The University of Southern California on Thursday named billionaire businessman and philanthropist Rick Caruso as chairman of its board of trustees, following recent scandals that have led to departures of several high-level university officials.
Caruso quickly promised a “thorough and independent” investigation into a sex scandal involving a former university gynecologist, reports said.
“Our most fundamental duty is to protect the dignity, safety and well-being of our students on their own campus,” Caruso, a USC alumnus and current USC parent, said in a statement, the Los Angeles Business Journal reported. “What happened to our students is unthinkable and immoral.”
“Our most fundamental duty is to protect the dignity, safety and well-being of our students on their own campus.”
Caruso, 59, a native Angeleno and a developer of retail and residential real estate projects, including shopping malls, offers "fresh leadership" following the controversy involving Dr. George Tyndall, 71, the Los Angeles Times reported.
He succeeds John Mork, who completed his five-year term as board chairamn, USC News reported.
Over 400 people have contacted a hotline that the university established for patients to make reports about their experience with Tyndall, the report said.
Tyndall has denied the claims against him.
Selecting Caruso marks USC’s latest effort to address the case, after the university President C.L. Max Nikias agreed last Friday to step down.
Caruso announced that the L.A. law firm O’Melveny & Myers would conduct a “thorough and independent investigation” into Tyndall’s conduct and “reporting failures” that occurred at the university's clinic, the Times reported.
“This will be an orderly, seamless, painstaking and intelligent process,” Caruso wrote to “members of the USC family” in a letter obtained by the Times.
Attorney Apalla Chopra, an O’Melveny partner, will oversee the investigation, the report said. Wynn Resorts also hired her earlier this year to lead an investigation into Steve Wynn after a wave of sexual misconduct allegations arose against the casino mogul.
So far, more than a dozen lawsuits have been filed against Tyndall and USC. They allege Tyndall routinely made crude comments, took inappropriate photographs and forced plaintiffs to strip naked and groped them under the guise of medical treatment for his "sexual gratification."
The lawsuits also allege that USC failed to respond to complaints of misconduct.
Los Angeles police are investigating allegations by more than 50 women about possible sexual abuse from Tyndall.
William Bratton, a former LAPD chief, praised the selection of Caruso in a USC news release obtained by the Times.
“I can think of no person better suited to transition the culture of an institution in crisis, and lead its turnaround,” Bratton said. “USC is at a crossroads, and Rick will know how to find the way forward.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.