Some of the most recent news to come forward since the #MeToo movement has launched are sexual harassment and assault allegations against the University of Southern California's former gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall. It was announced June 11, 2018 that the US Department of Education will be conducting a full investigation, examining how the University handled “reports and complaints of sexual harassment during pelvic exams as early as 1990 that were not fully investigated by the University until spring 2016 and that the University did not disclose to OCR during an earlier investigation."
400 reports of Dr. Tyndall’s abuse were made as early as 1990 and were continually reported until his suspension in 2016. One report filed in 1990 was filed by a woman who was examined and photographed by Tyndall with a camera from behind his desk. Tyndall did not wait for the nurse to enter the room, who is supposed to act as a liason to the patient. After the exam, the woman told her boyfriend what had happened, and he encouraged her to file a report. She filed a report which was forwarded to the Dean of the Medical School, who reported back to her that they had conducted a further investigation, talked to nurses, and found the camera behind the desk with the pictures. Despite the findings, Tyndall continued to practice.
It was determined in 2016 that many of the 26 year allegations were true. However, this conclusion was met with a confidential deal between Tyndall and USC, in which he asked to resign with a full financial payout. Following the deal, no reports were made to The Medical Board of California or former patients. USC has admitted that the deal resulted from Tyndall’s former threats to sue.
Currently, the Los Angeles Police Department is examining 52 complaints against Tyndall, with allegations ranging from inappropriate comments to unnecessary touching during pelvic exams. Police have estimated that nearly 10,000 students were examined by Tyndall, suggesting that there may be even more victims.
Additionally, notable women’s rights attorney, Gloria Allred, is now representing 24 women in a civil lawsuit filed against both USC and Dr. Tyndall.
It was also announced by the USC Board of Trustees that the university president, C.L Max Nikias will be stepping down. While Nikias is credited for making vast improvements to the university during his time as president, the amounting pressure, such as the 200 tenured professors demanding Nikias step down, has caused the board of trustees to take action. In a letter sent to USC students and families, Provost Michael W. Quick stated:
“You may have heard that a gynecologist was removed from our health center in 2016 after reports of inappropriate behavior. We are supporting former patients and we have taken a number of steps to revamp the health center's operations. This week, it was announced that the president of the university will step down; the Board of Trustees has promised that it will be a seamless and orderly transition.”
In another letter addressed to USC students and families, Dr. Sarah Van Orman, Chief Health Officer, stated that “our commitment to you - our students - is outstanding, professional health care, and I will not tolerate anything less in student university health centers.” Additionally, Dr. Van Orman also shared that all faculty within the Departments of Family Medicine and Psychiatry will now undergo a demanding credentialing and peer-review process. A new executive director of student health has been hired, and is adding 10 additional mental health counselors for next year.
While USC administration has made hopeful promises for change in the next year, USC students have already taken action and started grassroots movements. On June 9th, students hosted Justice for Trojans: March to Hold USC Accountable for Sex Abuse. The march was sponsored by Project Consent, where PC team member Hailey Robertson spoke at, along with USC's Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention organization and Peace Over Violence, and Gloria Allred. The protesters demanded for USC to conduct an investigation into the USC Health Center and it’s administration, dismiss all parties complicit in Tyndall’s abuse, provide information as to what constitutes a an appropriate gynecological exam, and to review existing protocols for responding to sexual harassment and assault on campus to ensure that victims are supported perpetrators held accountable, and that our community be made aware of misconduct in an appropriate and timely manner.
As a recent high school graduate and incoming student at USC in the fall, I am deeply concerned about the allegations against Dr. Tyndall and the lack of responsibility the university has taken in handling his 26 years of alleged abuse. While I proudly choose USC as my future academic home, it is disappointing to come to terms with these incidences. I have some hope that new administration, as well as promises made by the Board of Trustees and the Department of Student Health, will be a force for future change and transparency on campus. However, I am most hopeful and excited by the present change made by current students on campus. I look forward to joining their efforts, as I believe their actions have best defined what it really means to be a USC Trojan.