LOS ANGELES, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Two hundred professors at the University of Southern California (USC) on Tuesday called upon the university's president C. L. Max Nikias to step aside amid gynecologist scandal, criticizing him for failure to protect students and staff from repeated and pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct.
"He has lost the moral authority to lead the University, and in addition, to lead the investigation of institutional failures that allowed this misconduct to persist over several decades," said the professors in a letter to the board of Trustees of USC, asking the president to step aside and allow new leaders to take the necessary steps to repair the damage.
Dr. George Tyndall had worked as the only fulltime gynecologist at the USC student clinic for 27 years. According to the Los Angeles Times' investigation, the complaints of his repeated misconduct toward his young female patients started in early 1990s, including improperly photographing students' genitals, touching women inappropriately during pelvic exams and making sexually suggestive remarks about their bodies.
"The University Administration's actions have been wrong at every turn, and not only in hindsight," the faculty members of USC lashed. "We lament that, time after time, the administration has admitted to its failing only after being exposed by the Los Angeles Times. We also watch with deep distress as the university's reputation is marred in the national press and in international circles."
About an hour after faculty sent the letter, board chairman John Mork released a statement saying that while trustees were "troubled by the distressing reports" about the campus doctor, he and others on its executive committee "strongly support" Nikias, Los Angeles Times reported.
USC was sued on Monday by five former students in two lawsuits over the scandal. Two longtime student health clinic administrators were fired by USC as a result of the scandal last week.
According to the Los Angeles Times, some colleagues of Tyndall feared that the gynecologist was targeting the university's growing population of Chinese students in recent years. Those Chinese students often had a limited knowledge of the English language and American medical norms.
The Consulate General of China in Los Angeles expressed its serious concern over the scandal last week, requesting the university take serious steps to investigate the issue and protect Chinese students from illegal acts.
The Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), a major Chinese student organization at USC, also issued a statement, calling on Chinese students to bravely speak up any violations of their rights.
USC officials said they are actively seeking all facts and are dedicated to providing the most compassionate support they can. "Nothing is more important to me, or to our community, than the health and safety of our students," Nikias said in a statement last Tuesday.
USC Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Quick sent a message to his faculty and staff colleagues Monday, saying that USC officials are working to do all they can to prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.
"We have received many emails and calls from faculty and staff angry at senior leadership. You have every right to be angry. Furthermore, I know that over the past year enough has happened to make you distrust those in leadership. I completely understand that as well. It is up to us to earn back that trust," he wrote.
But Quick denied the allegation of media reports that the university leadership knew about Tyndall's misbehavior for a long time and covered it up for the sake of the USC brand.
"This is absolutely untrue. It is unthinkable. It is true that our system failed, but it is important that you know that this claim of a cover-up is patently false. We would never knowingly put students in harm's way," he said.
"Some ask about Dr. Tyndall's targeting of Chinese (and other international) students. Although this was alleged, there is no evidence that any one group of students was affected more than others," Quick noted, adding that they are carefully reviewing all complaints and have yet to find a pattern in who was affected.
The university has released an Action Plan on Tuesday, aiming to revisit the university's values, improve campus culture, restructure a number of the university's operations and revise employment policies.