The Department of Education has launched an investigation into the University of Southern California’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations against a longtime staff gynecologist. The investigation is guided by Title IX, the federal civil rights law against sex discrimination.
For years, George Tyndall, who worked in the university’s student health clinic, was accused of photographing students’ genitals and making sexual comments during exams, but he was allowed to continue practicing. Tyndall resigned last year—with a payout—after a university investigation found that his behavior during pelvic exams ran counter to accepted medical practice. But USC failed to notify his former patients of the findings or report him to the Medical Board of California—until, that is, the Los Angeles Times began reporting on the case.
In a statement Monday, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) said it “will assess USC’s response to reports and complaints of sexual harassment during pelvic exams as early as 1990 that were not fully investigated by the University until spring 2016 and that the University did not disclose to OCR during an earlier investigation.” As Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos put it in the press release, “No student should ever endure sexual harassment or abuse while trying to pursue their education.”
Many of the allegations—which include things like moving his fingers in and out of patients’ vaginas and remarking on a student’s “perky breasts”—were made by his nurses and medical assistants who witnessed his behavior first-hand. Some colleagues worried that he was targeting Chinese students with limited understanding of gynecological norms in America. Tyndall denied the allegations and outrageously speculated that his women assistants reported him because, as the Times paraphrased, “they had trouble reaching orgasm and were jealous of young patients with tighter pelvic muscles.” Ah, the ole “jealous ladies with loose vaginas” defense.
The OCR announcement follows a march across USC’s campus on Saturday, in which two-dozen students called for an investigation of the university’s handling of the case. One student, who told the Times that she had been a patient of Tyndall’s, held a sign reading, “USC KNEW.” The case caught the attention of celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, who has filed a lawsuit against the university and plans to add 20 additional plaintiffs this week, according to NPR.
But, perhaps most important, the Los Angeles Police Department is now investigating 52 complaints against Tyndall, who has said he plans to continue practicing well into his 80s.