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USC Settlement Is A Reminder That Campus Gynecologist Preyed on Asian Students

USC will spend $852 million to settle sexual abuse lawsuits against its former gynecologist George Tyndall. (Andrew Cullen for LAist)

Days after USC announced an $852 million settlement to sexual abuse lawsuits against its former campus gynecologist, George Tyndall, faculty and administrators are worried about the impact of the news on Asian and Asian American students on campus.

“George Tyndall specifically preyed upon Asian women,” said Lucy Chi, a 2014 USC graduate who spoke in an online press conference about the impact of Tyndall’s alleged abuse. The Los Angeles Times reported that an internal USC investigation described how Tyndall targeted Asian and Asian American female students.

Zoe Corwin, who teaches in USC’s school of education, told LAist: “We, as faculty and practitioners at the university, need to be really in tune with our students and how the news is affecting them."

Corwin teaches students who want to become college student affairs administrators. Part of that instruction involves how to navigate these kinds of crises. Some of Corwin’s students are Asian American.

“On top of all of the anti-Asian violence they've been facing, to receive this news that Tyndall targeted students of their similar identities, it's really important for us to acknowledge that and pay special attention to those student groups,” Corwin said.

USC student affairs staff who identify as Asian or Asian American, Corwin said, have also been under a great deal of stress as they help students deal with xenophobic and racist rhetoric and incidents.

USC enrolls more than 15,000 Asian American and Asian international students annually.

Administrators said the university is providing resources for its students.

In an email, Jonathan Wang, director of USC’s Asian Pacific American Student Services, said they are continuing to support Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American-identified students "with community discussions, our embedded counselor from Counseling and Mental Health and connections to resources."

In statements emailed after the Tyndall settlement was announced, USC President Carol Folt apologized for the pain caused by Tyndall, and USC Board of Trustees chair Rick Caruso said the university fell short in protecting students. Neither made mention of Asian or Asian American students.

“I think we have a lot of work to do to make those students feel safe and respected,” said Professor Ariela Gross, whose research specialties include race and gender in the law. Folt and Caruso, she said, owe Asian and Asian American women students an apology.

She is hopeful. A USC taskforce on race, equity, diversity and inclusion is crafting recommendations for university administrators.


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LA County Wants Out Of Big Federal Homelessness Lawsuit

Skid Row. (James Bernal for KPCC)

Los Angeles County says it shouldn’t be the target of a big federal lawsuit over the local homelessness crisis. The county is asking to be dropped from the litigation, which would leave the city of L.A. as the sole defendant.

That’s the essence of a motion filed today asking U.S. District Judge David Carter to dismiss the county from the lawsuit filed in March 2020 by the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, a coalition of Skid Row businesses and homeowners.

The case seeks to force the city and county to act much more aggressively to house the unhoused, claiming both governments have created dangerous conditions on the streets by mismanaging taxpayer money meant to shelter people experiencing homelessness.

The motion makes several arguments; for one, it maintains the county is only responsible for unincorporated areas, not Skid Row, a focus of the suit that lies within the city limits. It notes that the plaintiffs allege the city — and some recent federal court orders involving the city — are responsible for the growth of the Skid Row population — not the county.

The motion also claims that court is the wrong place to tackle the issue.

“Complex policy questions about how to address homelessness must be resolved by the County’s elected governing body, the Board of Supervisors,” it says.

The county’s motion is disappointing but not surprising, said Elizabeth Mitchell, an attorney for the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights.

“Here you have the county, again, routinely denying their role in causing this crisis,” she said. “The county has a real opportunity here to partner with the city, with the community, with the federal court, with us, and instead they’re just playing old games.”

In response to a request for comment, the county issued a statement saying it's "in full agreement that an urgent solution to address the homelessness crisis is necessary," while reiterating the arguments it made in the motion.

Last summer, the city and county jointly agreed to add 6,700 shelter beds as part of the lawsuit. That represented goodwill and collaboration, Mitchell said, which she believes is now deteriorating.

