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Sex Abuse Scandal at USC Reveals Crisis of Leadership

Over the course of the last 30 years, Dr. George Tyndall—the USC campus gynecologist—had allegedly been sexually abusing students and patients on a regular basis. Once the doctor's behavior came to light, the university set up a hotline where former patients could report their experiences. Over 300 people have called, and at least 11 lawsuits have been filed against the university.

This scandal arrives nearly a year after it came to light that USC's former dean of medicine, Dr. Carmen Puliafito, had been using drugs on campus and partying with 21-year-olds—one of whom overdosed in a hotel room he was sharing with her. The young woman survived, but the dean's career did not.

University administrators reportedly knew about Dr. Tyndall's and Dr. Puliafito's behavior but did nothing to stop them or bring the behavior to light. Instead, Dr. Puliafito and Dr. Tyndall were allowed to quietly resign—Tyndall was not reported to California's medical board, which presumably would have allowed him to continue practicing.

President Resigns, Recognizing Failure of USC Leadership

USC President Max Nikias resigned late Friday last week after a week that saw 200 professors sign a letter calling on him to step down. The university board originally stood behind the president, but it changed its tune by Friday. "We have heard the message that something is broken and that urgent and profound actions are needed," the board said.

The faculty's letter had stronger words for the college president:

"He has lost the moral authority to lead the university, and in addition, to lead the investigation of institutional failures that allowed this misconduct to persist over several decades."

Women are coming forward not only to say their stories but to hold the university accountable for its failure to hold its own staff to a standard of basic decency. USC should have held student well-being far above protecting its own staff and its own reputation. The rot at the core of their choices for the last few decades will be at the center of civil lawsuits filed against the administration. One attorney representing women in the case against USC said, "If USC is a family, these are our daughters." If USC had done the right thing, they would have protected their family from predators—not housed them and enabled them to continue a decades-long pattern of abuse.

If you were sexually abused by a campus official, speak with the sex abuse lawyers at Arnold & Itkin. We fight for our clients to get the resources they need to get treatment and move forward with closure and peace.