Attorneys on Tuesday filed a class-action lawsuit against the University of Southern California and a former gynecologist there, George Tyndall, who is accused of sexually harassing and molesting dozens, and potentially hundreds, of students during his nearly 30 years at the university.
In a press release, the attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of a woman known only as Jane Doe 1, as well as Tyndall’s other accusers, wrote that USC “actively and deliberately concealed Tyndall’s sexual abuse for years.”
Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that Tyndall had a history of allegedly inappropriately touching female students during gynecological examinations, making lewd comments about their bodies, and taking pictures of their genitals. USC acknowledged it had received complaints against Tyndall as early as 2000 (though the lawsuit claims students and staff began coming forward in the 1990s), but the doctor wasn’t fired until 2016, when his colleagues discovered a box full of pictures of female genitalia in his office.
“Those who irresponsibly put sexual predators in a position of authority or trust, giving them access and opportunity to molest their victims, share the blame for the harm they cause,” said attorney and USC alum Annika K. Martin. “It is even more shameful when institutions that we entrust our children to help sexual predators by silencing complaints and covering the predator’s tracks.”
Since the Times piece was published in mid-May, the Los Angeles Police Department has launched an investigation into the allegations, USC president C.L. Max Nikias has resigned, and the rest of the university faculty has been scrambling to address the school’s shortcomings in regard to issues of sexual misconduct.
“We have failed. What happened is antithetical to everything we know is right,” Jack H. Knott, dean of USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, wrote in a letter on May 24.
Others are skeptical the university will truly take ownership of the role they played in allowing Tyndall to continue to practice despite the allegations against him.
“One thing that I’ve observed in institutionally empty statements is the ‘even one student is put in harm’s way’ formulation is a useful way of ducking responsibility,” comparative literature and law professor Hilary Schor told the Times. “The idea that you will eliminate all assault is noble, but unrealistic — violence exists. The question is, what do you do when incidents occur?”