School of Thought

Opinion: Show USC some love, Rick Caruso

Treat us like you would your own daughter and share results of the Tyndall investigation

Rick Caruso talks to reporters in front of Salon Princesita in Watts on Nov. 2, 2022.

No need to buy chocolates for us this Valentine’s Day. Here’s a more lasting contribution you can make as the USC trustee who helped bring an end to the tortuous reign of ex-campus gynecologist George Tyndall, who stands accused of sexually assaulting hundreds of women over more than three decades at the campus health center.

Go ahead and take the heat from your hyper-secretive colleagues on the university’s governing board. Brave the scorn of university lawyers. Do whatever it takes to release the report revealing who is to blame for the unchecked sexual abuse and harassment that damaged so many young women students and cost the university at least $1.1 billion in settlements.

You and your board colleagues know, of course, that you promised to make the report public when you first became governing board chair. In June 2018, you told Annenberg Media: “The findings … are going to be made public, subject to patient rights.” A few months later, you gave an update on the internal investigation undertaken by the law firm, O’Melveny & Myers, and pledged more would be forthcoming.

“The O’Melveny team has made substantial progress, and to date has interviewed over 100 witnesses and collected 4.5 million documents,” you said to USC. “However, more work needs to be done… We will have more to say on their work in the coming weeks.”

A few months later, in April 2019, you remained a fan of transparency when asked about the investigation by the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not done yet,” you said. “My intent and promise was that the board and university would be transparent and I plan on living up to that promise.”

What changed your mind, Rick?

In October 2020, as the lawsuits began piling up, you were interviewed under oath for nine hours by a battery of lawyers who sued USC on behalf of Tyndall’s former patients. They grilled you during your deposition. You repeatedly invoked attorney-client privilege, refusing to answer questions about who bears responsibility for the three-decades of trouble at the health center. You tried to cast your broken promises in a new light.

“”I’m sure I was a bit naive and maybe a bit too eager as a new board chair, certainly with the intent of doing the right thing and investigating what had happened and wanting to be as transparent as possible,” you told the lawyers. “I have never been a chair of a university before, so it was uncharted waters for me. What I knew was I wanted to be guided by what was right…And unfortunately I couldn’t fulfill my promise of full transparency the way I had hoped and intended to.”

Sounds like you caved to your transparency-averse colleagues and lawyers. ( posted a full transcript of the deposition.)

You know the right thing to do. Live up to your promises. Make public the report--and the PowerPoint presentation O’Melveny lawyers gave to the board during a closed-door meeting. Everyone at USC, particularly the victims of George Tyndall, deserve to know who knew what when. We all want to know who blew off the complaints about Tyndall’s behavior. Who authorized the secret payment, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, allowing Tyndall to quietly resign?

Your allegiance and love for the Trojan Family--especially Trojan daughters--demand full disclosure.

During your deposition, the victims’ lawyers asked if you would want to see the report if your own daughter had been one of the doctor’s patients. Before your lawyers could keep you from answering, you said yes.

“I think any parent would want to know what happened,” you said, under oath. “I would be no different than any other parent.”

Rick, you can redeem yourself this Valentine’s Day.

Follow the example of so many other universities faced with similar crises and demand that the investigative reports be released. That’s what UCLA did with its special investigative report on Dr. James Heaps who sexually assaulted patients. None of your excuses--or USC’s lawyers’ excuses--stand up to scrutiny.

The truth will eventually come out. Heed the advice of my nana, who told all of us growing up,

“You can run with a lie. But you can’t hide from the truth.”