National News

USC’s Academic Senate Calls On President to Resign Over Gynecologist Scandal

Posted May 24, 2018 9:23 a.m. EDT

A day after 200 faculty members at the University of Southern California demanded that the university president, C.L. Max Nikias, step down, the Academic Senate officially called on him to resign, saying that “new leadership is in the best interest of the university now and going forward.”

Earlier Wednesday, the executive committee of the board of trustees announced plans to hire an independent lawyer and conduct a full investigation “into the misconduct and reporting failures that occurred at the USC student health center.”

The vote and investigation, which is likely to take months, come a week after USC officials said they should have acted more quickly to dismiss and report Dr. George Tyndall, who was the primary gynecologist at the student health center for decades.

An internal investigation had found that Tyndall performed pelvic exams inappropriately and made comments that amounted to sexual harassment, but university officials allowed the doctor to resign quietly with a payout, rather than report him to the medical board.

The revelations have led to considerable outrage — The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board called for Nikias to step down and a petition started by a former student body president that also called for his resignation had gathered more than 3,000 signatures by Wednesday.

The nearly unanimous vote of elected faculty representatives came hours after a packed town hall meeting with hundreds of professors who voiced frustration with Nikias and called for a no-confidence vote. There were 24 votes in favor of the resolution and four abstentions, but no votes opposing it.

Paul Rosenbloom, a professor of computer science and the president of the Academic Senate, said Wednesday that the vote had already been discussed with Nikias and he expected “something substantive in response before long.”

It is unclear what impact the calls will have on Nikias, who is appointed by the board of trustees. The board’s investigation will be overseen by a special committee chaired by Rick Caruso, a developer in Los Angeles who is also part of the executive committee of the trustees. (The university has declined to disclose who else is on the executive committee.)

“We will hold people accountable for not taking appropriate action,” Caruso said in a telephone interview Wednesday. But he added that he agreed with the letter from the board chair this week expressing “full confidence” in Nikias.

Caruso called the internal 2016 investigation “an absolute failure” because it “did not point out all the information that is now coming out.” He declined to give specifics about what university investigators did not know at the time.

“I am not going to make a final decision about Max or anybody else,” he said. “The facts will take us to wherever they will take it. The process has to finish.”