Just when you thought the college admissions cheating scandal couldn’t get any dumber, TMZ revealed that Olivia Jade Giannulli, the “influencer” daughter of actress Lori Loughlin, was on the yacht of Rick Caruso, the Chairman of USC’s Board of Trustees, as the Department of Justice initiated its RICO crackdown and issued 50 indictments, including of Loughlin, as well as Olivia’s father, Mossimo Giannulli.
The teenage pseudo-celebrity, who made her name hawking cheap sponsored content on a tacky Instagram account, spent spring break in the Bahamas on the yacht of a board chairman of the school her parents are alleged to have bribed her way into. You could hardly make it up as it is. But it’s even worse if you understand who Caruso is, and why his past year of performance exemplifies the core corruption corroding my alma mater from the top down.
Olivia was on the yacht at the invitation of Caruso’s daughter Gianna, a fellow “influencer” who goes by Gigi. She and Olivia are friends at USC. That raises one obvious question of why Olivia didn’t just use her clout with the Carusos or any number of other famous families on the board, to whom her parents surely had connections.
But the true scandal isn’t that rich girls attend USC to find rich boyfriends and occasionally go to class. It’s that Caruso became chairman specifically to clean house after after the George Tyndall scandal forced university president Max Nikias to resign. Caruso replaced John Mork, a close personal friend of Nikias.
Caruso, a billionaire real estate magnate and USC alum, promised to bring a new era of increased transparency and accountability. Multiple prominent figures in the USC community privately expressed relief to me over Mork’s ouster and the ascent of Caruso, viewed by many as Los Angeles royalty. Before Nikias resigned, Caruso issued an extremely tame “if the allegations are true”-style statement. But of the board’s 53 members, Caruso was only one of three to publicly address the mass molestation of the university’s students at the hands of the campus gynecologist.
Unfortunately, Caruso has proven himself anything but bold in his nine months as chairman. Indeed, his every decision seems to follow the path of least resistance. He failed to fire vice president of student affairs Ainsley Carry, who had brokered the hush money payout to Tyndall and refused to report him to the Medical Board or law enforcement. Caruso has also allowed the university’s incompetent interim president, Wanda Austin, to start a civil war in the Marshall School of Business by scalping its popular and successful dean in the name of diversity. When the school’s faculty, students, and top donors revolted over Dean James Ellis’ ouster, Caruso was among those helping to tamp down the outrage and silence the dean’s defenders.
It’s possible that Caruso had no idea Olivia’s parent’s bribed her way into USC, as is alleged. But considering the tight-knit nature of USC’s athletics program, do you really suppose Athletic Director Lynn Swann had no idea that multiple students were showing up on athletic rosters and then failing to show up for practice? And if Swann became aware of the conspiracy to get wealthy students admitted by giving them bogus slots on teams, isn’t it probable that he’d bring it up with the chairman of the board?
Then again, would Caruso really want someone directly linked to a federal crime on his yacht?
Then again, again, just three years ago, white Brentwood School students were caught on camera aboard Caruso’s boat singing the word, n—-r. What’s a little entertainment for a possible RICO crook?
After the RICO crackdown, Caruso played the victim, literally blaming the four employees indicted for “victim[izing] USC.”
Well, Olivia’s off the yacht now, and her relationship with the Carusos is likely over. Not that it matters much anymore. The school says it will be the interim president, not Caruso, who makes the final call on Olivia’s fate.