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USC President Carol Folt has her contract extended, despite a tumultuous spring

USC President Carol Folt has her contract extended, despite a tumultuous spring

LOS ANGELES — After months of on-campus turmoil stemming from nationwide protests over the Israel-Hamas war and criticisms over her handling of commencement ceremonies, USC President Carol Folt will remain the university’s figurehead for the near future.

A spokesperson for the university told the Southern California News Group that Folt’s contract has been “amended and extended,” and the university’s Board of Trustees was “looking forward to her continued service.” The spokesperson declined to pinpoint the specific length of Folt’s extension.

Folt has served as USC’s president since 2019, when she was hired in the midst of the university’s involvement in the nationwide “Varsity Blues” collegiate admissions scandal. Her contract was set to expire at the end of June, and student newspaper Annenberg Media reported Monday that Folt was remaining as president even after her contract had ended.

Her contract had already been ratified, however, the spokesperson said, before her original five-year deal had terminated. The spokesperson also confirmed with the SCNG that no other candidates, or external names, were interviewed by USC to replace Folt.

Under Folt’s tenure, USC has steadily grown admissions — with a record 82,000 students applying to become first-years in 2024 — and opened the university’s first new school in over a decade, the School of Advanced Computing. But her five years at USC have become a mixed bag, as Folt successfully navigated the university through the wake of Varsity Blues and the COVID-19 pandemic, but has seen the last couple years of her tenure marred by scandal and campus unrest.

A few short months after her arrival in 2019, Folt orchestrated the hire of Mike Bohn as USC’s newest athletic director, coming from Cincinnati as just the second AD in the school’s history without a previous USC connection. The pair guided USC’s athletic department into a conference change that sent shockwaves throughout collegiate sports, announcing in 2022 that USC — along with UCLA — would leave the Pac-12 and join the Big Ten, a move that promised greater national exposure and television revenue. A year later, however, Bohn abruptly resigned amid a Los Angeles Times investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct and mismanagement of the department, a scandal Folt has still never publicly addressed even with the August hire of widely-praised Jennifer Cohen from Washington.

In April, too, Folt’s handling of growing tensions made national news after USC didn’t allow its valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, to deliver a commencement speech after reports surfaced showing criticism of Zionism on her social media. Pro-Palestinian protests, and pro-Israel counterprotests, quickly spawned across USC’s campus, leading to a massive LAPD presence and 93 protestors being arrested on April 24. As universities across the country altered their graduation celebrations in the wake of widespread protest, USC moved its commencement ceremony from its traditional setting at Alumni Park to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which earned Folt praise by some and widespread criticism from others.

Now, Folt’s extension ensures she’ll continue to lead USC’s students into the fall after a tumultuous spring.