“As you may have heard, today Dr. Rohit Varma resigned as dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC,” the school’s provost, Michael Quick, wrote in a message to the community.
“I understand how upsetting this situation is to all of us, but we felt it was in the best interest of the faculty, staff, and students for all of us to move in this direction. Today we learned previously undisclosed information that caused us to lose confidence in Dr. Varma’s ability to lead the school. Our leaders must be held to the highest standards. Dr. Varma understands this, and chose to step down.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that Varma faced allegations of sexual harassment years ago for his treatment of a young researcher.
The Times reported:
The woman accused Varma of making unwanted sexual advances during a trip to a conference and then retaliating against her for reporting him, according to the records and interviews. USC paid her more than $100,000 and temporarily blocked Varma from becoming a full member of the faculty, according to the records and interviews.
“The behavior you exhibited is inappropriate and unacceptable in the workplace, reflects poor judgment, is contrary to the University’s standards of conduct, and will not be tolerated at the University of Southern California,” a USC official wrote in a 2003 letter of reprimand.”
Varma took over as dean at an extremely difficult time for the medical school. The school’s former leader faced shocking allegations: In the summer, the Los Angeles Times described videos and photos from 2015 and 2016 showing 66-year-old Carmen Puliafito using drugs with a prostitute and much younger friends:
In one video, a tuxedo-clad Puliafito displays an orange pill on his tongue and says into the camera, “Thought I’d take an ecstasy before the ball.” Then he swallows the pill.In another, Puliafito uses a butane torch to heat a large glass pipe outfitted for methamphetamine use. He inhales and then unleashes a thick plume of white smoke. Seated next to him on a sofa, a young woman smokes heroin from a piece of heated foil.
The paper reported that some faculty members and other school officials contacted the Times, concerned that the private university in Los Angeles with 44,000 students had chosen Varma to lead the medical school at such a fraught time.
Varma could not immediately be reached for comment.
Frederick J. Ryan Jr., the publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post, was elected to the USC Board of Trustees in February.