Wanda Austin has been appointed USC's interim president, effective immediately. In an email to the USC community on Tuesday, USC Board of Trustees Chairman Rick Caruso announced that C.L. Max Nikias has officially stepped down from the presidency but will continue to be involved at the university.
Nikias agreed to resign in late May after the L.A. Times published an article alleging that former campus gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall had been sexually abusing his patients for nearly three decades. However, the exact date of Nikias' resignation was not announced. Last week, more than 680 USC professors wrote a letter to the board demanding a speedy official announcement of Nikias' resignation. This renewed call comes two months after 200 faculty members signed a similar petition in May. In Tuesday's email announcement, Caruso said that the "behavior and the environment" under which Tyndall acted were "inexcusable and will no longer be tolerated."
Caruso said in the announcement that Nikias will become president emeritus and a life trustee of the university. He also stated that Nikias "will continue to assist with the transition of the incoming president." Nikias also teaches an undergraduate class about Athenian democracy and will continue as a faculty member.
In a USC news release, Nikias said that while he regrets that his "accomplishments have been overshadowed by recent events," he will continue supporting the school in his new roles.
Austin, the newly appointed interim president, graduated from USC in 1988 and has been on the university's board of trustees since 2012. According to Caruso's email, she is a strong advocate for women and minorities, and she has held leadership positions within organizations such as the Aerospace Corporation, former President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and the Boards of the National Geographic Society and the Space Foundation. She is described in the email as "an ideal person to steer the university on a clear path forward as we advance our ambitious initiatives, until a permanent president is named."
This "permanent president," according to the announcement, will be found within four to six months by educational recruitment firms and a USC-based search committee that is in the process of being formed. Caruso promises to "share more details in the coming days and weeks."