Ex-USC dean indicted in alleged scheme to get kickbacks for social work school

Higher Ed Dive

Natalie Schwartz
October 14, 2021
Dive Brief: 
  • A former dean at the University of Southern California and a Los Angeles politician have been indicted after a federal corruption investigation unearthed allegations they worked together to illegally steer public money into the institution’s school of social work.
  • Marilyn Louise Flynn, who previously served as dean of the university’s social work school, has been accused of bribing Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas by helping secure a full-tuition scholarship and paid professorship at the university for his relative, reportedly his son.
  • Ridley-Thomas, a Democrat, was on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors when the alleged scheme took place. He steered county contracts worth millions of dollars to the university’s school of social work and funneled campaign money through the institution to a nonprofit run by his son, prosecutors allege.
Dive Insight: 
The investigation is the latest scandal that has marred USC’s reputation in recent years. These episodes have cast doubt over the fairness of admissions practices at the university and other top-ranked schools.
The school is still facing the blowback from its involvement in the Varsity Blues scheme, in which wealthy parents were charged over allegations they bribed school officials and had fake athletic profiles created for their children to secure spots at USC and other elite colleges. Though the scandal grabbed national headlines, observers at the time argued that admissions at selective schools have always given wealthy applicants a leg up.