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USC Annenberg Media: Petition Calls for University Statement On Death of Former USC Gynecologist Accused of Sexual Misconduct

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By Aidan WilliamsVeronica GarzaLaurie Carrillo and Marco Alvarez

November 06, 2023 at 12:57 pm PST

Former USC employee Zachary Ellison recently authored a petition demanding USC release a statement on the death of USC gynecologist George Tyndall before he could stand trial for alleged sexual abuse.

Ellison graduated with a Master’s in public administration from USC in 2015 and was hired shortly after as the Executive Secretary of Academic Operations for the Office of the Provost until August of 2022. Ellison said he was let go after filing a complaint that USC had failed to make necessary institutional changes after the Tyndall scandal to protect students, staff, and faculty from sexual harassment on campus.

“I worked in the Provost office for seven years, and then they fired me after I filed my complaint and it gained publicity,” Ellison said. “I came back after filing my report to see seven emails stating I was in non-compliance with my employee contract, it was shocking.”

The former staffer created the petition on October 17 titled “Demand Justice for the Victims of George Tyndall and Change at USC,” and advocated for USC to release an official statement regarding Tyndall’s death.

Tyndall, USC’s only full-time gynecologist from 1989 to 2016, was found dead in his home on October 4, an LAPD report said. Tyndall resigned in 2016 after he was reported to the rape crisis center by a nurse and was set to stand trial early next year for the alleged sexual assault of 16 former patients over the course of seven years.

USC has yet to release a statement on Tyndall’s death and his failure to stand trial, an act that Ellison says has, “delayed the communities’ healing and mental health restoration.”

“There’s nothing stopping [USC] from issuing some type of statement about this and offering counseling services to people in the community and victims who want to talk about this and the lack of resolution,” said Ellison.

In a statement to Annenberg Media, a representative for USC wrote, “The university has engaged in institutional change at the system and structural level, which we believe exceeds the expectations and requirements of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Resolution agreement.”

Ellison, who now works as an independent journalist, hopes through his petition, which had 90 signatures as of November 6, that he can pressure USC into finally releasing a statement on Tyndall’s death. “It’s important for USC to see that the community still cares about this,” Ellison said. “We already have a fair amount of signatures so I am sure USC administration is now thinking maybe they should consider releasing a statement.”

The petition also calls for USC to release a long-awaited investigative report looking at how Tyndall was allowed to continue practicing gynecology at USC, even after multiple sexual harassment complaints had been filed against him by patients. Former Chairman of the Board of Trustees Rick Caruso promised to release a report on the findings of the investigation shortly after Tyndall was dismissed in 2016, but never delivered on the promise.

“It wasn’t like [USC] wasn’t aware of George Tyndall and his misconduct, they simply didn’t accept the gravity of what they were being told by victims,” Ellison said. “We need to know how USC screwed it up so badly and what they are going to do going into the future to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

At the end of the day, Ellison realizes that even if USC does comply with his and signees’ demands, it will never make up for the lack of resolution and healing for victims that Tyndall’s pre-trial death brought about.

“I think that for a lot of victims, him going to trial and going to jail was a lot more important than the money they got from USC,” said Ellison, referencing the $1.1 billion payout by USC to former patients of Tyndall who were allegedly sexually abused. “It’s tragic that victims never got to see the day when Tyndall would pay for his misconduct.”

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