University of Southern California to pay $215 million over sex abuse scandal
LOS ANGELES — The University of Southern California has agreed to pay $215 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by hundreds of women who say that they were sexually abused by the former head gynecologist at the student health center and that school officials did not address their complaints.
The settlement, which still needs to be approved by the court, is among the largest to be reached by a university facing accusations of sexual misconduct. Still, it is unlikely to end the school’s legal battles over the issue. Nearly 500 women have sued USC claiming mistreatment by the gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall.
More than 90 of his former patients came forward for the first time this week, saying that he had molested them.
One woman said that when she complained, she was told by officials from the health center, “We’ll look into it.” But there was no follow-up, she said.
Thousands of women who were patients of Tyndall during his three decades at USC will be eligible for $2,500 payments, whether or not they have alleged abuse. Women who allege the worse abuse and offer additional information will be eligible for up to $20,000, while those who are willing to be screened by a psychologist could receive a maximum of $250,000.
After an internal university investigation concluded that he had acted inappropriately and that his behavior had amounted to sexually harassing patients, Tyndall reached an agreement with the school and quietly resigned with a payout in 2017.
Although the report found that complaints had come in since at least 2000 and it was not clear why he was allowed to stay, USC officials did not report the findings to the state medical board or any of his former patients.
After a major outcry over the way school officials handled the issue, the president of the university, C.L. Max Nikias, stepped down earlier this year.
The interim president, Wanda Austin, sent a letter announcing the settlement Friday to students, faculty, and staff, calling it “an important step forward” that she hopes will “help our community move collectively toward reconciliation.”
Money for the settlement will come from reserve funds and the university’s insurance, not tuition or donor money, according to details outlined on a USC website.
In court documents and in interviews, former patients of Tyndall’s have accused him of a variety of abusive practices, including invasive and unnecessary pelvic exams, touching their vaginas, asking them to undress in front of him, and making sexually explicit remarks about women’s bodies.
He has denied all allegations of harassment and mistreatment.
The state medical board suspended his license to practice in August and the Los Angeles Police Department has said it is investigating possible criminal charges.
In June, the federal Education Department said it was beginning an investigation into how USC handled the complaints, which it did not disclose during another separate federal investigation over allegations against faculty and staff members, which was concluded in January.
The settlement is the latest multimillion-dollar financial payout from a university facing accusations of sexual misconduct.
Michigan State University agreed to a $500 million settlement with hundreds of women who say they were sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar, a sports doctor who worked there for decades.