Nearly 30 students gathered at the USC Engemann Student Health Center to protest former USC gynecologist George Tyndall’s alleged abuse of patients and the University’s lack of transparency on Saturday.
Ariel Sobel and Viva Symanski founded Justice for Trojans, a group created to help women who say they were assaulted or harassed by Tyndall.
Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported that Tyndall had a history of sexual misconduct allegations dating back to the 1990s. Over 400 women have accused Tyndall of committing misconduct under the pretense of medical treatment and making inappropriate comments. In light of numerous petitions from USC students, professors and alumni criticizing the handling of these allegations, USC President C. L. Max Nikias agreed to step down late last month.
“These are crimes going on . . . and it speaks to rape culture because it was taken less seriously,” Sobel said. “If George Tyndall was burning fires . . . people would have stopped it. But somehow the extreme violence that was going on was ignored.”
Marching from the health center to Tommy Trojan, students chanted phrases like, “What to do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
Project Consent, an awareness and advocacy group for victims of sexual assault, sponsored the event. Speakers included Sobel and Symanski, representatives of Planned Parenthood and Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention, USC sophomore Hailey Robertson and Gloria Allred, the attorney representing 24 women — including Symaski — in a lawsuit against Tyndall and the University.
“A lot of young women don’t get the proper sex [education] in high school, and our bodies are treated as kind of taboo,” Robertson said. “So it’s really important to convey . . . your body’s not taboo, here’s what’s supposed to happen in the doctor’s room.”
The event made several demands for the University, including an investigation of everyone complicit in Tyndall’s alleged acts, improved access to legal services for sexual abuse victims and education on what students should expect during a gynecologist visit.
Speakers addressed the specific targeting of international students and non-native English speakers was addressed. According to the Times, Tyndall reportedly made inappropriate comments to Asian and Middle Eastern students about their sexualities in relation to their cultures.
“[Tyndall] had this perception that [international students and non-native English speakers] were more vulnerable, that they wouldn’t fight back,” Robertson said. “We need to combat that perception first and foremost.”
According to Sobel, Tyndall also made inappropriate comments toward gay and bisexual women, including Sobel herself.
“He made comments that everyone should be on birth control, even the lesbians,” Sobel said. “Every women I know who’s made contact with him, who’s queer, he made a lot of probing questions about your relationships with women.”
The speakers also discussed the difficulty Tyndall’s alleged victims encountered in their attempt to seek justice. Allred, Robertson and Sobel questioned the objectivity of the internal investigation USC’s Office of Equity and Diversty conducted in regards to Tyndall, noting that many law firms were independently advertising their services on social media. According to the speakers, these posts could potentially confuse and re-traumatize the victims of the alleged abuse.
According to Allred, another twenty women had joined the class action suit against the University since it was first filed. She provided information about how other victims could come forward anonymously.
“To these young women: you are USC,” Allred said. “And that’s why we say they have a duty to protect you. We will not stop until justice is done.”
Ending the event, multiple speakers spoke of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements against sexual harassment and assault of women, implying that survivors would no longer allow abuse to continue to be swept under the rug.
“Culturally, in USC, among other institutions, … we don’t know the rules [of consent] yet,” USC alumna and march attendee Derl Clausen said. “Even though we’ve attempted to define them, it seems like that is not fixing an underlying issue.”