Crisis of the Week: Gynecologist’s Actions Bring Down USC’s President

University of Southern California President C.L. Max Nikias agreed to step down late last month, just over a week after allegations were made public that a longtime gynecologist at the school’s student-health center had sexually abused patients.

.. Alan Hilburg, President and CEO, HilburgMalan: “It’s been said, the most dangerous lies are the ones you tell yourself. There was an internal investigation, which in additional to contradicting USC’s public statement, revealed the truth about the sexual allegations and [that] the results of this investigation were hidden from the students, their families and even the California State Medical Board.

Crises are never about the crisis. No one is judged by what caused the crisis, but rather how they respond. USC’s board and former president tried to hide the ball and now they are experiencing the high cost of low trust.

.. USC’s formal responses…ring curiously hollow. One of the worst aspects of some crisis responses being edited by lawyers is they can have a pulled-back, wordsmithed, bloodless quality, borne from fear of being quoted in future lawsuits. They appear to defend when they should apologize and make common cause with victims. So at the very moment USC needed to show itself to be trustworthy, honest and authentic and devastated, its statements made them appear otherwise.