A group of University of South Carolina (USC) students have a message for the professor who has been sued three times for sexual harassment and the administrators who allegedly protected him — enough is enough.
They’re demanding the university not only fire Voros, but remove two faculty members — former School of Visual Art and Design (SVAD) director Peter Chametzky and current SVAD director Laura Kissel.
The group is calling for a “complete overhaul” of the Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) while “working to build a university which protects students and faculty instead of abusers.”
“The system for reporting re-traumatized survivors and protected the predator. It has to change,” the petition said.
The coalition was formed in light of recent media coverage on the three lawsuits against Voros and USC.
Earlier this month, SVAD instructors Jaime Misenheimer and Pamela Bowers filed two lawsuits against the University of South Carolina and professor David Voros.
But one year before those lawsuits were filed, USC settled Allison Dunavant‘s lawsuit with “the same complaints and concerns” about Voros and USC administrators, Dunavant told FITSNews in an exclusive interview last week.
Dunavant said Voros harassed, intimidated and isolated her during a horrific 2016 study abroad trip to Italy when she was a graduate student.
All three women describe similar stories — they allege Voros harassed them and the university continuously protected him when they reported his behavior.
“The University of South Carolina has failed in its duty to protect students from harm and needs to take immediate action against the offenders and to fix what is ultimately a system that enables,” the petition said.
Allison Dunavant’s lawsuit describes an unfathomable experience that began in May 2016, when she and two other students agreed to go to Italy with Voros three weeks before the USC study abroad program — ostensibly to help him set up the school before students arrived.
“When we got there, it was nothing like he described,” Dunavant told FITSNews.
She said the working conditions were horrific — she had to scrub feral cat pee off the floor and furniture, among many other dirty jobs. The living quarters for students at the ICA were littered with scorpions, rodents, and other creatures.
In Italy, Voros allegedly engaged in sexual acts in front of Dunavant, sexually harassed her, then deprived her of food when she wouldn’t comply.
Soon after she arrived home from Italy, Dunavant began the process of filing a formal complaint with the University of South Carolina — a first step in what felt like a long uphill battle against a giant well-oiled machine.
“From the very beginning, I was treated like I was the problem and the university made it very hard to even file a complaint,” she said. “The complaint process felt more like a system to run you into wall after wall until you get too tired and too frustrated and you give up.”
Pamela Bowers is Voros’ ex-wife, who has worked at the University of South Carolina School of Visual Art and Design (SVAD) since 2000.
The lawsuit describes several incidents where Voros allegedly harassed Bowers from 2017 through 2019.
Here’s one of the incidents in Bowers’ lawsuit…
“On or around March 8, 2017, Voros visited Bowers’ office on campus and made unwelcome physical and sexual advances toward her. Voros became hostile when Bowers asked him to leave. Voros physically blocked Bowers from the exit, refused to leave, and refused to allow Bowers to leave. Bowers was frightened that Voros would attempt to physically harm her. Voros eventually left after Bowers repeatedly asked him to leave her alone.“
She reported the incident to university officials and nothing happened to Voros, according to the lawsuit.
Following that incident, Voros “continued to harass and make unwelcome sexual advances” toward Bowers, the lawsuit said.
Bowers describes several incidents where she went to administration — Kissel and Chametsky — and both did nothing to stop Voros, time and time again.
At one point, Chametsky said there was nothing he could do and indicated that Voros had a “special relationship” with former University president Harris Pastides and felt that it protected him.
Dunavant said that through deposition in her lawsuit, it was confirmed that Voros was friends with Pastides.
“So all the way to the top to the highest administration of the university, there are these relationships that prevent the university from acting on behalf of the well-being of their students,” Dunavant said.
Like Dunavant, Bowers took her complaints about Voros up the chain of command at USC and nothing was done, according to the lawsuit.
Jaime Misenheimer worked as an SVAD instructor from 2014 through 2017. Her lawsuit describes numerous incidents where Voros’ behavior was intimidating, harassing and inappropriate.
Here’s one of those incidents described in Misenheimer’s lawsuit:
“In or around February 2017, Voros took Misenheimer into a closet of a classroom in McMaster College, noting he wanted to show Misenheimer something. After they entered the closet, he shut the door. In the dark, Voros came up behind her, leaned over her, put his arm around her, and held a plastic head in front of her face. He whispered into Misenheimer‘s ear to look through a small window in the closet. Misenheimer could feel his heavy breath on her skin, and the front of his body touching the back of her body. Misenheimer froze in fear and felt disgusted and intimidated by Voros’ actions. Misenheimer believed Defendant Voros was making a sexual advance toward her.”
Like Bowers, Misenheimer reported the incident to Chametsky and Kissel and the harassment continued and escalated.
The university failed to take any action against Voros and allowed him to keep working despite the large amount of complaints launched against him, the lawsuit said. The situation ultimately led to Misenheimer’s resignation.
Just a few hours after the pettion launched Thursday, the coalition had already collected 300 signatures.
Sophie Luna, a USC student and coalition leader said this is a matter that should concern all students.
“This is a case of USC allowing a sexual predator continue to take advantage of students and teachers,” Luna said. “Everyone should be concerned about sexual assault and harassment, even if they’re not the ones affected.”
Luna said the coalition has about 80 people involved so far and is growing. They are hoping to get the attention of university administrators, but said they will “start escalating their campaign,” if USC officials fail to respond.
“This is about more than Voros…. this kind of culture isn’t unique to USC or to (SVAD), it’s happening across the county,” Luna said. “We hope we can make big changes here and set the stage for others.”
Dunavant said that it has meant a lot to her “to see students organizing and combining their efforts to help and protect their fellow classmates.”
“I think it is selfless and admirable, and will make those that have faced harassment at USC feel more heard than the administration does,”she said.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an award-winning journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Want to contact Mandy? Send your story ideas, comments, suggestions and tips to [email protected].
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