University of Southern California torn by
scandal surrounding gynecologist
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[May 23, 2018]
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two-hundred faculty
members of the University of Southern California on Tuesday called for
the USC's top official to resign over the school's handling of
complaints that a campus health clinic gynecologist sexually abused his
patients during pelvic exams.
The demand for USC President C.L. Max Nikias to step down came in an
open letter from professors to the school's Board of Trustees as USC
faced a mounting tide of litigation accusing Dr. George Tyndall of
misconduct and the university of complicity and negligence.
Tyndall resigned from the university last year after an internal inquiry
found his pelvic examination practices were beyond accepted medical
standards and that he had harassed patients.
More than 2,200 students, alumni and others at USC, one of the most
prestigious private U.S. institutions of higher education, signed a
separate online petition calling for Nikias' ouster as the campus reeled
from its third major personnel scandal since last year.
The university has acknowledged failing to properly act on at least
eight complaints made against Tyndall between 2000 and 2014. Several
former patients have filed civil lawsuits in the past two days, and one
new accusation lodged in a sworn declaration released on Tuesday dates
back to 1991.
A hotline and special website that USC set up recently have received
about 200 more reports from concerned patients, the university said.
The Chinese government last week voiced "deep concern" over reports that
many of Tyndall's alleged victims were foreign students from China.
Tyndall, 71, could not be reached by Reuters for comment. However, in
interviews with the Los Angeles Times he has denied wrongdoing and
defended the efficacy of his medical exams.
NO ACTIVE CRIMINAL PROBE
The university recently brought the situation to the attention of the
Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, which referred the matter
on May 9 to the Los Angeles Police Department "to investigate potential
criminal misconduct," a spokesman for the D.A. said in an email.
An LAPD spokesman, Tony Im, said on Tuesday police "have no active
criminal investigation on this matter."
Responding to the faculty letter, USC Board of Trustees Chairman John
Mork said in a statement that the board's executive committee had "full
confidence" in Nikias.
Mork called the reports surrounding Tyndall "distressing."
Nikias acknowledged the "faculty's anger and frustration" in a statement
on Tuesday, and said he was "committed to working with them" to
implement a new action plan to address the crisis and to "change the
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The University of Southern California is pictured in Los Angeles,
California, U.S., May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Nikias came under fire last year over accusations of chronic drug abuse
by a former USC medical school dean and allegations of sexual harassment
by another medical school dean.
Those scandals were cited in both the faculty letter and the online
petition as evidence of Nikias' failures as president.
"He has lost the moral authority to lead the university," the letter
said. "The university administration's actions have been wrong at
The letter pointed to the fact, acknowledged by USC, that the
university allowed Tyndall to quietly resign last year, following
the inquiry, without reporting him to the state medical board.
The university said it initially declined to report Tyndall to the
medical board because he stated his intention then to retire, but
USC did report him after he sought reinstatement in March.
"In hindsight, we should have made this report eight months earlier
when he separated from the university," Nikias said in a letter to
the campus last week.
"It is true that our system failed, but it is important that you
know that this claim of a cover-up is patently false," USC Provost
Michael Quick said in a message posted on Monday.
Several accusers who alleged Tyndall molested them under the guise
of medical treatment recounted a sense of something being wrong at
the time but not fully comprehending the encounters as sexual abuse
until reading about other allegations in the Los Angeles Times
earlier this month.
One USC graduate identified only as Jane Doe alleged in a sworn
declaration released by her attorney on Tuesday that Tyndall had
taken pictures of her genitals with a camera during a pap smear
appointment, then tried to deny it, in 1991.
Eight complaints reported in the early 2000s to a former health
center director, who has since died, were never brought to light
until they were uncovered during the course of an investigation the
university opened in 2016.
That probe was launched, and Tyndall was suspended, after a staff
member at the student health center came forward with reports that
he had made sexually inappropriate comments to patients.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by
Dana Feldman in Los Angeles; Editing by Neil Fullick)
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