Six former University of Southern California students filed lawsuits Monday alleging the Los Angeles school failed to address numerous complaints from clinic staff about a longstanding gynecologist’s inappropriate behavior.
The wave of lawsuits comes after the school continues to contend with the scandal, which legal experts say could be costly to the university.
Last Tuesday, USC President Max Nikias wrote a letter to parents indicating Dr. George Tyndall, who worked at the university for 30 years as a gynecologist, was repeatedly accused of “sexually inappropriate” and “racially discriminatory” comments to young women during treatments.
An investigation into the 71-year-old allegedly found evidence supporting the “deeply troubling” allegations against the physician, continued the letter.
Tyndall was suspended by the school in June 2016 when a supervising nurse reported him to the campus rape crisis center after becoming frustrated that clinic administrators were not taking complaints against him seriously. He was later fired in June 2017.
Now, the alleged victims are claiming officials didn’t do enough to protect students after years of complaints, leading to continued sexual victimization under the pretext of medical care.
One woman who filed a lawsuit alleges Tyndall forced his ungloved hand into her vagina during an appointment in 2003 while making “vulgar” remarks about her genitalia, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Another plaintiff, 30-year-old Viva Symanski, alleges Tyndall touched her inappropriately and asked repeatedly about her sex life during a January 2014 appointment.
Lawsuits Claim USC Covered Up Allegations to Protect Reputation
One of the lawsuits, filed by four of the six former students, alleges the school received numerous complaints of Tyndall’s “sexually abusive behavior, dating back to at least the year 2000, actively and deliberately concealed Tyndall’s sexual abuse and continued to allow Tyndall to have unfettered sexual access to the young female USC students in his care; all done to protect USC’s reputation and its financial coffers.”
According to the complaint, Tyndall used his position of power to sexually abuse his victims by forcing them to strip naked, groping their breasts and “digitally penetrating their vaginas under the guise of medical treatment, for no other purpose than to satisfy his own prurient desires,” reports ABC 7.
All four women said there was a chaperone in the examination room when the alleged assaults occurred.
John Manly, an Orange County lawyer who is representing the four former patients and also helped secure a $500 million settlement between Michigan State and former patients of Dr. Larry Nassar, says it is clear that the school ignored complaints.
“It doesn’t matter how many people get hurt. It is all about protecting USC’s reputation,” he said. “The president and the board at USC have created a culture and attitude of dehumanizing people and devaluing decency.”
All of the lawsuits filed against the school say many women did not recognize that what they had experienced was abuse until The Times revealed allegations in an investigative report on May 16.
USC Faculty Members Sign Petition Calling for President’s Removal
The school’s handling of the reported sexual misconduct is also being criticized by faculty members, prompting more than 1,500 signatures of a petition calling for Nikias’ firing.
The petition lists several failures allegedly committed by school officials, including failure to inform patients after an internal investigation found Tyndall’s behavior during pelvic exams amounted to sexual harassment and failure to report Tyndall’s misconduct to the California Medical Board until March 9, despite the fact that the university received complaints about his behavior dating back to the 90s.
The school acknowledged administrators had reports about misconduct by Tyndall dating back to at least the early 2000s and admitted that not reporting Tyndall to the medical board was a mistake.
USC Provost Michael Quick issued a letter to colleagues Monday morning apologizing to Tyndall’s patients but denying claims that top administrators chose to ignore complaints by patients and staff.
“It is true that our system failed, but it is important that you know that this claim of a cover-up is patently false,” Quick wrote in the letter. “We would never knowingly put students in harm’s way.”
Quick also wrote that the school’s senior leadership did not learn about the complaints until 2017 following a 2016 investigation.
Tyndall has previously stated that his medical exams are thorough and appropriate and that frank and honest dialogue about sex lives was part of his method of treating late adolescents. He also said some of his comments to patients were misinterpreted and that he was “set up” by women on his clinic staff who were “jealous” of his young patients.
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