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Students In Some Big LA County School Districts Start Returning To Campus This Week

School bus parking lot near downtown Los Angeles. (Damian Carr via Unsplash)

Elementary students in L.A. County’s second-largest school district — Long Beach Unified — will start returning to campuses this week. That’s one of several school district reopenings I’m tracking.

Districts that are reopening this week include these:

  • Long Beach Unified campuses will reopen to students from transitional kindergarten (TK) through fifth grade today. Students who don’t choose to remain in distance learning mode will spend two-and-a-half hours with their teacher, either in the morning or afternoon. “The return to in-person classes includes asymptomatic screening for staff and students,” said Superintendent Jill Baker in a video message last week
  • The Hart Union High School District, which serves Santa Clarita, is reopening campuses for blended learning on Monday — with buildings operating at reduced capacity: “There will be less students in the classroom,” Superintendent Mike Kuhlman said in a video message.
  • Glendale Unified students in transitional kindergarten (TK) through second grade will return Monday. Students in third to sixth grade will go back to campuses on April 5. Like in Long Beach, students in Glendale will operate on a “hybrid” schedule, with returning students “alternat(ing) between on-campus and distance learning in small cohorts.”
  • Norwalk-La Mirada Unified is also welcoming grades TK-2 back on Monday — but the rest of the elementary grades will return to campuses Wednesday.
  • Rosemead Unified is yet another school system reopening for grades TK-2 on Monday, with the remaining elementary school students returning in mid-April
  • All Downey Unified elementary students will return to campuses on Monday.

With these additions, districts serving around one-quarter of L.A. County’s elementary students will have exited full distance learning mode.

In Orange County, the vast majority of elementary students have been learning in person at least part of the time for weeks.


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Morning Brief: More Criticism Of LAPD, Human Suffering On Display, And Bioluminescence

A sports store inside the Lakewood mall. (Chava Sanchez/LAist)

Good morning, L.A. It’s March 29.

Many politicians are heralding the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the coronavirus, pointing to drastically reduced positive case numbers and increased distribution of the vaccine.

But for communities that have been hardest hit — largely Black, Latino and Indigenous — the disparity in outcomes will continue to affect families and individuals.

With that in mind, as part of our Race in L.A. series, Oswaldo (Oz) Hasbún Avalos, M.D., an emergency medicine physician currently practicing in Los Angeles, writes that some of the media images of patients who are critically ill or dying have made him “deeply uncomfortable”:

“Their likenesses have been captured very publicly — in widely seen photographs posted in news publications and on social media that convey them in their most vulnerable state: critically ill and dying.

Regardless of good intentions, the photographer's lens yields little more than what some refer to as ‘trauma porn’Would this glimpse into human suffering be so readily possible in communities with majority affluent, white patients? Should we reduce the lives of these complex individuals to provocative pictures on what may be their deathbed to applaud the efforts of what are still largely white saviors? Would we want our own family members showcased in this way?”

Avalos notes that he hopes the events of the past year provoke elected officials to press forward with initiatives that would truly help the communities he serves, including improving access to healthcare for more individuals, financial assistance such as rent moratoriums, and increased vaccination access in the hardest hit areas.

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A. today, and stay safe out there.

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What Else You Need To Know Today

  • Hundreds of people turned out in Koreatown on Saturday to make a statement against anti-Asian racism.
  • Activists are criticizing city officials for giving little warning before a heavy-handed police operation shut down Echo Park Lake last week, followed by the eviction of those living at a longstanding homeless encampment there.
  • A new report on race in the workplace found that Black workers are underrepresented in the highest-paying industries, and the areas where those jobs are located.
  • FEMA plans to stop operating two mass vaccination sites in California next month.

Before You Go … Bioluminescence Is Back!

Laguna Beach, March 2021. (Mark Girardeau / Orange County Outdoors)

These days, if you gaze into the ocean off Laguna or Newport Beach, you may notice the water looking a little brown and ruddy. Take a look again after the sun sets, and you'll see a glowing blue-green light show in the waves, all thanks to a bioluminescent algae that is now in bloom in Orange County waters.

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