Former Dartmouth administrator named president of USC

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 3/21/19 8:45am


Carol Folt, pictured here in 2013, spent 30 years of her career at Dartmouth, including serving as provost and interim president. 

by Kassaundra Amann / The Dartmouth

Carol Folt, whose 30-year tenure at Dartmouth included serving as provost and interim president of the College, was named the next president of the University of Southern California on Wednesday. 

Her appointment comes one week after USC was affected by an admissions scheme involving efforts by wealthy parents to gain their children entrance to elite universities by falsifying entrance exam results and lying about students’ status as athletic recruits. Three USC athletic coaches — as well as the university’s senior associate athletic director — were charged by the Department of Justice in a case that encompasses over 50 people and at least seven other universities.

A statement from USC announced that it had placed holds on accounts of students it believed to be connected to the case, preventing them from registering for classes or acquiring transcripts while their cases are reviewed. The University also identified current applicants associated with the case and said that they would be rejected.

In 2012, when College President Jim Yong Kim left Dartmouth to become president of the World Bank, Folt, then the College provost, was named interim President — becoming the first woman to hold that title at Dartmouth. She was succeeded by Phil Hanlon ’77 in June of 2013.

Months before, Folt had cancelled classes at the College for a day following student protests against the College’s stance toward sexual assault, racism and homophobia on campus, a decision that sparked national media coverage. Folt was quoted in the New Hampshire Union Leader as saying that the campus was a “pressure cooker very close to exploding” as she explained her decision to a crowd gathered outside Dartmouth Hall. A poll conducted by The Dartmouth at the time found that 67 percent of students disagreed with Folt’s decision to cancel classes and that 57 percent thought the administration’s response to the protests was “somewhat ineffective” or “very ineffective.” 

At the College, Folt served in a variety of administrative roles, including associate dean of faculty for interdisciplinary programs and the associate director of Dartmouth's interdisciplinary Superfund Basic Research Program. An environmental scientist specializing in the effects of mercury and arsenic on aquatic life and human health, she joined the biological sciences department in 1983 and would later go on to serve as dean of graduate studies and dean of faculty before being appointed provost in 2010. 

Folt left Dartmouth in 2013 to become the first woman chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Earlier this year, Folt announced her resignation from that position following her decision to remove the controversial “Silent Sam” statue on campus out of safety concerns. Students, in protest of the statue’s memorialization of the Confederacy, had torn the statue off its base in August. The UNC Board of Governors accepted Folt’s resignation but told her to step down by Jan. 31, even though she had originally said she would step down in May. 

Folt will assume her position at USC on July 1, replacing interim president Wanda Austin. Austin assumed her position when former president C. L. Max Nikias stepped down from his role in August 2018 after students and alumni alleged the university failed to act on accusations of sexual misconduct against then-campus gynecologist George Tyndall.

Correction appended (March 21, 2019): This article has been updated to reflect that USC was affected by the admissions scheme and that the university itself is not a direct target of the prosecution.

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