A University of South Carolina professor sent several text messages to one of his students asking what she was wearing, telling her to “take it off!!!” and stating, “I wanted to sleep with you tonight,” according to university documents obtained by The State.
After the student complained to the university, the professor called the texts “witty banter” among friends and said “take it off” referred to a Taylor Swift song.
The university determined that the professor didn’t violate any school policy.
In a separate incident, a USC employee says she became pregnant by her boss, who threatened to fire her if she didn’t get an abortion, according to a lawsuit. When she complained to the university, it rejected her sexual harassment claim, she said in the lawsuit.
Two other women have filed lawsuits against a third employee, an art professor, accusing him of sexual harassment and claiming the university failed to act. Since those suits were publicized, another woman told The State the professor also sexually harassed her.
They are five of the 10 women who have alleged since 2017 that USC failed to effectively respond to harassment complaints. The State examined their allegations through court records, interviews and internal USC documents.
“The university has consciously ignored graduate student reports allowing sexually explicit conduct to continue,” USC alumna and employee Michelle Hardee wrote in an affidavit for a sexual harassment suit filed by a student against a USC professor. “I felt that the university has turned a blind eye to Title IX complaints.”
Title IX is the federal law passed in 1972 that prohibits discrimination based on sex in education.
What’s more, USC in 2019 removed the ability for students or employees whose harassment claims are rejected from appealing internally. In contrast, students or employees punished for alleged harassment can appeal their punishment to USC, although they can’t appeal the harassment finding.
When taken together, the allegations depict a university that ignored complaints, humiliated victims and enabled unprofessional behavior.
After two lawsuits were filed against an art professor last year, a USC student started a petition calling for the school to reform how it investigates harassment complaints. As of early March, the petition has received more than 2,600 signatures.
USC, in a statement, defended its record of handling of harassment complaints, saying the university takes seriously all sexual assault and harassment claims and requires Title IX training for employees.
“While it is not always possible to arrive at results that please all parties, we follow a thorough and consistent policy of evaluating allegations and making timely determinations based on all available evidence and due process in accordance with regulations and statute,” USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said in a statement.
Between Nov. 30, 2019, and Nov. 30, 2020, USC had 107 Title IX complaints involving harassment or assault, and only 10 of those involved faculty or staff, Stensland said.
After becoming USC President, Robert Caslen — who previously co-chaired the NCAA Commission to Combat Campus Sexual Violence — had called for USC to review the university’s sexual harassment reporting processes, victim advocacy and Title IX education for students and employees.
“Under the direction of the president, the university convened a group of campus professionals working in the field of interpersonal violence to discuss campus prevention and response procedures and how they may be improved,” Stensland said. “Topics included training, reporting, investigating adjudication, and support for survivors. Those discussions are ongoing.”
USC plans to announce new mandatory training for students, faculty and staff this spring, Stensland said.
Theater professor sex harassment allegations
Robert Richmond, a theater professor and former department chair whose legal name is Robert Bourne, was cleared of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct allegations after asking a student on several occasions if she would sleep with him, insinuating she should wear lingerie at her campus job and saying in one text, “I wanted to sleep with you tonight,” according to USC documents obtained by The State.
USC had the texts, but the school determined the professor’s actions didn’t constitute a policy violation, according to USC’s Equal Opportunity Programs report.
The Equal Opportunity Programs office handles complaints of harassment and sexual misconduct.
When The State requested a copy of this report in January 2020, USC unlawfully withheld documents until December 2020, and only provided the documents after The State’s parent company sued the university for Freedom of Information Act violations.
In one series of texts, Richmond said, “send a pic of your outfit,” “what are you wearing?” “Good, I wanna see it. And take it off!!!!!,” according to a summary of texts included in the official report provided to The State.
Richmond, who has been a professor at USC since 2007, didn’t deny sending the text messages, but rather said they were “witty banter” between friends, records show.
