- Two hundred faculty members at the University of Southern California delivered a letter to the Board of Trustees Tuesday asking that President C.L. Max Nikias resign due to inappropriately handling the sexual misconduct of campus gynecologist George Tyndall, according to the letter published by the Los Angeles Times.
- Faculty members wrote that Nikias had "lost the moral authority to lead the University" for allowing "this misconduct to persist over several decades" as the institution kept the physician in a position of power who "abused that power and trust to sexually assault and degrade women students, targeting for abuse the most vulnerable international and minority students." The letter also said that after multiple reports of Tyndall's actions, "the University allowed him to resign quietly" and "settled financially with the wrongdoer in secret."
- Along with calls for Nikias' resignation, The Los Angeles Times reported that six women filed lawsuits against the institution for the administration's lack of action in addressing their complaints about Tyndall. On Tuesday, Nikias issued a statement saying he would establish the President’s Campus Culture Commission to "provide advice to the university’s senior leadership, and to assess the execution" of an "improved culture." Meanwhile, on the same day, the Board of Trustees issued a letter reaffirming support for Nikias.
Nikias is not the first president to be asked to resign or be publicly scrutinized for how instances of sexual misconduct on campus have been handled. Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon resigned in January after being called out for her "tone deaf" response to several years of abuse claims about former campus doctor Larry Nassar. And, it wasn't just faculty members who asked her to leave her post — members of the state's House of Representatives did, too.
Michigan State just announced its established a $500 million settlement fund for more than 300 students that he victimized as a university physician from 1997 to 2016. Even those institution leaders dealing with past histories of sexual harassment find themselves coming into the spotlight, with Ithaca College President Shirley Collado being called out in January sixteen years after she appeared before a D.C. superior court and pleaded not guilty to allegations of misdemeanor sexual abuse.
Sexual harassment and assault are pervasive throughout not only the academy and campus life, but also society more broadly. Public campaigns that have spread online and gained traction, such as the #MeToo movement, are drawing attention to the systemic issue of sexual misconduct — a reality that's manifesting in a trend of top administrators being called out, or even being asked to leave colleges and universities, for their failure to respond to these types of incidents.
This trend demonstrates a growing emphasis on institution leaders preemptively considering plans for responding to controversy that best meets the needs of students and the institution — highlighting both executive transparency in holding community members accountable for nefarious behavior and an emphasis on building a safe campus.