University of Southern California president to step down in wake of scandal

May 25 (Reuters) - The president of University of Southern California is resigning after criticism over the school's handling of complaints that a campus health clinic gynecologist sexually abused his patients during pelvic exams, the school said on Friday.

C.L. Max Nikias will step down after serving as the school's president for nearly eight years, the university's executive committee of the board of trustees said in a statement.

"President Nikias and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees have agreed to begin an orderly transition and commence the process of selecting a new president," committee chairman Rick Caruso said.

Nikias could not be reached immediately for comment.

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USC president C.L. Max Nikias steps down
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USC president C.L. Max Nikias steps down
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: USC President C. L. Max Nikias at The University of Southern California's commencement ceremony that took place morning of Friday, May 11, on the University Park Campus. Pulitzer Prize-winning author and pioneering oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee will deliver the commencement address. Mukherjee, Charlie Beck, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., Jennifer A. Doudna and Forest Whitaker received honorary degrees.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 11: School President of USC CL Max Nikias attends The University Of Southern California's Commencement Ceremony at Alumni Park at USC on May 11, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12: President of the University of Southern California C.L. Max Nikias presents Helen Mirren with an Honorary Doctorate Degree during the University Of Southern California 134th Commencement Ceremonies at The Shrine Auditorium on May 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 29: Max Nikias and�Niki Nikias'nattend The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles Annual Gala at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA on April 29, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kathryn Page/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***�Max Nikias;Niki Nikias
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: C. L. Max Nikias, president of USC watches the game against the UCLA Bruins with athletic director Lynn Swann at Galen Center on January 25, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 08: (L-R) USC president C. L. Max Nikias, tv personality Willow Bay and chairman and chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger attend Ambassadors for Humanity Gala Benefiting USC Shoah Foundation at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on December 8, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 08: President of the University of Southern California, C.L. Max Nikias speaks onstage Ambassadors for Humanity Gala Benefiting USC Shoah Foundation at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on December 8, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 08: (L-R) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company Bob Iger, USC president C. L. Max Nikias, Niki C. Nikias, dean, USC Dornsife, Amber Miller and Jonathan T. D. Neil attend Ambassadors for Humanity Gala Benefiting USC Shoah Foundation at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on December 8, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
SANTA MONICA, CA - MAY 11: President of USC C.K Max Nikias and Niki Nikias arrive at the 3rd Biennial Rebels with a Cause Fundraiser on May 11, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 12: UNICEF Chair Ghada Irani (L) and honoree C. L. Max Nikias attend the Sixth Biennial UNICEF Ball Honoring David Beckham and C. L. Max Nikias presented by Louis Vuitton at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on January 12, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for U.S. Fund for UNICEF)
DEARBORN, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: University of Southern California President C. L. Max Nikias speaks at a press conference conducted prior to the USC Shoah Foundation Ambassadors for Humanity Gala honoring William Clay Ford, Jr. at the Henry Ford Museum on September 10, 2015 in Dearborn, Michigan. (Photo by Loreen Sarkis/Getty Images for the USC Shoah Foundation)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 20: USC president C. L. Max Nikias and Niki C. Nikias attend the USC Institute of Urology 'Changing Lives And Creating Cures' Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on November 20, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/FilmMagic)
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His resignation comes three days after 200 faculty members demanded in an open letter he quit as USC faces a rising tide of litigation accusing Dr. George Tyndall of misconduct and the university of complicity and negligence.

Tyndall resigned from the university last year after an internal inquiry found his pelvic examination practices were beyond accepted medical standards and that he had harassed patients.

"I share your outrage and understand the frustration and anger regarding the situation with the former physician," Caruso said.

Tyndall, 71, could not be reached by Reuters for comment. However, he has denied wrongdoing in interviews with the Los Angeles Times.

More than 2,200 students, alumni and others at USC, one of the most prestigious private U.S. higher education institutions, signed a separate online petition calling for Nikias' ouster as the campus reeled from its third major personnel scandal since last year.

The university has acknowledged failing to properly act on at least eight complaints made against Tyndall between 2000 and 2014. Several former patients filed civil lawsuits during the week and one new accusation lodged in a sworn declaration released on Tuesday dates back to 1991.

The university recently brought the situation to the attention of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, which referred the matter on May 9 to the Los Angeles Police Department "to investigate potential criminal misconduct," a spokesman for the district attorney's office said in an email.

LAPD spokesman Tony Im said police have no active criminal investigation into the matter.

Nikias came under fire last year over accusations of chronic drug abuse by a former USC medical school dean and allegations of sexual harassment by another medical school dean.

Those scandals were cited in both the faculty letter and the online petition as evidence of Nikias' failures as president. (Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee)

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