USC Gynecology Scandal; How to Protect Students

Posted in Sexual Harassment on July 5, 2018

By John Winer
July 5, 2018

There is no official count yet on how many women disgraced USC gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall violated; however, the numbers will most likely be staggering. Thousands of young women attend USC every year, and this doctor worked at the student health center for decades. By early June, it was reported that 385 women had already called the hotline USC set up and that was only weeks after the scandal had broken.

Compounding Dr. Tyndall’s behavior is that several women came forward over the years to report his behavior and the University sought to cover it up. The Los Angeles Times broke the story of how Tyndall continued to practice at the on-campus student health clinic in spite of complaints that spanned two decades. Women accused him of putting his face within inches of their vaginas during examinations, doing exams without using gloves, making lewd comments about women’s bodies and digitally penetrating women during exams. As a result of the fall-out, the President of USC was pressured to step down.

Several questions are being asked, both of the past and for the future. Chief among them is: “How could this have happened?” and “How can this be prevented in the future?”

What is shameful is that so many women did the first thing necessary in order to expose this sort of behavior: they spoke out. The scandal here is not just the behavior of the doctor, but the cover-up by the university. As I’ve experienced in my lawsuits against USC and UC Berkeley, school administrations are keen on covering up sexual harassment and firing staff and faculty is extremely difficult. Women came forward and were willing to endure the psychological and emotional trauma or the process, only to be ignored by the school. In many instances, women fail to come forward and so behavior by men continues. In this instance, USC chose to ignore the accusations of several women over several years.

Moving forward, there needs to be a full investigation of Tyndall, university officials and the legal advice the school received. Whoever made the decision to allow the cover-up (surely more than just the president) needs to resign, and the legal counsel that gave the advice to allow this sort of behavior needs to change immediately. Obviously, any organization as large and wealthy as USC is going to hire attorneys to defend itself from accusations, but defending itself and allowing behavior to continue, especially seriously abusive behavior to continue for decades, is quite a different creature altogether.

In addition, universities have to allow outside agencies to retrain and even provide some oversight into at least certain areas of the school. Young women must be protected whenever possible from predators. The first time Tyndall was reported for his actions the university had a choice; and because it made the wrong choice, it empowered him to abuse so many more women. Now it has the choice to change its ways and protect tens of thousands of future students.