USC President Max Nikias officially steps down amid ongoing gynecologist scandal

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- USC President C.L. Max Nikias agreed to step down immediately Tuesday following continued public outcry over the series of scandals plaguing the university.

Nikias first announced he would step down in late May not long after the school released information regarding the campus' former gynecologist and allegations of sexual misconduct that had been going on since the 1990s. It was unclear then when he would leave his post.

In a letter issued by Rick J. Caruso, chair of the USC Board of Trustees, he talked about Nikias stepping down and named Wanda M. Austin, a retired CEO of an aerospace company, as the interim president.

Austin is a USC alum, current member of the board and was president and CEO of The Aerospace Corporation from 2008 until 2016.

"Obviously we're very happy that the Board of Trustees heard the voices of the faculty, other members of the community and that they're going forward with this transition," said professor Ariela Gross, with USC's Gould School of Law.

She added that the campus has work to do in terms of making sure students are safe, victims have proper support and that the community can properly heal.

Despite Nikias stepping down, he will still help with the transition for the new president and will have a role as president emeritus and life trustee of the university, according to the letter.

"It is evident that the recent crises have resulted from systemic and cultural failures," Caruso said in the letter. "Both the behavior and the environment that allowed it to persist are inexcusable and will no longer be tolerated."

Caruso said the process to find a new president is underway and the goal is to complete the search within four to six months. The board retained a top education recruitment firm to help in the process.

Since details of the gynecologist accusations surfaced, multiple lawsuits were filed against the university, as well as calls for Nikias to step down. In addition to the lawsuits, the Department of Education launched its own investigation into why USC failed to report the allegations and internal investigation against its former gynecologist.
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