The Widney Alumni House, the campus's first building
The University of Southern California was founded following the efforts of Judge Robert M. Widney, who helped secure donations from several key figures in early Los Angeles history: a Protestant nurseryman, Ozro Childs, an Irish Catholic former-Governor, John Gately Downey, and a German Jewish banker, Isaias W. Hellman. The three donated 308 lots of land to establish the campus and provided the necessary seed money for the construction of the first buildings. Originally operated in affiliation with the Methodist Church, the school mandated from the start that "no student would be denied admission because of race". The university is no longer affiliated with any church, having severed formal ties in 1952.
When USC opened in 1880, tuition was $15.00 per term and students were not allowed to leave town without the knowledge and consent of the university president. The school had an enrollment of 53 students and a faculty of 10. The city lacked paved streets, electric lights, telephones, and a reliable fire alarm system. Its first graduating class in 1884 was a class of three—two males and female valedictorian Minnie C. Miltimore.
The colors of USC are cardinal and gold, which were approved by USC's third president, the Reverend George W. White, in 1896. In 1958, the shade of gold, which was originally more of an orange color, was changed to a more yellow shade. The letterman's awards were the first to make the change.[d]
" is a major symbol of the university, though he is not the mascot.
USC students and athletes are known as Trojans, epitomized by the Trojan Shrine, nicknamed "Tommy Trojan", near the center of campus. Until 1912, USC students (especially athletes) were known as Fighting Methodists or Wesleyans, though neither name was approved by the university. During a fateful track and field meet with Stanford University, the USC team was beaten early and seemingly conclusively. After only the first few events, it seemed implausible USC would ever win; however, the team fought back, winning many of the later events, to lose only by a slight margin. After this contest, Los Angeles Times sportswriter Owen Bird reported the USC athletes "fought on like the Trojans of antiquity", and the president of the university at the time, George F. Bovard, approved the name officially.
During World War II, USC was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.
USC is responsible for $8 billion in economic output in Los Angeles County; USC students spend $563 million yearly in the local economy and visitors to the campus add another $37.9 million.
Recognizing that US-China Today and is widely known for its twelve part Assignment:China documentary series on how China has been covered by American journalists since the 1940s. In 2010, the U.S. government and the USA Pavilion organizers asked USCI to manage the recruitment, selection, training and supervision of the students selected to staff the pavilion at the Shanghai Expo.
On May 1, 2014, USC was named as one of many higher education institutions under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights for potential Title IX violations by Barack Obama's White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. USC is also under a concurrent Title IX investigation for potential anti-male bias in disciplinary proceedings, as well as denial of counseling resources to male students, as of 8 March 2016 .
In 2017, the university came into the national spotlight when the Los Angeles Times published information about Carmen A. Puliafito, the dean of USC's medical school. After accusations of drug use, he resigned from his position as dean in 2016 and was fired from the school the following year after the news stories were published. His medical license was subsequently suspended pending a decision whether it should be terminated. On August 17, 2018, his license G 88200 in the State of California was revoked based on discipline orders.
The following year, the Los Angeles Times broke another story about USC focusing on George Tyndall, a gynecologist accused of abusing 52 patients at USC. The reports span from 1990 to 2016 and include using racist and sexual language, conducting exams without gloves and taking pictures of his patients' genitals. Inside Higher Ed noted that there have been "other incidents in which the university is perceived to have failed to act on misconduct by powerful officials" when it reported that the university's president, C. L. Max Nikias, is resigning. Tyndall was fired in 2017 after reaching a settlement with the university. The school did not report him to state medical authorities or law enforcement at the time, though the LAPD is now investigating Tyndall. As of June 1, 401 people had contacted a special hotline to receive complaints about the doctor. On October 18, it was reported that nearly 100 women filed new lawsuits against the university, bringing the number of accusations up to over 500 current and former students. USC agreed to pay $215 million as a settlement after hundreds of women claimed the school did not address their complaints. The agreement is awaiting the approval of the court.
USC was one of several universities involved in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal. On March 12, 2019, a total of three coaches and one athletic director were charged with having accepted bribes from wealthy families in return for fraudulently facilitating their children's admission to USC. Among the twelve university personnel charged for their involvement in the scandal nationwide, four were associated with USC.