LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights have announced an investigation into USC’s handling of reports of sexual harassment against former campus gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall.
The Title IX investigation will assess USC's response to reports and complaints of sexual harassment during pelvic exams as early as 1990 that were not fully investigated by the university until spring 2016 and that the school did not disclose to the OCR during an earlier investigation, officials said.
“No student should ever endure sexual harassment or abuse while trying to pursue their education,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement. “Every student on every campus should have a safe learning environment, and I expect all education institutions under the Department’s jurisdiction to take seriously their responsibilities under Title IX. Attempts to obfuscate or hide Title IX violations from the Department will not be tolerated, and I am calling on USC to cooperate fully and completely with this investigation.”
According to USC, Tyndall resigned in June 2017 based on a finding by the university that his behavior during pelvic exams was outside the scope of current medical standards and that he violated the university's policy on harassment by making repeated sexually inappropriate remarks during patient encounters.
The Office for Civil Rights currently has an unrelated monitoring agreement with USC as a result of OCR’s investigations into the university’s handling of allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence that spanned from August 2010 through May 2015.
The resolution agreement with USC in those cases was entered into in January, the office said.
OCR's requests for documents and information from USC during the investigation of these matters covered all reports and complaints against staff and faculty during the 2010-2013 academic years. However, at no time during the investigation or negotiations did USC provide OCR with any information regarding reports or complaints allegedly received against Tyndall, OCR said.
Based on these new compliance issues raised by the information disclosed by USC in public statements and through recent media reports, OCR announced the new investigation.
Since the allegations against Tyndall surfaced, about a dozen lawsuits have been filed against the university and gynecologist. In a recent suit, one former student alleges that Tyndall penetrated her with his ungloved fingers, took pictures of her genitalia, and made inappropriate sexual comments, asking what she enjoyed during sex. Other suits contain similar claims.
Tyndall was paid a substantial financial settlement so that he would resign following an internal investigation of complaints against him in 2016, according to plaintiffs.
The controversy led to the May 25 resignation of USC President Max Nikias.
A report by the USC Office of Equity and Diversity determined that the doctor “had violated the university policy on harassment by making repeated racially discriminatory and sexually inappropriate remarks during patient encounters.”
The report concluded that some of Tyndall’s practices were outdated, but not criminal in nature.
More than 400 students have contacted a university hotline about the physician, who spent nearly 30 years at USC. The Los Angeles Police Department said it is investigating dozens of complaints of misconduct filed by the doctor’s former patients.