Chairman Rick Caruso apologizes for student media restrictions at presidential search forum

After student reporters were asked to not report from inside of USC’s first public presidential search forum, Board of Trustees Chairman Rick Caruso issued an apology in a campus-wide statement Monday. Caruso said the Daily Trojan and Annenberg Media are welcome to report on and attend future presidential search forums.

“Unfortunately, at Thursday’s campus-wide forum, student media reporters were mistakenly told by a University Communications staff person that they were not permitted to report from inside the session,” Caruso wrote. “That was not accurate, and some student media were reporting from inside the session.”

During the second presidential search forum on Monday, Caruso said, “The media from Annenberg and Daily Trojan were mistakenly precluded from coming to the listening session. I apologize for that, and we welcome for them to be part of this process and they are an important part of this process.”

On Thursday, both the Daily Trojan and Annenberg Media, a school-sponsored media platform, were asked by a USC spokesperson to report from outside of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee’s first public search forum.

The spokesperson told a Daily Trojan reporter that they could attend the forum, but could not take notes or quotes from inside the event. The Daily Trojan continued to report from inside the forum.

Following the event, the University stated that “contributors need to feel comfortable sharing their perspectives freely, which is much easier to do in a session that is not being recorded or reported on.”

In his statement on Monday, however, Caruso said that the restrictions had not been an administrative or Presidential Search Advisory Committee decision.

“I apologize for this and we remain committed to ensuring that these campus forums are open to all of our USC stakeholders, including the Daily Trojan and Annenberg Media,” he wrote.

Allen Pham, editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan, responded to Caruso’s statement.

“While Thursday’s incident was unfortunate, the Daily Trojan is happy with USC’s decision to allow student media to report at future forums,” Pham said. “We look forward to continue holding our University accountable and reporting at events that affect students and the community as a whole.”

Caruso’s public statement comes after the Daily Trojan’s editorial board and some USC community members criticized the University’s decision to ask student media not to report from inside the public event.

“The Daily Trojan exists as a watchdog for the University and by asking us to stop doing our jobs, or by barring us from being able to report on matters central to the well-being of the student body, the administration is asking for unimpeded liberty to act as it pleases behind closed doors,” the newspaper’s editorial board wrote about the incident last week. “Our voices matter, and we will not back down.”

The Daily Trojan will be attending and reporting on all future forums, including Monday’s session at Aresty Auditorium on the Health Sciences Campus.