As for the “take it off” text, Richmond said it was a reference to the song “Dress” by Taylor Swift, an argument USC investigators noted twice in the official report.
The State has reached out to Richmond regarding the allegations.
University of South Carolina Professor Robert Richmond
The texts were just one of the student’s allegations against Richmond. She also reported that Richmond, on several occasions, invited her over to his house and served her alcohol until she was too drunk to drive home, and so she had to sleep in his guest bedroom. On one instance, the two had a sexual encounter, the student alleged.
Richmond denied any sexual encounter with the student and said he did not remember kissing her. But he said he “could have kissed her on the cheek incidentally while hugging her,” according to USC’s report.
USC policy forbids sexual or romantic relationships between “instructional staff” and their students, according to the Faculty Manual. However, the manual doesn’t specify a punishment.
On a separate instance, Richmond allegedly showed up at a student party, which a witness, whose name was redacted, said was “very odd,” according to USC documents.
Richmond denied to investigators he ever showed up to the student’s house uninvited or unannounced, the report shows.
Five students submitted witness statements alongside the unnamed student’s complaint. Two of those said they also experienced inappropriate behavior from Richmond and two others said they saw Richmond act inappropriately.
The witness statements allege Richmond had a reputation for inappropriate behavior toward women. One student alleged he would hold production meetings at a bar where he would buy the 21-year-old undergraduate alcohol.
“My professional relationship with Robert continued to be centered around alcohol, meaning that after almost every rehearsal I would have to go to a bar and drink to talk about the show and be kept in the loop as the stage manager,” one student wrote in a witness statement.
Some students signed their names on the witness statements; others were anonymous. When USC provided the records to The State, the students’ names were redacted.
A separate student who said Richmond sexually harassed her wrote in the witness statement she “warned younger friends not to pursue an education with the university theatre department because of him.”
Richmond has won multiple awards and grants and has directing credits for plays that have been performed at Carnegie Hall and The White House, according to his online resume. Richmond has his own company, Full Circle Productions, and is an associate artist at the prestigious Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., according to his company’s website.
Former student Haley Sprankle filed one of the five witness statements with USC, she told The State. In that statement, she left her phone number and offered to provide more information to USC officials in the investigation, but the university never reached out to her, she said.
“I feel they just wanted to cover this up as quickly as possible. The fact that I wasn’t contacted as a key witness is very telling,” Sprankle told The State. “I left USC having very little faith in the university.”
Although USC found that Richmond held a position of authority over the unnamed student who filed the complaint, university investigators determined Richmond’s conduct did not violate university policy, documents show. USC said in its report that the preponderance of evidence did not show Richmond engaged in “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, verbal or other expressive behaviors or physical conduct commonly understood to be of a sexual nature,” according to the report.
The student who filed the complaint said every sexual comment, advance and touch by Richmond was unwanted, although she did not object, she told investigators.
“I did not verbally protest his advancements, his flirting, his touching,” the student wrote in her complaint. “I was in a dark place and he used it.”
Unhappy with the results of the internal investigation, the student appealed the decision to President Caslen. In a letter responding to the student, Caslen said, “University policy does not afford the president a formal role in the review of (Equal Opportunity Programs) determinations or provide the president authority to supplant those determinations,” according to the letter.
Caslen forwarded the student’s appeal back to the director of the Equal Opportunity Programs office, the same office that did the original investigation, to “ensure all … policies and procedures were followed.” The director confirmed with Caslen that all policies were followed, according to the letter.
The student’s complaint was filed in March 2019, documents show. Had the student’s appeal been filed before February 2019, a panel of three USC employees would have reviewed the Title IX findings and presented them to then-President Harris Pastides, who could then uphold or overturn the university investigative findings.
In February 2019, while USC was facing a lawsuit for a separate sexual harassment allegation, USC nixed the presidential review, Stensland said.
