The president of the University of Southern California, CL Max Nikias, resigned on Tuesday in the middle of a scandal of sexual abuse that involved a former gynecologist on campus.
Students and faculty called for the overthrow of Nikias since May, when the Los Angeles Times reported that the school had allowed Dr. George Tyndall to remain on staff for decades, despite repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against him.
Nikias will assume the position of president emeritus and life trustee of the university, and Wanda Austin, a renowned engineer and member of the board of directors of USC, will serve as interim president, the school said in a statement. Tuesday.
"Working together, with passion and commitment, we will restore trust and we will heal our community," said Rick Caruso, president of the trustees, in the statement. "It is because of that Trojan passion and commitment that USC will illuminate the human mind more brightly than ever"
A May letter to the trustees signed by 200 USC professors demanded the resignation of Nikias for "his inability to protect our students, our staff and our colleagues from repeated and widespread sexual harassment and misconduct". Thousands of students and alumni signed an online petition calling for his expulsion.
Several lawyers representing women who have accused Tyndall of sexual misconduct protested against the custodians' decision to keep Nikias as president emeritus.
"That's a message that the damage Tyndall did is not serious [and] they want Max to keep raising money," wrote the tweet John Manly, which represents 150 women who say they were sexually harassed or attacked by Tyndall. "USC can not have both."
Gloria Allred, who represents more than 35 of Tyndall's accusers, called Nikias' new role "a slap in the face to hundreds of students who have reported abuse."
Tyndall, 71, worked at the USC student health clinic for almost 30 years, despite of the repeated accusations of students and staff that he touched patients inappropriately during the exams, made suggestive comments and photographed the genitals of the students. His behavior was particularly inappropriate for international students in Asia, several witnesses reported.
USC suspended Tyndall in 2016 after a campus nurse reported him at the school's rape crisis center.
An internal USC investigation found that Tyndall's behavior during the pelvic exams constituted sexual harassment, but the school allowed him to quietly resign last summer with a financial payment, according to the Times. The school did not alert Tyndall's patients and did not report it to the California Medical Board at that time.
Several students have filed lawsuits against Tyndall and USC. Tyndall's lawyer told CNN in July that the doctor "is adamant that he did not engage in any criminal conduct while practicing medicine at USC."
USC said in its statement on Tuesday that it has hired a law firm to further investigate Tyndall's tenure at the student health center.