The Daily Gamecock

Column: Fire David Voros

<p>USC Student protesters in front of Russell House on Greene Street in protest to fire Voros and others accused of sexual misconduct. Two people are holding a sign that said "Fire Voros."&nbsp;</p>
USC Student protesters in front of Russell House on Greene Street in protest to fire Voros and others accused of sexual misconduct. Two people are holding a sign that said "Fire Voros." 

Professor David Voros must be terminated immediately if the university has any ounce of respect for its student body. 

David Voros is a tenured professor in the university's art department and has been on staff since 2000. In 2018, Allison Dunavant, who at the time was a graduate student and a student in one of Voros' classes, filed a lawsuit against Voros. He was taken out of classrooms in December 2020 but remains an employee of the university. It has taken years for any sort of disciplinary action to be taken against Voros, and the university continues to drag its feet.

After three sexual misconduct lawsuits, a petition of more than 3,900 signatures for Voros’ termination and the administration’s decision to place him on sabbatical rather than formal termination, student safety is being undoubtedly neglected at the hands of the university.

Not one, not two, but three separate protests have been organized and carried out by The Coalition to Fire David Voros, a student-run organization of campus, between March to last week. These protests call for the termination of Voros specifically, along with other professors who have been accused of sexual misconduct. These blatant cries for action failed to resonate with university administration, and it is not for lack of trying by students.

The Coalition to Fire David Voros was founded in December 2020. Two students highly involved in the movement, Char Morrison, a third-year journalism student, and Sophie Luna, a fourth-year geology student, have been spokespeople for the cause since the beginning.

Luna said the university feels the waves made by the coalition's protests but fails to acknowledge their existence.  

“I feel like they understand perfectly well who we are and what the problem is and what we are demanding, but they don’t acknowledge that, and they don’t want to acknowledge that," Luna said. "(The university doesn't) want to do anything about it, so they're avoiding directly responding to us or making direct changes based on what we’re asking for."

The Daily Gamecock has been an advocate for the reformation of the reporting system through the university's equal opportunity program, after students reported being targeted for speaking up against their harasser. Not only is the reporting system broken, but the office unlawfully withheld information regarding a report of sexual misconduct, according to The State.

The Daily Gamecock has published an editorial projecting the voices of our staff, a letter to the editor projecting the voices of angered professors and coverage of the multiple protests projecting the voices of our fellow students. However, our platform is not enough to make the administration listen.

Such an obvious amount of distress surrounding the position of a professor should be a call to action of which university administration cannot refuse. The university’s decision to grant Voros sabbatical instead of firing him is a blatant act of ignorance and disregard for student demands.

The university is using Voros’ tenure to shield him from major disciplinary action. The vague language used in the faculty manual helps the university use its own discretion when investigating a tenured professor on grounds for termination.

Under the sub-section “Termination of Tenured Faculty for Cause," the manual states, “misconduct related directly and substantially to the fitness of the faculty member in the professional capacity as teacher or researcher;” is appropriate grounds for termination. This is hard to pin down to any one action, and, therefore, veils the abuser in ambiguity.

If Voros’ behavior is not considered misconduct related specifically to his fitness as a faculty member, many are curious to know on what other grounds the university would invoke this rule.

Officers of the USC's chapter of the American Association of University Professors spoke to this issue specifically in its letter to the editor published in The Daily Gamecock. They said, "Invoking tenure to shield abusers damages the entire university community, and it ultimately undermines academic freedom.”

Voros’ paid sabbatical is a guised method of taking him out of the spotlight until student unrest dies down, only to bring him back when the administration thinks we’ve forgotten. This semester we have seen evidence of this.

Voros was slated to teach three classes online in spring 2022, even receiving a raise of over $10,000. He was later taken off the class roster after uproar from students. Did the university think students would be comfortable taking a class from an alleged sexual predator, even if it wasn’t face-to-face? It must not be hearing us clearly. He needs to go.

Luna, a member of The Coalition to Fire Voros, said the university is shielding Voros with his tenure in order to discourage other survivors from speaking out.

“If they just let Voros get away with this, they can discourage other survivors enough to keep them from coming forward and spare themselves a lot more trouble," said Luna.

Interim President Harris Pastides sent a message to the student body last week promising reform through the Title IX task force, which was put in place by former President Bob Caslen last March. This group concluded creating a new position within university administration dedicated to misconduct will solve the problem. This might be true for future incidences but does not address the problem that is happening right now.

David Voros needs to be fired. Not only him, but every other staff member at USC who has been legitimately accused of sexual misconduct — Robert Richmond and Mike Dollar — also need to be held accountable. Continuing to keep Voros on payroll shows students their tenured professors are immune to due process and that the university favors its own image over the security of the student body.

The Coalition is not slowing down, and the one-year anniversary of its establishment is around the corner.

“We’re not back at square one, but we’re trying to fire the same guy that we were in the beginning,” Morrison, a student involved in the organization, said. “We don’t want to be doing this. If we didn’t have to do this, I wouldn’t want to do this. This is something that should not be having to get done.”

If this is your first time hearing the name David Voros, you need to take this as a sign to educate yourself on what is going on on our campus and affecting your classmates. We need everyone in the student body to force the administration's hand to make this change.

The Daily Gamecock, The State and FITSNews, among other local publications, all have countless resources you can use to educate yourself, many of which are linked in this column. I highly suggest you follow @firevorosusc and join the movement to support survivors and fire all abusers at USC.