That rule change left alleged victims with no internal means to appeal. If the person who filed the complaint is unhappy with the results of the Title IX investigation and wants to appeal, his or her only options are with state or federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights or the S.C. Human Affairs Commission, Stensland said.
Alleged offenders cannot appeal the findings of the Title IX investigation, but they can appeal the discipline they are given, according to USC policy.
“The change in presidential appeals was made because it was deemed duplicative since the professional investigators in (the Equal Opportunity Programs office) are best positioned to determine Title IX violations,” Stensland said.
Prior allegations against professor
Richmond had previously been accused of inappropriate behavior, according to documents and students who spoke with The State.
During the audition process for the theater school’s 2012 play, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Richmond asked female students to give lap-dances to male students, Kelsea Woods, a former student, said.
Rather than dance suggestively near a stranger, one of her close, male friends was in the audition and she danced near him because she felt safer doing that, Woods said.
“It felt icky and weird in the moment, but … my desire to be cast kind of overrode that in the moment,” said Woods, who was a freshman at the time.
Another former student, who asked not to be named, told The State she was also at the audition and corroborated Woods’ story. Former students who were not there, and also asked not to be named, told The State multiple students told them about the incident shortly after it happened. The lap dance allegation was mentioned in three of the witness statements.
It’s not uncommon for actors to be asked to dance or act out parts of plays in the audition process, but this was an unusual request, especially for a play that — although set in London in the 1960s — wasn’t sexual, Woods said.
Woods remembers Richmond telling students they didn’t have to participate in the suggestive dancing, but Woods remembers thinking her chance to be in the play could suffer if she opted out of part of the audition, she said.
Woods told one of her teachers about the incident and the teacher was “aghast” at the allegation, telling her to report the matter to Robyn Hunt, a professor in the department of theater and dance.
Hunt listened to Woods’ allegation, but it wasn’t clear to Woods whether anything was done as a result of her complaint, she said.
“There was no obvious action, like no intent of action on her part and ‘let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again,’” Woods said. “She thanked me for sharing.”
In an email to The State, Hunt confirmed Woods and another female undergraduate student reported to her “something that made them very uncomfortable in the auditions for The Importance of Being Earnest.”
After meeting with the students, she suggested they report the issue to the department chair, Hunt said in an email. She even offered to go with the students. However, the students, fearing professional retaliation, were afraid to speak out in an official way, Hunt said.
Hunt said she spoke to an associate chair, whom she did not name but said no longer works at USC, alone about the students’ concerns and “was told by the (associate) chair that action would be taken.”
It’s unclear what action, if any, was taken as a result of these allegations. No mention of it appears in Richmond’s personnel file, which The State obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The personnel file, however, notes Richmond received tenure in 2013, a year after the alleged incident.
In the 2019 incident involving the text messages and the unnamed student, Hunt filed a report with USC’s Equal Opportunity Programs office regarding the alleged harassment of the unnamed student. Hunt feared Richmond — who was serving as department chair — could potentially retaliate by cutting her program funding, according to the report.
“I remain very concerned about the avenues and resources available to undergraduate and graduate students at USC who encounter harassment of any kind,” Hunt said in an email to The State. “It is my understanding that both the undergraduate and graduate student ombudsmen will see students, but neither can promise anonymity.”
If USC officials were unaware of the lap-dance allegations in 2012, they were likely aware in 2019, when three of the witness statements attached to the unnamed student’s complaint about text messages mentioned the lap dance allegation. One of the witnesses said they witnessed first-hand the lap-dance allegation; the other two said they heard multiple reports about them.
Those anonymous witness statements included allegations Richmond would abuse artistic freedom to hyper-sexualize female undergraduates and graduate students in plays.
For example, one student said he “highly encouraged” her and a female castmate to wear underwear on stage. When she and the costume designer disagreed, she still had to wear “shorts that looked like underwear,” according to the witness statement.
“In rehearsals, he encouraged me to make sluttier choices,” the student wrote.
