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USC President Steps Down After A Series Of Scandals


The University of Southern California is looking for new leadership after a series of scandals. The latest involves a former campus gynecologist named Dr. George Tyndall. He's been accused of abusing several women. Then it was revealed that USC allowed Tyndall to quietly resign last year. And even though the university knew about the allegations against him, it did not report Tyndall to the state medical board. Then on Friday, USC announced that its president is stepping down. For more on this story, we are joined by Harriet Ryan. She's a reporter with The LA Times who's been following this. Hey, Harriet.

HARRIET RYAN: Good morning.

MARTIN: We should say these allegations are likely to disturb some of our listeners. But start off by just reminding us what Tyndall is accused of.

RYAN: Since the 1990s, there have been a series of complaints about Dr. Tyndall, and they involve - I'm sorry. They involve improper behavior in the exam room, both comments and improper touching. There were also accusations that he was inappropriately photographing patients' genitals.

MARTIN: So now there are questions about the way the university has handled this or not handled this case. What can you tell us?

RYAN: The university says that they're aware now of complaints stretching back at least to the year 2000 against Dr. Tyndall. The clinic's executive director is now deceased, but the university says that having reviewed his files on Dr. Tyndall and the way he handled Dr. Tyndall, they believe that the gynecologist should have been removed years before he actually was. They have said that they were simply unaware at the highest levels of the university of the scope of the problem, and that when they agreed to negotiate a settlement and his departure from the university, they didn't understand how many women had been affected and what the accusations were.

MARTIN: So now the university's President C.L. Max Nikias has been forced out, although I understand this wasn't the first time that his leadership has been called into question. Is that right?

RYAN: That's correct. Last summer, The LA Times reported that the former dean of the medical school had been using methamphetamine on campus near a time where he had treated patients, and that he'd also been associating with a group of young criminals and drug addicts and actually had been present in a room when a woman had overdosed. And the university said at that time, again, that they hadn't been aware of the full scope of allegations against the medical school team.

MARTIN: So now Nikias is out as a result of these scandals. It is hard not to hear about this particular story about the gynecologist and not think about Michigan State and Larry Nassar, the former gymnastics doctor who was convicted of so many cases of sexual abuse. When you talk with people at USC, is there a sense that there is a larger problem with the university's culture?

RYAN: Many critics of the leadership of the university say that they have in recent years prioritized raising money and rising in the national academic rankings over making moral choices and being transparent about the problems that the school has had.

MARTIN: Harriet Ryan of The LA Times, thank you so much for sharing your reporting on this. We appreciate it.

RYAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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