LOS ANGELES — The Chinese government expressed serious concerns about the University of Southern California, days after officials there admitted that a gynecologist at the student health center continued to see patients despite continued allegations of misconduct, including targeting students from China.
“We ask the USC authorities to deal with the case in a serious manner, conduct an immediate investigation and take concrete measures to protect the Chinese students and scholars on campus from being harmed,” the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles said in a statement. “The consulate has all along attached great importance to the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens overseas, including Chinese students and scholars.”
For years, medical staff reported that the doctor, George Tyndall, inappropriately touched students during pelvic exams and made sexual and offensive comments about their bodies.
Yet even after university officials suspended Dr. Tyndall in 2016 and forced him to step down a year later, they did not report the accusations to the California Medical Board. When their internal investigation was complete, officials said that the findings were a personnel matter and that there was no legal obligation to notify the state oversight board, which investigates doctors accused of misconduct.
U.S.C. officials said that by late Wednesday, they had received about 85 complaints about Dr. Tyndall, either through a hotline or a website the university set up to receive complaints. (More than 350,000 students and alumni received an email that included information about Dr. Tyndall and how to report any concerns.) About half of the complaints received this week were anonymous and the majority were about comments that Dr. Tyndall made during exams, officials said. It was not yet clear how many of the complaints were from Chinese students.
But the accusations were already reverberating among U.S.C. students from China, who make up nearly half of the university’s 11,000 international students. The university also has a significant presence in China, with offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong to run academic programs, raise money and recruit new students.
“I feel disgusted. I feel like in the future, Chinese students will feel like it’s not safe,” said Lisa Wong, 23, a graduate student at the Marshall School of Business, who added that it was unusual to receive regular gynecological exams at this age in China. “We come here to learn and we’re vulnerable. If something is strange, and the doctor reassures us it’s normal procedure, we don’t usually say anything more.”
Other Chinese students interviewed on campus said that they would be unlikely to complain if they received strange comments from a doctor or thought they were being touched inappropriately.
“China’s sex education isn’t strong, neither with the government or within family,” said Xing Nan, a student at the law school. “Chinese people tend to refrain from talking about this topic so there’s a culture of ignorance, and so you might not be able to protect yourself. You’re also vulnerable when you go in, so you tend to believe or trust whatever the doctor says.”
Dr. Tyndall reportedly made offensive comments to Chinese students as well as those from other backgrounds, according to a lengthy investigation by The Los Angeles Times.
Several medical experts and ethicists said Wednesday that, regardless of the law, the university failed to meet its ethical obligation in not reporting Dr. Tyndall sooner.
Under state law, hospitals and clinics are required to notify the medical board if they suspend or terminate physicians. The board receives nearly 10,000 complaints each year and last year opened more than 1,400 investigations. If it finds serious misconduct, it can revoke a license to practice.
“If we receive a complaint from the member of the public or clinic or another doctor, we look into it,” said Carlos Villatoro, a spokesman for the board. “But the complaint has to come to us in the first place.”
Mr. Villatoro said he could not comment on the U.S.C. case, but added that “any allegation that an entity is not reporting as required by law will be investigated.”
Jonathan Moreno, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a medical ethics expert, said the decision not to report Dr. Tyndall “makes the medical board sort of toothless.”
Dr. Moreno added that “it sounds like people were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt more than ought to have with him.”
Isaac Schiff, the former chief of obstetrics-gynecology at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that if a physician’s behavior led to a suspension or removal, “you have an obligation that the medical board knows about it.”
“You should not be turning an eye or making private deals,” he said. “When institutions just sort of say, ‘Go away quietly and we won’t report you,’ I don’t think that’s correct morally.”
“If a university doesn’t set the standard,” he added, “who does?”
Last year, U.S.C. officials changed the way the student health center is run, making it part of the university’s medical center. During the time that Dr. Tyndall worked at the center, it operated independently and had no oversight from physicians or administrators at the medical school. In a letter sent to students Tuesday, the current chairwoman of the student health center said that now, health care providers are faculty in the departments of family medicine and psychiatry and “undergo a demanding credentialing and peer-review process.”
Angela Chen and Tim Arango contributed reporting.