The president of the University of Southern California (USC) has agreed to step down amid a widely damaging sex scandal involving a university gynecologist accused of decades of sexual misconduct, the school’s board of trustees said Friday.
A letter from the board to the USC community did not specify when C.L. Max Nikias, 65, would leave his post.
"President Nikias and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees have agreed to begin an orderly transition and commence the process of selecting a new president," Rick J. Caruso, the board’s chairman, wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times. "We recognize the need for change and are committed to a stable transition."
The announcement came days after hundreds of students, professors and alumni demanded Nikias' ouster, alleging that USC failed to respond to complaints of misconduct involving Dr. George Tyndall, 71, a gynecologist who worked at a university clinic for 30 years.
Tyndall routinely made crude comments, took inappropriate photos and forced plaintiffs to strip naked and groped them under the guise of medical treatment for his "sexual gratification," according to civil lawsuits filed this week.
So far, at least 20 plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against USC and the doctor, alleging abuse, sexual assault, and that the university disregarded their complaints about Tyndall, the Times reported.
USC received about 200 complaints from former patients, according to the newspaper.
Attorney John Manly represents more than 80 patients who claim to be victims of Tyndall, according to a statement he released Friday.
“The resignation of Dr. Nikias is the first step in a long process of healing for the victims of Dr. Tyndall. It occurred because students, faculty and alumni pressured Board of Trustees to do the right thing,” Manly said in his statement. “It is our hope that their pressure will continue until the University reforms the culture which has enabled sexual abuse and holds all of the enablers accountable so this will never happen again.”
“The resignation of Dr. Nikias is the first step in a long process of healing for the victims of Dr. Tyndall. It occurred because students, faculty and alumni pressured Board of Trustees to do the right thing.”
Manly also tweeted in agreement with Nikias' resignation.
"Protecting abusers 'for the good of the USC' was the likely mantra of the cover up. We now know 3 generations of young women at SC were savaged," he tweeted. "Nikias and others concealing the truth have brought shame and disrepute to USC."
His firm, Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, is the same one that represented many Team USA gymnasts who were victims of disgraced doctor Larry Nassar and helped secure a $500 million settlement from Michigan State University last week, according to the New York Post.
USC reportedly did not properly address complaints about Tyndall for years, boiling down to today's still raging sex scandal.
University officials also never reported Tyndall to the medical board, even after he was quietly forced into retirement.
Police are interviewing former patients to determine if any charges will be brought against Tyndall.
Tydall defended himself in a letter to the Times published Friday.
He wrote that the clinic's then-executive director, Dr. Larry Neinstein, conducted a poll of medical assistants or nurses who were chaperones when he saw patients, and "they confirmed that an exam without a glove never happened," according to the Times.
"Patients sometimes fabricate stories," he wrote, reportedly adding that male and female clinicians who conduct pelvic exams should "always have a chaperone present."
Since the Times' investigation on Tydall was made public last week, about 385 women have called a university hotline, the report said.
Meanwhile, Nikias’ reputation has been tainted from a string of other USC scandals.
In July, the Times reported that Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito, a USC medical school dean, used drugs and partied with prostitutes.
In October, Puliafito's successor, Dr. Rohit Varma, resigned following revelations of a sexual harassment settlement from 15 years earlier.
Earlier this year, Tony Bland, a USC assistant basketball coach, was fired following his arrest last September in connection with an FBI bribery investigation, the Times reported.
It was not immediately clear who will succeed Nikias, who became the university’s president in 2010.
A spokesman for USC said the university had no further comment.
The Associated Press contribued to this report.