up.
We, as citizens and as faculty members, must have the courage to stand up and say that it is time for L.A. County to develop a rational public–health policy by which priorities can be established and resources allocated accordingly. Such a policy must be developed under the authority of the elected representatives of the people — i.e., the county supervisors. It would be inappropriate for USC to try to develop such a policy on its own, but we can exercise leadership and present alternatives to the supervisors.
Another opportunity for leadership is faculty involvement in research that is aimed at solving the social problems of Los Angeles. This kind of research has intensified since the riots. More and more public policy makers are looking to our faculty for advice. Let me give you one example. A few weeks ago I was asked to serve on a six–person commission that was put together at the request of the L.A. school board and the L.A. teachers union in order to help avoid a teachers’ strike. The commission was chaired by John Van de Kamp, former attorney general of California. As soon as I attended the first meeting of the commission I knew I needed help, and I guessed that perhaps my colleagues needed help too. So I turned to Dean Gib Hentschke of our School of Education, who recommended that I talk with Professor Allan Odden. Professor Odden worked with the commission many long nights for some four weeks, all without compensation. Because of his generosity, expertise and insight, the report of the commission was materially strengthened.
We have recently developed five specific goals for enhancing the quality of life in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding our two campuses. I believe that if we begin to concentrate our energy on these five goals, we will make a noticeable difference in our surroundings, thereby making life better for all who live, work and study here.
First, the University must encourage ownership of property by our own employees in the neighborhoods surrounding the two campuses. To make sure that this goal includes our lower–paid employees, we may need to build additional housing, refurbish existing housing, or simply help people put together the down payment necessary to purchase housing.
Second, we need to give preference in hiring to people who have already lived near one of our two campuses for five years or more. In other words, we must hire more of our nearest neighbors.
Third, we need to focus more of our attention on the children who live in the immediate neighborhoods of the University. We need to build on programs like the Neighborhood Academic Initiative, the Joint Educational Project and Troy Camp, as well as on our close affiliation with our neighborhood magnet schools. We need to get the message out that children will be differentially advantaged if their parents choose to live close to USC.
Fourth, we need to encourage entrepreneurs to locate their businesses close to the two campuses. We would like to be surrounded by entrepreneurial businesses, particularly businesses owned by minorities. If an entrepreneur is willing to invest in one of our neighborhoods, we should be willing to use our expertise and resources to help her get started.
Five, we need to work with our neighbors and with the L.A. Police Department to devise a community–based approach to safer streets. If we are to flourish as a great university and to continue as the largest private–sector employer in Los Angeles, we and our neighbors must have safer streets. In this regard, Dennis Dougherty, our senior vice president for administration, has undertaken a major initiative to improve personal safety at USC.
This initiative will be helped by the publication of uniform campus crime statistics under recent federal mandates. USC is already safer than UCLA and Berkeley, but that is not enough. Not only our campus, but our surrounding areas as well, should be among the safest in the country. I hope all of you will give Mr. Dougherty your support with respect to this initiative.
Let me close with an observation. I came here for the same reason that most of you came here, which is also the same reason that most of our students come here. And what is that? Quite simply, the quality of our faculty. In a university it is faculty quality that attracts excellent students; it is faculty quality that attracts the best new faculty members; it is faculty quality that attracts grants and contracts and donors and provosts and presidents.
Please don’t misunderstand me. We could not operate USC without our dedicated staff colleagues, and we could not operate without trustees, alumni, donors, friends and volunteers. But in the end the single most important asset we have is the quality of our faculty.
Ours is an excellent faculty — in some departments among the best in the country. And it is getting better every year. I want you know how proud I am to be a member of the faculty of this university, and how very, very, proud I am to have the opportunity to serve you as your president.