University of Southern California President Max Nikias stepped down on Tuesday, effective immediately, amid criticism over how he handled sexual abuse allegations levied against a former campus doctor.
Nikias agreed to resign in May, after at least 200 faculty members signed a petition calling for him to step down, but he hadn’t relinquished his duties.
He will transition into the role of president emeritus and life trustee of the university, according to a statement released by the school on Tuesday.
Former Aerospace president and CEO Wanda Austin, an alumna and USC board member, will serve as interim president during the search for a replacement.
The school said Nikias “will continue to assist with the transition of the incoming president.” It plans to complete the search within four to six months.
His resignation comes in the wake of multiple lawsuits filed against the school and Dr. George Tyndall, a former campus gynecologist, who allegedly molested female students who were his patients over several decades, according to police.
One of the suits claimed USC ignored complaints that Tyndall, 71, allegedly made crude remarks, took inappropriate photographs and groped patients to “satisfy his own prurient desires.”
USC says it is conducting multiple investigations and has not found any wrongdoing on Nikias’ part.
The alleged incidents took place between 1990 and 2016, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Tyndall, who worked at a USC student health clinic for 30 years, resigned last year.
He denied wrongdoing in interviews with the Los Angeles Times earlier this year. It was unclear if he had obtained an attorney as of Wednesday morning.
USC Board Chairman Rick Caruso said independent investigators have interviewed more than 100 witnesses and collected 4.5 million documents in connection with the probe, according to a letter sent to students, faculty and alumni on Tuesday.
“It is evident that the recent crises have resulted from systemic and cultural failures. Both the behavior and the environment that allowed it to persist are inexcusable and will no longer be tolerated,” Caruso wrote. “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.
“The Board and I are committed to an ambitious, aggressive agenda for change,” he added.