Richmond would use the term, “something for the dads,” when introducing a sexually suggestive activity or outfit, a separate student wrote in a statement. In a Shakespeare play, he had a character get caught in an actress’ skirt and “had her derive sexual pleasure from it,” the student wrote. In another instance, Richmond allegedly had an actress in a Shakespeare play lose her clothes down to her underwear throughout the show.
USC redacted the name of the play because releasing the name could narrow down the identities of the anonymous student and the unnamed witnesses, Stensland said.
Often, the sexually suggestive ideas didn’t make it into full plays or full rehearsal, but were kept to smaller groups, one student wrote.
Asked if USC investigated the allegations in the witness statements, Stensland said, “while we don’t discuss details of specific investigations, the (Equal Opportunity Programs) Office conducts rigorous reviews of potential Title IX infractions and follows up on relevant allegations that may arise during those investigations.”
‘Coerced’ abortion outlined in lawsuit
Hannah Victoria McLeod, a former systems administrator for USC, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in April 2020 alleging she became pregnant by her superior, Mike Dollar, who threatened to fire her if she told colleagues about the pregnancy or if she didn’t get an abortion, which she didn’t want, according to the suit.
Two months after McLeod was hired at USC in June 2017, Dollar allegedly took McLeod to his home following a lunch meeting and kissed her as she was petting his dog, according to the lawsuit.
McLeod asked if kissing her was appropriate, and Dollar said it was because he had made someone else McLeod’s direct supervisor, the suit said. However, McLeod’s supervisor reported directly to Dollar, the suit alleges.
The two began a sexual relationship in November 2017, and two months later, McLeod discovered she was pregnant, the suit says. Once Dollar discovered she was pregnant, he “became enraged” and threatened to fire her if she told colleagues about the pregnancy.
“Dollar insisted that Plaintiff have an abortion or that she would be fired,” according to McLeod’s complaint.
In early 2018, Dollar rented a car, drove McLeod to an abortion clinic and “coerced” her to have an abortion she didn’t want, the suit says. Following the abortion, McLeod had to go to the hospital to have a procedure to prevent an infection, according to the suit.
Around the time of the abortion, the relationship ended, according the lawsuit.
In court filings, USC’s attorneys say the university investigated McLeod’s complaint and did not find that she was the victim of sexual harassment.
The relationship ended, but Dollar didn’t leave McLeod alone, according to the suit.
Dollar “frequently” shouted at McLeod in the office to the point where she would cry and co-workers would notice, the suit alleges.
USC policy doesn’t explicitly forbid work relationships between two employees when one has authority over another. When those relationships develop, the higher-ranking employee is supposed to report the relationship to his or her boss and follow the boss’ guidance to minimize conflicts of interest between the relationship and work, according to USC’s sexual harassment policy.
“To minimize this risk, members of the university community are discouraged from entering into romantic or intimate relationships in which one party to the relationship has, or potentially will have, academic or employment supervisory, advisory, evaluative, or other authority or influence over the other party,” USC’s sexual harassment policy reads.
After their relationship ended, McLeod said Dollar began “grooming” another employee, a student worker, and saying the same inappropriate things to her that Dollar had said to her, the suit says.
McLeod alleges Dollar, since 2010, had been in “inappropriate” relationships with “at least two student workers and employees” and that USC knew about the relationships, but did not act because nobody filed an official complaint with the Equal Opportunity Programs office, the suit alleges.
On Oct. 16, 2018, McLeod reported Dollar to her boss Charles Kerns, Pam Young in Human Resources and Associate Dean John McDermott, according to the suit.
McDermott, Kerns and Young declined to comment. The State has reached out to Dollar.
On Oct. 29, McLeod met with Young, Kerns and Dean Peter Brews, and they gave her the option of transferring departments or moving her desk and working evenings in a different position, according to the suit.
