Dear USC Community,
I am writing to let you know that the remaining litigation against USC, arising from the abuse of patients by former Student Health physician George Tyndall, has been resolved. I am deeply sorry for the pain experienced by the women who trusted him as a physician and appreciate the courage of all who came forward. I do hope this much-needed resolution provides some relief to the women abused by George Tyndall. He has not practiced medicine at USC since 2016 and is currently under house arrest awaiting trial on criminal charges.
Today, the university reached an agreement on an $852 million settlement with 710 former patients who filed suit in California state court. Combined with the $215 million federal class action agreement reached in 2018 and other settlements, the total amount paid to the federal and state plaintiffs will exceed $1.1 billion.
These events have been devastating for our entire community. Everyone was horrified to learn of his conduct. When I arrived at USC in 2019, the university had already made the important step of moving USC Student Health services under Keck Medicine. This world-class medical center is now responsible for direct oversight of all patient care and physician conduct. Since then, we have taken many more steps to safeguard patients, students, staff, and faculty. Working every day to earn and restore trust in the university has been, and will continue to be, my top priority, as it will be for the Board of Trustees and the leadership of USC.
With the expertise and commitment of so many people at USC, we implemented robust new protective measures, protocols, and oversights and enhanced safety. We also implemented comprehensive new governance and standards of care, including:
- Consulted with experts to implement comprehensive patient education materials about sensitive examinations and rewrote the sensitive exam policy to reflect the best practices of the American College Health Association.
- Employed more female, board-certified physicians to allow choice of gender in selecting a physician.
- Created new and easily accessible methods for collecting information about potential misconduct, including soliciting patient feedback
- Expanded the services of the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention program to include 10 additional full-time employees.
We also instituted greater accountability and governance with clear checks and balances, and added staff with professional expertise. Key reforms include:
- Established a robust Division of Human Resources, Equity, and Compliance.
- Established a centralized Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX (EEO/TIX), charged with preventing and responding to all forms of discrimination and harassment.
- Implemented a university-wide Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation that applies to all forms of discrimination and harassment based on protected characteristics, and applies to all students, staff, and faculty.
- Added expertise in reporting and managing violations, by conducting a national search and hiring an experienced career civil rights attorney (as Vice President for Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX and Title IX Coordinator) and an experienced health care attorney to serve as the Deputy EEO/TIX Coordinator for Healthcare.
- Increased support for required training and 24/7 victim advocacy services.
It is especially important to me that students, staff, and faculty know their rights, know where and how to report concerns, and that all complaints are investigated, tracked, and resolved by appropriate university officials and authorities in a timely manner. It is also essential that we seek community input to evaluate our ongoing progress, and to focus on continuous improvement and employing best practices.
I know you have questions about the impact of the settlement on our financial future. The amount is significant, and we will face some difficult financial choices in the near term. However, we have a strong balance sheet and resources to support our academic priorities. We will fund the settlement over the next two fiscal years largely through a combination of litigation reserves, insurance proceeds, deferred capital spending, sale of non-essential assets, and careful management of non-essential expenses. No philanthropic gifts, endowment funds, or tuition will be redirected from their intended purposes.
I also want to assure you that we will not jeopardize our academic excellence. Even in the coming year, we will invest to strengthen our student experiences, bolster our exceptional academic and clinical programs, and grow our research. We will maintain the robust financial aid we offer students, restore merit increases for faculty and staff beginning in July 2021, and full retirement benefits in January 2022.
As we work through the settlement payment plan, I will be drawing together a special advisory committee of faculty, staff, and students to supplement our regular budget planning with the Deans of the Schools and engagement with the Academic Senate Committee on Finance and Enrollment.
Over the last few years, USC has achieved much needed change. Your extraordinary strength of purpose and commitment are inspiring. With your ongoing help, I know we will continue to work hard to rebuild trust and strengthen our university for the decades to come.
Carol L. Folt