Billionaire real estate magnate Rick Caruso has been elected chair of USC’s Board of Trustees, promising that the group will “protect the dignity, safety and well-being of our students on their own campus,” the university announced Thursday.
Caruso, a 1980 USC graduate, succeeds John Mork, who has completed his five-year term. Caruso was also recently named to lead the special committee overseeing an investigation into the misconduct and reporting failures that occurred at the USC student health center involving former campus gynecologist George Tyndall.
“What happened to our students is unthinkable and immoral, and there can be no tolerance for not protecting our students,” Caruso said. “I am outraged by the failure of this duty, and it ends today.
“We must do everything to ensure this kind of systematic misconduct never occurs on our campus again,” he said. “I am committed to working closely with the entire USC community to make all necessary changes, no matter how difficult. The Board of Trustees and I will be seeking input from representatives of our constituencies as we move, swiftly but thoroughly and intelligently, to identify new leadership for the university.”
The Board of Trustees has approved the immediate start to the process of identifying a new president for the university. The school announced last Friday night that C. L. Max Nikias will step down as president, although no date was given for his departure, and promised “an orderly, seamless, painstaking and intelligent process.”
USC also announced Thursday afternoon that the Caruso-led special committee has retained Los Angeles law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP to conduct an “expedient, thorough and independent investigation” of the Tyndall sutuation.
The investigation will be led by one of the firm’s practice chairs, Apalla Chopra, with assistance from her partner, Steve Olson, both of whom have vast expertise working with universities in conducting complex and sensitive investigations, according to the university.
The goal is to complete the investigation by the time students return to campus in the fall.
A long-standing member of the university community, Caruso is a parent of a current student and a board member. He is the founder and CEO of one of the country’s largest privately-held real estate companies.
Los Angeles police are investigating misconduct allegations made by 52 former patients of Tyndall, with the complaints spanning from 1990 to 2016, roughly the doctor’s entire tenure at the university.
Police said this week that the department is working closely with the District Attorney’s Office as they review cases to determine if any of them warrant consideration of criminal charges against Tyndall, who resigned in 2017 and has denied wrongdoing.
A Los Angeles Times investigation determined that Tyndall was the subject of complaints dating back to the 1990s, with patients complaining about sexually charged comments, inappropriate touching of patients and taking photographs of women he was examining. Despite the complaints, Tyndall was allowed to continue working at the USC Student Health Center and continued examining patients.