USC reaches $215 million settlement over gynecologist sex abuse claims

The interim president discusses compensation, effects on enrollment, and what’s next for USC after a settlement of sexual assault allegations against a former campus gynecologist.

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USC has “reached an agreement in principle” on a $215 million settlement to pay students who received treatment from former campus gynecologist George Tyndall, according to a university-wide emailed letter from USC Interim President Wanda M. Austin Friday.

The university will compensate each former patient who received women’s health services from Tyndall for a payment of $2,500. According to the letter, students who provide further details about their experience could receive an additional $250,000. In a joint interview with the Daily Trojan, Austin did not specify the number of students that will be offered compensation as part of the settlement to Annenberg Media. She did say that former patients can opt-out of receiving payment, however, so they can reserve the right to sue for their own individual settlement.

“This [settlement] was done in collaboration with plaintiff’s attorneys,” said Austin. “It’s not final until it’s court approved, so we still have some steps to go.”

The money from the settlement won’t come from tuition or donations, but from enterprise risk management, the university insurance that covers things such as malpractice and misconduct allegations.

Reports of Tyndall’s alleged behavior surfaced in late May after the L.A. Times published an article outlining dozens of allegations that Tyndall, who had been the campus gynecologist, had been sexually abusing his patients for nearly three decades. Since the original report, hundreds of students have accused Tyndall of sexual assault.

A recent USC graduate, who sued Tyndall for sexual assault said she was “so angry” when she first heard about the settlement. Her federal case will not be directly affected by the class action settlement, though she hopes her case can come to a similar agreement.

“No number of dollars will ever compensate for the emotional trauma that I will have to deal with for years to come, but all I can get in a society that values money over people is money,” said the alumna, who was granted anonymity three years after this story was first published through her request via a new Annenberg Media policy for revisiting stories.

Austin said campus enrollment has not been affected by the lawsuits. In fact, 2018 had a record number of admits, and the acceptance rate dipped to its most competitive yet – 13 percent.

“For the class of 2022, it has not impacted enrollment. Students believe the university is still a world-class research university,” she said. “They still believe they’ll have a phenomenal learning experience.”

Austin said that ensuring former and current Engemann Student Health Center patients are being treated fairly is one of her main priorities as interim president. This settlement is the latest of Austin’s efforts; the health center also hired two new female gynecologists and seek to increase focus on mental health. Over the summer, the health center hired five new counselors, bringing their total staff of therapists to 25.

“These changes will enable us to ensure a better standard of care,” said Austin. “The victims are all able to take advantage of free counseling. That is how as individuals we heal and begin to look forward and put things in perspective.”

Looking forward, Austin hopes USC will continue providing support to its students.

“We are very concerned about [students’] well-being,” she said. “The changes that we’re making are in direct response to the lessons that we’ve learned.”