USC outraged by inaction on sexual misconduct allegations

University of Southern California (Reuters/Mike Blake)

University of Southern California (Reuters/Mike Blake)

On Tuesday, 200 University of Southern California (USC) professors signed a letter calling for the American university’s president Max Nikias to resign after he failed to take action against a school gynecologist who had sexual assault allegations levelled against him for decades.

The letter comes after an investigation revealed that Dr George Tyndall resigned from USC without any consequences for his wrongdoing.

On May 16, the Los Angeles Times revealed that the university’s full-time gynecologist committed acts of sexual misconduct. According to the Times, since the 1990s, Tyndall has been accused of lewd behaviour, including inappropriately touching women during exams, taking photos of students’ genitals and making inappropriate comments about women’s bodies.

In 2016, a nurse went to a rape centre on campus to report Tyndall’s behaviour. After an investigation, Tyndall was able to resign without any consequences. According to the Times, his patients were not informed of his malpractice and he wasn’t reported to the Medical Board of California. Additionally, he received monetary compensation after resigning.

Before the faculty letter was sent, Nikias issued a letter to students and staff on May 22, condemning Tyndall’s behaviour.

“The recent matter has been profoundly troubling for our community, and has disturbed us all very deeply,” he wrote.

Although Nikias knew about about the allegations, he didn’t reflect this fact in his letter — profusely apologising for the doctor’s behaviour and outlining action regarding future allegations against sexual misconduct.

The board of trustees commended Nikias for his action plan, writing “the board has full confidence in President Nikias’ leadership, ethics, and values and is certain that he will successfully guide our community forward”.

After Nikias wrote his letter and the board issued their response, the faculty wrote a letter to the board, expressing their grievances against the president, who knew about the allegations against Tyndall for years.

The letter states: “We, the undersigned faculty, write to express our outrage and disappointment over the mounting evidence of President Nikias’ failure to protect our students, our staff, and our colleagues from repeated and pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct.”

The letter went on to say “USC kept a physician in a position of power and trust who abused that power and trust to sexually assault and degrade women students.The university’s conduct is as much at issue in this case as the physician’s.”

It also called for Nikias to step down to “restore moral leadership to the university”.

The letter includes signatures from 1 200 faculty members from 14 different schools within the university, according to the Los Angeles Times

Arielle Schwartz

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