USC president to resign in wake of lawsuits

University of Southern California President C. L. Max Nikias has agreed to step down following a scandal involving a former campus gynecologist accused of sexual misconduct and using racist language during exams.

In a tweet Friday, USC said the school and Nikias “have agreed to begin an orderly transition and commence the process of selecting a new president.”

The announcement comes after thousands of students and alumni signed an online petition demanding his resignation, alleging that USC failed to act after complaints of misconduct involving Dr. George Tyndall, a gynecologist who worked at a university clinic for decades.

A USC faculty organization had asked Nikias, who has been president since August 2010, to resign. The group passed its resolution Wednesday night, voting 24-0 with four abstentions, said Paul Rosenbloom, a computer science professor who is president of the USC academic senate.

Tyndall was fired last year for inappropriate behavior, according to USC. University officials said the school reached a settlement with the doctor and did not report him to law enforcement or state medical authorities at the time.

Seven women have filed lawsuits alleging Tyndall, a former gynecologist at USC’s student health center for nearly 30 years, used racist and inappropriately sexual language during consultations and conducted pelvic examinations with his fingers without gloves. The lawsuits are against Tyndall and the USC.

CNN has been unable to reach Tyndall for comment, but he told the Los Angeles Times that the use of his fingers during the examinations had “a legitimate medical purpose.” He also said some of his comments to patients were misinterpreted.

‘This is just the beginning’

The physician does not face any criminal charges, but a seventh alleged victim sued this week. Daniella Mohazab is seeking damages for sexual battery, negligent hiring and retention, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, among others.

“This is just the beginning,” said Gloria Allred, who is representing Mohazab. She and her client spoke to reporters Tuesday at her office in Los Angeles.

“I’m still in shock that USC had heard about Dr. Tyndall’s inappropriate conduct and had allowed him to continue practicing,” Mohazab said.

Series of scandals

USC, a private university with 45,500 students, has been embroiled in a series of scandals in recent years. Last year, an assistant basketball coach at the university was among 10 people the FBI arrested in connection with an alleged widespread college basketball scheme. The FBI said the crimes were part of a “pay-to-play” culture. USC later fired the coach.

More than 4,000 students and alumni have signed an online petition calling for Nikias’ resignation. Two hundred professors also signed a letter demanding he step down over the way allegations of abuse by Tyndall were handled.

The school has set up a resource page for concerned students and instructions to share information about Tyndall.

“We pledge to handle your outreach with compassion and sensitivity,” it says.