An Open Letter to Mr. Stanley Gold, USC Board of Trustees

Dear Mr. Gold:

The LA Times attributed this statement to you:

That prompted a trustee, Stanley Gold, who managed the late Roy Disney’s investment holdings, to issue his own letter Tuesday afternoon, deriding the professors as “know-nothing vigilantes.”

from the LA Times

You said that in a letter? When you had time to edit and rethink? Any chance they misquoted you? Because I truly hope it was a misquote. Out of context, maybe?

We who formed the concerned faculty group know this university intimately. We are here, teaching, day in and day out. Whose writing, publishing, and teaching got us those coveted higher rankings? I don’t think it was yours, and as effective as our administrators have been at boosting our signal, we, the faculty and our students, delivered the goods.

Speaking about us as though we are mere uppity employees diminishes both us and the institution.

Do we know Board politics? No. But we shouldn’t. Your comments and the behavior reported in the Times about a small number of men on the Board of Trustees reflect self-involved, rich men’s egos rather than the leadership we need. We need people on our board who understand two things:

  • the point of the university is not to annoint elites but to advance the human endeavor for enlightenment; and
  • a truly great university faculty is marked not by its deference to CEO-style leaders like Nikias, but by its intellectual and moral fearlessness in pursuing what is true and what is good.

Perhaps I am a fool in the world of the 21st century to believe these things, but I do.

This university has real problems. In addition to the decades-long powderkeg of sexual misconduct, our students, staff, and faculty suffer from crushing housing costs in Los Angeles. Some are homeless. Our contract employees have few benefits and little connection to our community. Just about every year, a student on campus takes their own life.

When you look at these problems, whether Jim Ellis’ feelings got hurt on his way to collect three more years of his lavish salary falls, deservedly, into the “cry me a river” problem category. I am sorry if he feels he was badly treated. That’s unfortunate, but worthy of two months’ squabbling, let alone airing the Board’s dirty laundry to the Times, it is not.

Less important than our real problems, certainly, is the fact that I want you to know that far from being a wild-eyed mob looking to exact vengeance Nikias or any other men, the concerned faculty agonized over how to approach the BoT about our concerns. The day I signed the original letter was one of the worst days of my professional life, and it wasn’t because I was worried about my job.

Mr. Gold, signing that letter broke my heart. It broke my heart.

But it was the right thing to do. I am sorry you do not see that.