USC Ordered to Tighten Policies After $215 Million Sex Abuse Settlement

February 27, 2020 Updated: February 27, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced on Thursday that it’s demanding the University of Southern California (USC) to make “sweeping changes” to its Title IX procedures because the school failed to protect hundreds of female students from alleged sex abuses by an on-campus physician.

The announcement comes days after the Los Angeles-based school settled a lawsuit against George Tyndall, who was accused of preying on female student-patients over his 28-year tenure at USC Engemann Student Health Center as a full-time gynecologist. Tyndall continued to maintain his innocence, despite that more than 400 woman have accused him of sex offenses since May 2018, when it was made public that the OCR had been investigating him.

As part of the $215 million settlement, USC will pay at least $2,500 to nearly 18,000 women who were Tyndall’s former patients during their time at USC, according to student newspaper Daily Trojan.

As a result of what the department describes as “total and complete failure to protect students,” the university was also ordered to overhaul its Title IX procedures and conduct a formal review of current and former employees to determine if they responded appropriately to notice of possible sex discrimination. The OCR will also monitor how well the school complies with the changes in its Title X procedures over the next three years.

“Too many at USC turned a blind eye to evidence that Dr. Tyndall was preying on students for years,” the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “We are grateful to every survivor who came forward to share their story with our OCR investigators. Because of your bravery, we can now work with the University to ensure this never happens to another student on USC’s campus.”

According to the OCR, its investigation found that the USC was aware of possible misconduct by Tyndall between 2000 and 2009. But the university “failed to investigate” and determine whether the student-patients who made complaints were subjected to sexual violations.

The Tyndall scandal led to the resignation of USC president C. L. Max Nikias in October 2018. Two senior student health center administrators were also fired, according to Daily Trojan. Nikias’s successor, Carol Folt, assumed the office in July 2019.

“What we have found at USC is shocking and reprehensible,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth L. Marcus. “No student should ever have to face the disgusting behavior that USC students had to deal with. I am pleased that President Folt is now committing to major changes, and we will closely monitor the University to make sure that it complies with our agreement.”