“Despite being the victim, (McLeod) began to be treated like she was the one who had done something wrong and (USC) was attempting to negatively impact her working experience,” according to the suit.
McLeod had thought Dollar was suspended following her allegations, but she found out in 2018 that Dollar was allowed to work from home, the suit says.
During a meeting with human resources, Young scolded McLeod for requesting a victim’s advocate be present on a phone call, the suit said. McLeod became upset at the meeting and began to cry, during which one of her managers mocked her and took a picture of her crying, the suit alleges.
Later that day, a different human resources employee let her work from home, the suit said. A third human resources employee, Caroline Agardy, said Young was no longer allowed to talk to McLeod about her job, according to the suit.
But a week later, one of her bosses “stripped (McLeod) of most of her job duties” and required her to check in every two hours to say what she was doing, the suit alleges.
Agardy directed questions to a university spokesman.
In court filings, USC’s attorneys deny wrongdoing, argue the school tried to prevent and correct harassing behavior, followed Title IX and did not discriminate against McLeod. USC argues it provided McLeod with ways to minimize harassment, but she did not take those measures.
Former USC employee speaks out
Lynn Hutto, a former USC human resources consultant who handled cases involving the facilities department, told The State that once cases were reported to human resources, officials often acted on them. But when students or employees report harassment allegations to a manager or mid-level employee — especially new or young managers — the manager isn’t always able or willing to respond to the complaint.
“In every case that was brought to my attention about harassment … In the capacity that I sat in, I always took it forward and we always took action,” Hutto told The State.
Once accused, some employees, especially those who are wealthier, white or privileged, tend to push back on allegations their behavior was inappropriate, causing some managers to back down, Hutto said.
Other employees “don’t feel they had the power” to act on the complaints, Hutto said.
Hutto spoke only about her experience, which included the facilities and engineering department. She said she had no reason to believe administrators in other departments would ignore complaints. But not all complaints made their way to human resources officials or top administrators.
Many of the people who spoke to The State about alleged harassment or who filed suits against USC said they reported an instance of harassment to a professor, department chair or other USC official. Sometimes, the student or employee followed up with a Title IX complaint.
Hutto, who worked at USC from 2012 to 2019, said administrators saw her as credible, and that she was firm but fair with people who brought concerns to her and the employees accused. After arriving, she and her colleagues set up a nine-week human resources training program she said is now required for all managers and supervisors.
Like many institutions and companies, USC promotes outstanding employees to management-level positions, Hutto said. But the skills that made an employee good at his or her craft may not equip them to handle management duties, such as properly responding to complaints of harassment.
“Standing up for race, sex, whatever, is not an easy conversation to have,” Hutto said.
Art professor allegations
In late 2020, one current and one former faculty member each sued USC alleging the university failed to protect them from alleged sexual harassment by painting professor David Voros.
Former USC professor Jaime Misenheimer alleged in her suit Voros lured her into a closet, put his arm around her, held up in front of her a plastic head used in the art department and whispered in her ear to look out a small window. Misenheimer said in the suit she thought Voros was making a sexual advance on her. When she reported the incident to one of Voros’ superiors, Voros sent emails to Misenheimer and other faculty falsely accusing her of poor performance, according to the complaint.
She alleged she was being retaliated against.
The other lawsuit, filed by current USC professor and Voros’ ex-wife Pamela Bowers, alleged Voros made multiple unwanted sexual advances on Bowers after their divorce while she was working on campus.
After Bowers reported Voros, whom she also alleged used sexist slurs toward other women in the workplace, he tried to intimidate her by unnecessarily interrupting her classes, according to the suit.
Both Misenheimer and Bowers reported their complaints to department superiors, and eventually reported Voros to USC’s Equal Opportunity Programs office, said Samantha Albrecht, an attorney who represents both Bowers and Misenheimer.
Since then, another former student, Lauren Chapman, told The State, she faced harassment from Voros.
University of South Carolina Professor David Voros
Chapman, Misenheimer and Bowers all say USC could have done more to respond to their complaints.
