Aug. 8 (UPI) — The president of the University of Southern California has been replaced over backlash to his response to an abuse scandal involving a campus physician.
The school announced late Tuesday Wanda Austin will replace C.L. Max Nikias as president, Board of Trustees Chairman Rick Caruso said in a statement.
Austin, who has a doctorate in industrial and systems engineering, is a board of trustees member and internationally-honored engineer who served for eight years as president of Aerospace Corporation. She’s been an advocate of science, technology, engineering and math for women and minorities, resulting in her appointment in 2015 to the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. She has also received other distinguished awards and honors for her accomplishments in astronautics.
“Dr. Austin’s appointment is an important and positive step forward as we approach the beginning of the semester,” Caruso said. “She is deeply committed to USC, and I know that she plans to devote time in the coming weeks to listen to the views of faculty, staff, students, and our broader community on what is needed to successfully move us into our next chapter.”
Austin, though, will only serve as interim president. The school is searching for a permanent replacement.
The board has retained a law firm to investigate the claims against former campus gynecologist, Dr. George Tyndall. So far, the team has interviewed more than 100 witnesses and collected 4.5 million documents.
“It is evident that the recent crises have resulted from systemic and cultural failures,” Caruso said. “Both the behavior and the environment that allowed it to persist are inexcusable and will no longer be tolerated. Most importantly, we must understand exactly why these failures occurred and take bold action to reform what is broken so that they never happen again.”
Nikias agreed in May to resign after 200 professors signed a letter demanding he step down. It said he failed to respond properly to the complaints against Tyndall.
Tyndall has denied wrongdoing, and in a letter to the Los Angeles Times, said he’d only heard one complaint before March 2016 that Tyndall hadn’t worn gloves during a pelvic exam.