President’s Culture Commission implements three-phase plan

A three-phase plan released by the President’s Culture Commission will culminate in a campus-wide survey that will asses students, faculty and staff values. (Michelle Mankoff/Daily Trojan)

The President’s Culture Commission released an update on its ongoing mission to improve campus culture that detailed a new plan to engage with the USC community. The statement,  was released earlier this week by the 13 student and faculty representatives on the Commission.

The Commission was formed in November 2018 with the goal of improving campus culture by addressing University issues. Renee Smith-Maddox, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the Task Force on Workplace Standards and Employee Wellness was a precursor to the formation of the Commission.

“The Commission, which was launched by [Interim] President [Wanda] Austin, was designed to build off of the work that the [Task Force] had done,” said Smith-Maddox, who is also a Commission member. “[Its goals are] to really start to think about how we focus on changing our culture … in a way that people know that we are turning things around.”  

The Commission is using a model from the Barrett Values Centre, an organization that helps leaders build value-driven societies, to implement a campus-wide survey to assess the University’s values.

“We [will] have different experts come our way and talk to us about organizational change and culture change,” Smith-Maddox said.

According to the statement, the Working Group on University Culture comprises a “body of 23 individuals who represent a broad cross-section of the University.” As of now, the Working Group collaborating with the Commission to listen to the community’s ideas for change.

The Commission’s work will occur in three phases, the statement read.

For the first phase, which will run through May, the Working Group on University Culture will partner with Barrett to engage the USC community. Draft versions of the campus-wide survey will be administered to test groups.

In the second phase, which is projected to take place from May to August, the Commission will refine the survey based on its findings in preparation for a University-wide rollout.

In the third phase, which will run from September to December, the entire University community will be invited to participate in the survey. The results will help the Commission define a set of values which will guide the University’s future actions and policies. In-person discussions and online collaborations will supplement the data from the survey, according to the statement.

“The goals of the President’s Culture Commission are essential for the University moving forward,” Undergraduate Student Government President Debbie Lee, who serves as a student representative on the Commission, wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan. “USC is in need of a shift in culture, and I hope this group will be able to formulate tangible, thoughtful next steps. I’m excited to use the values assessment tool as a first step, and I look forward to laying down the foundations for a university culture we all hope to see.”