“Had the administration taken appropriate action against Mr. Voros … we allege that Ms. Bowers and Ms. Misenheimer would not have had to file their lawsuits,” Albrecht said.
In December, USC removed Voros from teaching duties “until further notice,” according to a previous article from The State. Voros was told to not have contact with students nor come on campus without approval from a supervisor, Stensland said.
Asked why USC has not fired Voros, Stensland said the university will determine his job status after the lawsuits are resolved.
While Chapman told The State this was a good first step for USC, she said Voros should have been fired, noting that although Voros will be out of classrooms, he may still come into contact with faculty depending on what Voros’ role will be.
The first time Chapman experienced harassment in USC’s School of Visual Art and Design, she was attending a party Voros hosted, she said.
“He came up to me and gave me a hug and kiss and it made me very uncomfortable,” said Chapman, who also described the incident in a deposition, where she said he kissed her on the cheek. “He was very drunk and it wasn’t like a normal peck, and also why would my professor peck me? It was a whole grab thing.”
A couple months after that, she was working in her assigned on-campus art studio when David Voros approached her, she said.
Voros told her she should try to do a painting of a nude male model who was in the studio, she said.
It’s common for art students to paint nude models, but that model was different. “(The model) was just hanging out in the studio and he was naked,” Chapman said, noting that’s not something nude models typically did.
Voros told everyone else in the studio to leave, dimmed the lights and told the male model, “I want you to stare into her eyes until it scares her,” Chapman said.
Voros left and Chapman went to fix the overhead lighting near the model, who looked up her dress, commented on her body and said he wished she were naked with him, she said.
After that, two male students walked in and the model commented on her figure to two, other male students, Chapman recalled.
“That was very uncomfortable for me,” Chapman said.
After the incident, Chapman said she moved her work out of the assigned studio space because she no longer felt safe there.
During a deposition in a separate sexual harassment lawsuit, Chapman was asked about the nude model incident. The description she provided during the deposition matched details she provided to The State in an interview that occurred more than a year after the deposition.
Chapman told Misenheimer — the former faculty member who sued USC and Voros in late November — about the incident, and Misenheimer told her to report the incident to Peter Chametzky, the then-chair of the School of Visual Art and Design, Chapman said. After that, the model was fired, Chapman said.
In a 2019 affidavit, Misenheimer recalled the story Chapman told her about Voros allegedly telling the model to stare into Chapman’s eyes until it scared her. Misenheimer’s summary of the alleged nude model incident matched the basic facts of Chapman’s allegation.
But that didn’t end Chapman’s run-ins with Voros, she said. Chapman became close with Misenheimer and Bowers, she said.
It was around this time that another lawsuit filed against Voros and USC became public, which rocked the painting department at USC, Chapman said.
Chapman was eventually served with documents seeking a deposition from her in that lawsuit, filed by former student Allison Dunavant, who alleged Voros subjected her to sexual advances and required her to do manual labor during a study abroad trip to Italy.
Chapman and Misenheimer also filed a police report with USC’s police department in March 2017. The report alleged Voros had been getting “loud and physical when he gets upset” and that Misenheimer and Chapman feared retaliation for filing affidavits in Bowers’ divorce, according to the police report obtained by The State through the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Misenheimer was so afraid of Voros on one occasion that she hid in Chapman’s locker to avoid him, according to the police report.
Chapman told Laura Kissel, the current chair of the School of Visual Art and Design about the incident where Voros allegedly hugged and kissed her.
Kissel, in an emailed response to questions from The State, said she can’t discuss specific cases involving students. But, she said, “were a student to tell a faculty member or myself that they feel unsafe, we would strongly encourage them to contact law enforcement for immediate protection and assistance, and work with police to file a report.”
During the deposition, Chapman also mentioned the incident where Voros allegedly kissed her at a party, according to court records.
