USC Medical School Dean Rohit Varma Quits Over Sexual Harassment Case

The university paid the woman $135,000 in settlement after she complained against Dr Rohit Varma in 2003.


The University of Southern California is in the news once again for the wrong reasons after Dr. Rohit Varma, its medical school dean, resigned from the post over a sexual harassment case that took place 15 years ago. The USC announced on Oct.5 that Varma no longer held the post.

“Based on previously undisclosed information brought to the university in recent days, USC leadership has lost confidence in Dr. Rohit Varma’s ability to lead our medical school. As of today, he is no longer dean of the Keck School of Medicine,” USC Provost Michael Quick said in a statement.

“I understand how upsetting this situation is to all of us, but we felt it was in the best interest of the faculty, staff and students for all of us to move in this direction,” Quick said in the statement on Oct.6. “Today we learned previously undisclosed information that caused us to lose confidence in Dr. Varma’s ability to lead the school. Our leaders must be held to the highest standards. Dr. Varma understands this, and chose to step down.”

Varma, who assumed the post less than a year ago, was found to have behaved inappropriately toward a female medical school researcher, following which he was formally disciplined by the USC in 2003, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing confidential records accessed by it and interviews it conducted with people familiar with the matter.

The Case

The incident, according to the publication, took place when Varma and the woman travelled to an ophthalmology conference. The complainant accused him of making sexual advances towards her, and told investigators that he said he had booked only one room and expected her to share a bed with him. He also threatened to have her visa revoked and took her cellphone away when she protested.

USC paid her $135,000 in settlement, of which about $11,000 was personally paid by Varma. He was also temporarily blocked from becoming a full member of the faculty and his salary was reduced by $30,000, LA Times said, quoting the records and interviews. He was, however, given his original salary in 2004, and promoted to a full professor in 2005.

Varma was appointed the dean of USC medical school after his predecessor, Dr. Carmen Puliafito, quit following charges that he had alcohol and drug problem, and partied with other drug users and prostitutes. At the time of his appointment in January this year, the university called Varma an outstanding candidate, with a press release stating that Varma, who obtained his medical degree at the University of Delhi in India, was a volunteer at a leper colony with Mother Teresa as a medical student.

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