Miller sent a letter to the 57 voting trustees, a who's who of wealthy and powerful alumni and boosters, arguing that removing Ellis violated the trustees' fiduciary duty to the institution because he had added so much value to the school.
"The question we therefore have is, what's going on at USC? Is Dean Ellis being caught up in some kind of internal political move?" Miller wrote in the Nov. 20 letter.
In yet another letter, a group of more than 100 business leaders that advises the Marshall School -- including trustee Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce who recently acquired Time magazine -- urged the full board of trustees "to immediately intercede and rescind the Interim President's misguided decision."
Austin said in an interview that she respected Ellis' service to the university, but "I wish Jim had taken a different tack" in fighting his dismissal.
In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, she added, "The commitment we made to our university community to improve our campus culture sometimes requires us to make difficult decisions.
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"We understand that there will be those who disagree, but that doesn't mean these aren't the right decisions to move the university forward," Austin wrote.
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