“I felt like I was being questioned as if I was some criminal or something, by my university that I paid a lot of tuition for,” Chapman told The State.
Chapman has considered suing USC, but doesn’t have the money, she said.
“I can’t hire a lawyer,” Chapman said. “I’m an artist, and I stay at home most of the time. I cannot afford (that).”
In December, Damon Wlodarczyk, an attorney with Riley Pope & Laney LLC who is representing Voros in the two most recently filed suits, told The State Voros plans to deny wrongdoing.
“Unfortunately, I am not able to comment on a pending lawsuit except to say that I will be filing answers denying any wrongdoing by Professor Voros,” Wlodarczyk said in a statement.
Voros referred questions to his attorney. On January, 5, Wlodarczyk moved to dismiss both Misenheimer and Bowers’ cases. Documents filed by Voros’ attorney on Feb. 16, 2021, deny harassment allegations against Voros. Both cases are ongoing in federal court.
Bradford Collins, a USC art history professor who is friends with Voros, doubts the sexual harassment allegations against his friend.
“My impression, my knowledge of David is he is not the kind of person that would be engaged in any of that,” Collins said.
“He’s not a sexual harasser,” Collins said.
While Collins doubts the sexual harassment allegations against Voros, he did acknowledge Voros’ anger can get the best of him sometimes.
“He does have a temper,” Collins said. “He’s very direct. He’s very strong-minded. He speaks his mind… but as far as I know it’s just a matter of direct confrontation with people. I don’t know if it would constitute harassment.”
Voros’ temper has been documented at the university going back to 2005, when Professor Virginia Scotchie voted against Voros becoming tenured, citing in part how he acted “explosive, rude and degrading and very unprofessional in his communications with faculty.”
Students also described Voros to Scotchie as “extremely volatile” and displaying “erratic behavior,” according to court documents.
In a 2019 deposition, art history Professor Andrew Graciano testified he had heard other complaints about Voros from students who alleged Voros’ anger was “unprofessional.”
While Dunavant could afford an attorney to sue, she worries other students who have complaints about authority figures at USC will have no recourse.
“What if a student is raped on campus? What if something worse happens? If they don’t have money to file a lawsuit, does anything happen at all?” Dunavant asked. “Some of my friends, if that happened to them, they wouldn’t have been in a place financially to pursue it.”
“Without USC acting, there will be no justice,” Dunavant said.
Dunavant settled the suit in federal court for $75,000 in late 2019, according to documents and an interview with Dunavant.
Following the latest round of allegations and new lawsuits, a group of USC students organized a petition calling for Voros’ firing, according to group messages seen by The State.
Sophie Luna, the president of USC’s Feminist Collective organization, is one of those pressuring USC to fire Voros, fire faculty members accused of inadequately responding to harassment complaints against Voros and reform the way harassment complaints are handled at USC.
“If we really want to solve this problem, we’re going to have to overhaul the entire system that has to do with abuse complaints,” Luna told The State. “If we don’t do anything about it, other abusers will continue to thrive.”
The petition calling for USC to increase transparency in its Title IX complaint process, mandate recusal of investigating faculty or staff who have a conflict of interest with the accused and ceasing the practice of telling the accused that someone filed a complaint against him or her, according to the petition.
The reason why the accused shouldn’t be notified, Luna says, is because notifying the accused makes it easier for him or her to retaliate against the accuser.
In lieu of notifying the accused, Luna said the university will have to figure something else out, but didn’t give specific recommendations.
“We understand that there’s nuance to this issue, but our main concern is keeping survivors safe and letting them be free to express their concerns and experiences,” Luna said.
The petition was created by USC student Lauryn Workman, who is the president of College Democrats at USC and who helped organize the protests against USC President Robert Caslen’s candidacy in 2019 because she saw him as a bad fit for the university.
Even as recently as March 4, several students held a protest outside the Osborne Administrative Building holding signs that said “fire Voros.”