In 2018, I filed a lawsuit against the University of South Carolina and my art professor, David Voros, for harassment, retaliation and the following negligence in dealing with my formal complaints. Recently, two new lawsuits were filed against both USC and David Voros. As students and faculty, you have a right and an obligation to know how these lawsuits affect you too. And trust me, they do.
I don’t even know where to begin in discussing my experience in graduate school; the harassment, the frustration, the isolation and complicit silence from other professors and students as a result of my filing a complaint. I am not here to speak about my experience specifically, though, because the problem is bigger than me. Frankly, this lawsuit has consumed enough of my life.
In the last month, myself and some student organizations have received continual harassment on social media affiliated with David Voros. I have debated staying silent for that reason, but to be silent is to be complicit, potentially harming other students.
Since my lawsuit was settled and two more have been filed, I have had women and men across departments and colleges reach out to me about their failed attempts to file complaints at USC in addition to their failed attempts and frustration with the Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP) Office.
There is a pattern of complaints being re-routed and students and faculty alike feeling as if they are running into walls, that no one is listening to their serious concerns. There is a system in place at USC that seems to protect certain individuals at the expense of the safety and well-being of its students, and an EOP office that minimizes formal complaints to achieve more favorable statistics.
The most recent lawsuits filed against USC and David Voros are by instructors. However, there have been numerous complaints by undergraduate and graduate students against the same professor. The same complaints and concerns, repeated. The same complaints and concerns brought to the EOP office with no action taken on behalf of the university. David Voros was recently removed from classroom teaching by administration and is no longer able to take students abroad. He is still employed as a tenured professor.
The university’s own policies state tenured professors can be fired for “misconduct.” However, this verbiage is vague and does not define what misconduct is. This vagueness is a protection for tenured professors and a harm for students who bring forth concerns.
The EOP Office uses a flow chart and its own ambiguous discretion to determine what counts as harassment and/or discrimination. It provides some individuals with alternative timelines for responses and documentation that do not follow policy and procedure. The Title IX coordinator, with the office, modifies complaint information as they see fit, and re-number complaints to create a confusing trail of information. These things are harmful to students but protective of USC as an entity.
And so I have to ask — and you should, too — why does USC fail to protect its students and faculty who file complaints? Why is filing a formal complaint so difficult? And why does USC choose to spend money and resources on litigation rather than solving problems and changing policy?
More importantly, what precedent does this set moving forward? For academic entities as judge and jury, for the quality of instructors we have for our students, for the allocation of money and resources, for other students who need to report wrongdoing on campus? I am not here to inform anyone's opinion of the lawsuits, but I am here to say that I hope you question these processes and policies for your own safety and the safety of your fellow classmates, students and faculty.