DPS annual security report sees increase in sexual assault claims due to new Tyndall information

With the guidance of the Department of Education, USC has released reported sex crime statistics related to former campus gynecologist George Tyndall. The University was unable to include all allegations due to constrains in place by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.
(Daily Trojan file photo)

The Department of Public Safety’s annual security and fire safety report released Tuesday indicates increased reports of rape and fondling on the University Park Campus in 2018 due to incidents of sexual assault under former campus gynecologist George Tyndall. While the report does not include the over 800 assault-related allegations against Tyndall, it sees an increase in sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, acts of violence against women and drug violations.

DPS reported 118 sex offenses on campus and in the surrounding community, marking an increase from 34 reports in 2017 and 40 in 2016. 

In a letter to the USC community, Senior Vice President for Administration David Wright wrote this year’s security report includes reports related to Tyndall, who worked at the University for nearly 30 years until his removal in 2016. This report comes three months after the Los Angeles Police Department arrested and charged Tyndall with 29 felony counts, including sexual penetration of an unconscious person and sexual battery by fraud. In early September, Tyndall surrendered his medical license.

According to the report, there were 68 reports of rape and four reports of fondling related to Tyndall. Unrelated to the former gynecologist, there were an additional 24 reports of rape and 21 reports of fondling.

“In keeping with guidance from the Department of Education, the University has sought to classify and account for all Tyndall-related conduct reported to designated campus officials in 2018 in the annual statistics,” the letter read. 

Wright’s letter elaborates on the reports against Tyndall, explaining that not all allegations received by the University are considered under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, a federal law that requires colleges to disclose this information. 

Stacy Giwa, vice president of ethics and compliance, said interactions within a clinical setting may not fit the Clery definitions of rape of fondling. Additionally, she said the Clery Act ensures that universities maintain accurate reporting and that institutions can be penalized for overreporting or underreporting incidents. 

“In the context of the clinical setting, there is some level of touching or other medical procedure that would be taking place,” Giwa said. “The guidance we got from the Department of Education, their Clery office, is that we needed to look at the concerns on-face to see if they met [Clery Act] elements.”

Giwa said that though the Department of Education maintains an open dialogue with universities producing safety and security reports, the unusual number of sex crimes and the fact that these reports are from the past 26 years initiated more guiding conversations with USC.

“We really wanted to get this right so we did reach out and engage with the Department of Education,” Giwa said. “And especially given the complexity of this taking place in a medical setting … we did additional outreach so that we could meet our obligations under Clery and also provide accurate information to our community.”

According to the letter, USC will continue to review any additional information it receives regarding reports of misconduct in the Tyndall case and will revise the 2018 statistics as needed. And with the revelations regarding Tyndall’s behavior, the University has taken steps to try to increase student safety and well-being as well as reform the Engemann Student Health Center such as by adding more female gynecologists, hiring a new medical center director and placing the center under the oversight of the Keck School of Medicine.

“This information has been shared with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights,” the letter read. “The University also is aware of 811 current and former students who filed lawsuits in state and federal court and have asserted they were harmed by Tyndall.”

The University expects the statistics for reports of sexual assault and misconduct received in 2018 to increase in the coming year.

“To me, every individual experience reflected in this report is distressing. But seeing the aggregate numbers for Tyndall — involving reports over a period of 27 years — is especially distressing to all of us,” President Carol Folt wrote in the report. “For me and my entire administration, the stark numbers reinforce our resolve to remain vigilant about safety, to continue to provide care and resources, and to take measures to enhance safety and well-being on all of our campuses.”

While instances of robbery and aggravated assault increased in 2018 in comparison to years prior, instances of burglary and motor vehicle theft have decreased. The annual report also indicates that disciplinary referrals related to drug violations have nearly doubled on campus. 

“We added nearly 3,000 student beds in the [USC] Village and more students on campus,” Assistant Chief David Carlisle said. “We work very closely with Residential Education to talk about the education of the students, but also accurate reporting when there are violations of student conduct. And we are thinking the additional education with [resident assistants] … has contributed to increased numbers.”

Regarding an increase in robberies, Carlisle said DPS had caught a group of juveniles on campus robbing community members of their property. Carlisle said all students should be cautious when walking late at night with their phones out. In response to these incidents, DPS established a Crime Reduction Unit to work with LAPD and local transit officers to tackle robbery on and near campus.

In addition to publishing crime and safety statistics at the University and its many satellite locations, the report outlines University and DPS resources, such as the Office of Threat Assessment and Management, crime prevention programs and DPS procedures regarding monitoring crimes.  

“The University of Southern California is committed to keeping all of us out of harm’s way,” Folt wrote. “This report outlines the many actions the University, our dedicated public safety team, and our campus partners take every day to keep our community safe. We live in an urban center, and each of us needs to take personal safety seriously and also do all that we can to keep others around us safe.”

According to the report, though DPS has not identified any immediate needs for future improvements to campus security programs and efforts, it will continue to improve upon existing programs and technology. 

“One of [President Folt’s] highest priorities is ensuring that every student, faculty and staff feels safe and confident in their experience, and also stressing the commitment to being accurate and open,” Giwa said.