In spite of his talent as a prolific fundraiser and recruiter of top-notch faculty, C.L. Max Nikias has been forced out of one of the nation’s top academic institutions. The University of Southern California Board of Trustees voted to relieve Nikias of his duties after he was accused of looking the other way while Dr. George Tyndall sexually assaulted several coeds under his care. University faculty and staff expressed outrage and signed petitions demanding that Nikias and Tyndall be held accountable.
On Friday, The Los Angeles Times reported that Nikias was stepping down and that the Los Angeles Police Department, as well as the California State Medical Board, were investigating the complaints against Tyndall. The gynecologist worked at the university for nearly 30 years and is said to have touched young women inappropriately during pelvic exams while also making lewd and offensive comments about their races and sex lives.
At least eight women have come forward with formal complaints against Tyndall, but a campus hotline has fielded nearly 400 calls alleging misconduct by the 71-year-old doctor. While as many as 21 lawsuits have been filed against Tyndall and the university for incidents said to happen between the early 2000s and 2016, calls to the campus hotline indicate a pattern of behavior dating back to the 1990s. Tyndall denies any wrongdoing.
Nikias had knowledge of multiple complaints filed about Tyndall performing pelvic exams without gloves, ogling and stroking the young women’s bodies, and even insisting that they strip completely. He reportedly took no action. The USC Academic Senate called for Nikias’ resignation agreeing that new leadership will be required to reestablish trust and transparency between the administration, students, faculty, and staff going forward.
“Our community is in pain, and we welcome a transition that can begin the process of healing,” Academic Senate president and university professor Paul Rosenbloom wrote in a letter to faculty members.
“The Senate recognized that throughout the past year there has been an increasing breakdown of trust between the President and the academic community,” Rosenbloom continued. “Our conclusion … was that this break in trust was irreparable and that the only way forward for the university was a change in the presidency.”
As a 25-year-old theatre student, Cate Guggino recalled her pelvic exam with Tyndall from 16 years ago as it happened yesterday. In an op-ed story she wrote in The Los Angeles Times, Guggino detailed how Tyndall inserted his fingers into her vagina causing pain twice. He then told her that she must still be a virgin because her hymen was still in place.
But Guggino told the doctor that she had lost her virginity and was in a sexual relationship with her boyfriend. Tyndall replied that her hymen was still intact and that was the reason for the pain. She now knows that the doctor had another agenda which had little to do with her reproductive health.
“What I know is that he touched me inappropriately and gave me inaccurate information about my body,” Guggino wrote.
As a women’s health nurse practitioner who has performed thousands of pelvic exams, Guggino knows now that what Tyndall did to her was anything but a routine exam. She, like many other alleged victims, are relieved that they may finally get justice. With Nikias’ departure from USC and the investigations into Tyndall’s conduct, the campus community is hopeful that they will be able to start to heal.