Institutions Protecting Sexual Predators

Posted in Sexual Harassment on May 30, 2018

By John D. Winer

May 30, 2018

The University of Southern California has been under scrutiny for two recent cases involving sexual misconduct on campus. At least 20 women have filed multiple lawsuits against the school’s health center gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall, for sexual misconduct. In the lawsuit, the victims claim that during exams he would make suggestive remarks about their bodies, touch them inappropriately and that he would photograph their genitals, among other disturbing reports. Many were left wondering, what did USC do to protect these students from the harassment of who was supposed to be a trusted doctor? What protocol did they follow when the complaints came pouring in? Despite the seriousness of the issue, the university didn’t report any findings to law enforcement or to the Medical Board of California, the agency that’s responsible for protecting people from doctors who present problems. The university failed to protect its students from a sexual predator, and even went as far as to protect the perpetrator.

Dr. George Tyndall worked at the student health clinic at USC for more than 30 years, treating thousands of female students. Many of them reported feeling uncomfortable when Tyndall was examining them, saying that he was inappropriate with them, and they allege that he sexually abused them during regular check-ups. Many witnesses came forward to confirm these actions, many of them having been chaperones during the exams who had helped students feel comfortable and not be intimidated by the male doctor. When the revelations first came to light, many of the victims came forward to talk to the LA Times about the abuse they suffered when they had their appointments with Tyndall. Some victims stated that the abuse happened when he would perform pelvic exams on them, without wearing gloves and staying in the room when the student was undressing herself.

It was reported that many of his victims were international students from China, and many students didn’t know that what the doctor was doing was inappropriate because they were not accustomed to American medical norms. According to the LA Times investigation, USC stated and defended themselves saying that they were under no legal obligation to report the doctor but did accept that they should’ve reported him anyway. USC’s president C.L. Max Nikias recently resigned after many faculty members voiced outrage and demanded his resignation in the wake of this scandal.

Another example on how universities protect sexual predators is the case involving Michigan State University and Larry Nassar, the Olympic doctor who sexually abused hundreds of young girls and women. During a series of court hearings, many women came forward to speak against Nassar, as well as the institutions that they said protected him, including Michigan State University. Nassar was employed as a sports physician at the university from 1997 to 2016. In 2014, one of his victims reported Nassar’s abuse to Michigan State officials, stating that she was abused while he was performing a pelvic floor exam. After a brief investigation the school ultimately sided with Nassar, concluding that his pelvic floor treatments were medically appropriate and allowed him to return to treating patients. This is just another example of how institutions care more for the perpetrator than for the safety of the student body. Instead of reporting this as a serious issue, the school’s Title IX coordinator called his methods a “liability” to the university that exposed patients to unnecessary trauma.

The victims sued Michigan State University and recently obtained a $500 million settlement which is reportedly the largest payout ever reached in a sexual abuse case involving a U.S. university. USC should take notice, as more victims come forward with complaints against Dr. Tyndall.

It is the university’s sole responsibility to  know what kind of employees they have working with students. And it goes without saying that it is the school’s responsibility to protect the students from any sort of harassment and/or sexual misconduct that comes from its faculty. Schools can and should protect their students in any way they can. Members of the university community should be confident that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated. Faculty should feel like they can report concerns and know they won’t be ignored or penalized for speaking up.