OPINION: New VP of ethics, compliance is a promising hire

Shutianyi Li/Daily Trojan

Last month, USC appointed Stacy Giwa as the vice president of ethics and compliance. This appointment came in the midst of a University-wide effort to prioritize ethical practices following several scandals that rocked the University last year — most notably, the sexual abuse allegations made against former campus gynecologist George Tyndall.

As the leader of USC’s Office of Ethics and Compliance, Giwa is responsible for ensuring that the University complies with legal and ethical requirements and, more importantly, fosters a culture centered on the school’s core values. After months of discussion about revisiting the University’s core values, Giwa’s appointment marks a crucial step in turning those ideas into action.

Giwa’s track record shows promise for successfully accomplishing these goals. In the human resources department at Southern California Edison, she spearheaded outreach initiatives to gather employee feedback on company leadership. Her work was crucial to starting two-way communication between company leaders and employees within a large institution, a practice USC needs to adopt in order to rebuild its reputation as an ethical establishment.

Following news of the Tyndall investigation, many students developed a profound distrust of the administration, understandably so. While USC’s sweeping promise to “review its core values and recommit itself to them” is well-intentioned, students will need to see concrete actions and tangible results to bridge the gap in credibility. More importantly, they will need to see University officials take preventative steps to ensure that misconduct does not occur in the first place.

Much of this preventative action takes the form of ensuring the administration complies with the University’s ethical guidelines, which is one of Giwa’s responsibilities. According to Interim President Wanda Austin, Giwa’s roles include “leading the strategic development and execution of an integrated ethics and compliance program.” Given that last year’s scandals took place even though ethical guidelines were already well established, Giwa’s new program must go beyond outlining a set of rules for others to follow.

To succeed, new efforts must hold University officials accountable for understanding and following these standards, all while communicating with the rest of the University every step of the way. Given her history of engagement across all levels of an institution and incorporating their needs into her programs, Giwa has the expertise needed to create a more inclusive action plan that suits the needs of students and administration alike. Furthermore, she plans to create training programs that not only teach ethical decision-making, but also encourage individuals to report misconduct. This is especially crucial considering that fear of speaking out is a major reason why sexual abuse crimes, including the Tyndall case, remain buried for decades.

In addition to practicing transparency, Giwa and the rest of the Office of Ethics and Compliance must engage with students directly, opening the channel for two-way communication surrounding these crucial issues. In light of all the scandals that have surfaced, many of which impacted students in deeply personal ways, University ethics is now a significant student concern, not just a set of policies buried at the institutional level — and Giwa seems to agree.

“Culture doesn’t live in an office,” she told USC News. “Values and culture are something we are all responsible for.”

She also emphasized the importance of opening up the discussion surrounding USC’s ethical practices to everyone involved, including students.

As USC continues its journey toward regaining student trust, it must move away from sweeping promises and toward concrete actions. Appointing Giwa to oversee the Office of Ethics and Compliance holds promise in beginning this process and ensuring that students are a central part of it.