Donations to USC medical school fall 55% after dean, faculty scandals

Los Angeles-based USC Keck School of Medicine saw a 55 percent drop in donations during the second half of 2017 — a time period that was roiled with scandals, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Between July 2017 and December 2017, donations to the university were down 22 percent, or nearly $100 million, in comparison to the year prior. However, the fundraising decline was particularly severe at its medical school, which dropped 55 percent, or $45 million.

The drop in donations coincides with several scandals that surfaced at the Keck School of Medicine, including allegations that former Keck dean Carmen Puliafito, MD, used methamphetamine and other drugs while running the medical school and treating patients; and that USC President C.L. Max Nikias kept Dr. Puliafito in the post despite years of complaints.

Following the allegations, Dr. Puliafito was replaced. However, in fall of 2017, the Keck School of Medicine's replacement dean departed after the university settled a sexual harassment claim against him. During the same time period, a top university fundraiser for its health sciences department left amid harassment allegations.

USC administrators attributed the slump to normal fluctuation in donations. "To suggest that USC or the Keck School of Medicine is struggling to raise funds is fundamentally mistaken," said Albert Checcio, the USC senior vice president for university advancement, according to the LA Times. "The timing of gifts fluctuates throughout the year, and any single point in time is not an accurate projection of where the university will net out, especially in a multi-year campaign."

While administrators are denying the slump is related to the scandals, two anonymous USC employees, who regularly work with donors, said otherwise. The two employees told the LA Times many donors said they were "put off" by the back-to-back scandals and "pretty upset" by the way university leaders responded.

The drop in donations comes as USC takes on the accumulating costs from the medical school scandals, including hiring a top prosecutor to lead an investigation and a crisis communications consultant.

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