After months of silence, University of South Carolina president Bob Caslen finally announced plans to change the school’s system for handling sexual misconduct claims.
However, the students who have been demanding real change at USC for months said Caslen’s recent moves are just “vague promises of bureaucratic reshuffling rather than the direct action needed to protect students and staff at USC,” the Coalition to Fire David Voros said in a letter to Caslen Monday.
Last week, Caslen sent an email to students in an attempt to do damage control after the State Newspaper’s investigative story published allegations of 10 women who claim USC failed to handle their harassment complaints.
Collectively, the allegations echo what USC alum Allison Dunavant told FITSNews months ago — USC’s system for handling sexual harassment claims is broken and only silences and re-victimizes the victims.
“From the very beginning, I was treated like I was the problem and the university made it very hard to even file a complaint,” Dunavant, one of three women who have sued USC after they were allegedly harassed by art professor David Voros, 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.”
Caslen’s new plan adds more steps to that process.
Caslen’s announcement, which appears to be vaguely addressing allegations about Voros and other professors accused of sexual misconduct, included a 5-step plan for “improving” the process of sexual misconduct reporting.
Caslen’s email did not mention firing the alleged abusers and enablers — despite students’ consistent demands.
On Friday, USC announced that Robert Richmond, one of the professors accused of sexual misconduct, was removed from his classroom duties, but still would be working for the university.
Weeks after Allison Dunavant’s story was published in December, the University pulled the same move with Voros and relieved him from his on-campus duties.
While USC does protect tenured professors, it is not impossible to fire them. One of the reasons for firing a tenured professor at USC is “misconduct related directly and substantially to the fitness of the faculty member in the professional capacity as teacher or researcher.”
“I think that if misconduct questions the ‘fitness’ of a professor, then he should be fired,” Dunavant previously told FITSNews. “He is removed from his classroom duties, barred from doing independent studies, and not allowed to take students abroad. So in what ways is he ‘fit’?”
The State’s recent article is filled with alarming allegations — including a USC employee who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit last year alleging that her superior Mike Dollar got her pregnant and threatened to fire her if she didn’t get an abortion.
Dollar is the chief technology officer in information technology at USC who allegedly had a sexual relationship with one of his employees who became pregnant, according to the lawsuit.
The employee said Dollar coerced her into having an abortion, which she didn’t want, according to the lawsuit.
She felt she had to go through with the abortion because of Dollar’s threats, according to the lawsuit.
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After the abortion, the woman broke up with Dollar, according to the lawsuit.
The woman later started noticing Dollar “grooming” another student worker and made inappopriate comments toward her, the lawsuit said.
The woman eventually reported Dollar’s alleged behavior to the university.
When she filed a report, USC “did nothing” about Dollar, but instead made the woman feel like she did something wrong, the lawsuit said. She was forced to change work stations and “treated with open hostility.”
Among other allegations, theatre professor Robert Richmond asked a student via text if she would sleep with him, the State reported.
The University later determined that Richmond had not violated any policies.
‘Real Change Is Long Overdue’
Last week, Caslen sent an email to students in response to the the recent allegations — which he never specifically mentioned.
“We must better support survivors, protect the rights of the accused and ensure our compliance with the law,” he wrote.
He outlined several steps to improve the process of reporting sexual assault and harassment
- Continue the Title IX Interpersonal Violence (IPV) Workgroup.
- Establish an Independent Title IX Coordinator for the University.
- Establish and Implement a Sexual Misconduct and Interpersonal Violence Comprehensive Review.
- Establish a Case Review Committee.
- Review the Appeals Process for EOP Investigations/ Hire a new EOP Director to replace interim director Carl Wells.
Nowhere in Caslen’s email does he mention holding the people accused of predatory behavior accountable for their alleged actions.
In a letter to Caslen on Monday, the Coalition to Fire David Voros took issue with the list of “changes.”
“In reality, these are all bureaucratic roadblocks that will elongate the investigations into these cases and prevent students from even attempting to report newer cases,” the group said in their letter to Caslen.
For months, the Coalition to Fire David Voros has asked USC to overhaul its Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) and add transparency to the process to ensure it’s helping victims.
“The EOP has a history of mishandling abuse cases and further traumatizing the survivors,” the group said in the letter. “We demand transparency in the investigative process, an explanation of the outcomes, and mandatory recusal for conflicts of interest. We demand an external review of the EOP system, without conflicts of interest, with the results publicly available.”
Once again, the student organization was clear about what changes they believe are essential for protecting students — fire David Voros, his alleged enablers Laura Kissel, Peter Chametzky, and Carl Wells, as well as Mike Dollar and Robert Richmond.
“President Caslen, real change is long overdue,” the students wrote. “UofSC cannot continue brushing these cases under the rug…The time to act is now.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR..
Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an investigative 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. Mandy also hosts the Murdaugh Murders podcast. Want to contact Mandy? Send your tips to [email protected].
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