USC knew of abuse by former men’s health doctor, report finds

USC was aware of five sexual abuse complaints against former men’s health doctor Dennis Kelly, according to a report published in BuzzFeed News Thursday. The report also describes several specific interactions between the doctor and nearly 50 alleged victims.

Allegations against Kelly surfaced in February when six male plaintiffs, all of whom identify as gay or bisexual, filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court against the former doctor and the University. They accused the University of ignoring complaints of unwanted touching, probing questions and harassment during medical exams.

Since then, the University saw an increase in accusations — and The Beacon Project report published in BuzzFeed News found that the University knew about the abuse yet failed to take action. 

According to previous Daily Trojan reporting, Kelly personally initiated his resignation as the University’s only men’s sexual health doctor in last July, transferring to California State Northridge as a campus doctor. After the initial suit was filed, CSUN placed Kelly on paid administrative leave. 

The Beacon Project report details graphic accounts of alleged abuse at the hands of Kelly, including invasive examinations. At least five students complained directly to the University officials, including one student who had a one-on-one interview with USC’s health center director.

In February, USC released an official statement regarding the allegations, noting the University was aware of the ongoing suit.

“We are aware of the lawsuit and are concerned by its allegations,” the University wrote in a statement. “We’re working to understand the facts of the allegations. We care deeply about our entire Trojan family, including our LGBTQ+ community, and take this matter very seriously. We will provide more information as it becomes available.”

In a statement obtained by the Daily Trojan Thursday, USC says that the report’s claim that complaints regarding Kelly’s conduct went ignored is “misleading” and that USC followed up on the complaints it received. 

Daily Trojan file photo

USC said that many of the allegations brought to the University’s attention were anonymous, making them difficult to investigate.

“The notion that complaints were ignored is misleading,” the statement read. “USC followed up on the handful of complaints it received. Nearly every allegation in the lawsuit was anonymous, which makes it difficult to conduct an investigation.”

According to The Beacon Project report, however, only two of the five men who complained directly to the University heard back. Of those two men, one claims a University official told him his claim was too dated for proper investigation.

USC said that by implementing new campus health center training and protocols, students will see improvements with the Engemann Health Center.

“USC takes all complaints seriously and has made sweeping changes to prevent all forms of misconduct on our campus, including the implementation of new protocols at the Student Health Center to ensure all complaints are investigated thoroughly,” the comment read.

According to USC’s Change Progress Dashboard, a site that tracks University changes related to accountability, transparency and wellness, the Keck School of Medicine of USC is in the process of coordinating an external review of student health. 

Additionally, the Keck School and the Office of the Provost is in the beginning stages of establishing a President’s Culture Commission dedicated to establishing a “culture of care, concern, consultation and compliance” at USC.

Sasha Urban, the author of the The Beacon Project-BuzzFeed News report, is the former news editor of the Daily Trojan.

The Beacon Project is an Annenberg initiative aimed at reporting on the University.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that one student had a one-on-one interview with a former health center director, when the student spoke with the current health center director. The previous version also incorrectly mentioned only three of the five men who complained directly to USC heard back, with an additional man claiming a USC official told him his claim was too dated. Only two of the five men heard back, with one of the two citing this experience with a University official.