On the heels of the mess at Penn State, the mess at Michigan State, and the new mess at Ohio State, we have more developments in the mess at USC. Dr. George Tyndall, formerly a gynecologist at the student health center at USC, was sued (along with USC) by fifty more women who allege that Dr. Tyndall, sexually abused and harassed them. That brings the total number of women alleging misconduct by the doctor to over 200.
The timeline is emerging in bits and pieces, and it is a timeline that we have seen before at Penn State and Michigan State. Between 2000 and 2014, USC administrators received 8 complaints from young women about Dr. Tyndall’s lewd comments and behavior. In 2013, eight co-workers reported their concerns about Dr. Tyndall’s behavior to their supervisors. In 2016, USC placed Dr. Tyndall on leave while they conducted an internal investigation. That investigation concluded that Dr. Tyndall’s pelvic exams may have been inappropriate and that he made racially and sexually offensive comments to patients. Dr. Tyndall was permitted to retire in June 2017 under a separation agreement. All was quiet on this western front until the Los Angeles Times ran a story on the issues with Dr. Tyndall. In fact, things were so quiet that USC did not report Dr. Tyndall to the California Medical Board until after the LA Times called about the story as part of their investigation. Now the Medical Board and the Department of Education are also investigating.
The Barometer is often asked by board members and CEOs, “What are the red flags for ethical issues?” Very simple — if you receive a complaint, investigate. The complaints are the red flags. You need not wait for more complaints or a pattern — just investigate and then take action. Complaints are not something we process. Complaints are our guide to organizational missteps and misdeeds. In these university cases (and so many others), the failure to follow up on complaints resulted in scandals. Instead of dismissing a few complaints as the cranks and crackpots acting out, assume that they might have something and act accordingly.