For the third time in five months, a woman who claims she was sexually harassed by a professor filed a lawsuit against the University of South Carolina (USC).
In a lawsuit filed Monday, Mary Elizabeth Johns accuses history professor and Faculty Principal of Maxcy College Dr. David Snyder of sexual harassment, grooming and abuse from 2018 to 2020.
Johns filed the lawsuit against USC, Snyder, and former USC president Harris Pastides in Richland County court.
Snyder was removed from all campus activities and responsibilities including teaching and his duties as faculty principal, the State reported Wednesday. He is the third USC professor recently removed from classroom duties after being accused of sexual harassment.
Johns was attending class at USC in Columbia, South Carolina in the spring of 2018 when the harassment began, according to the lawsuit. She was also helping care for her mother who had breast cancer at the time while grieving the loss of another family member.
Snyder, who was Johns’ professor at the time, started giving her “unexpected attention,” according to the lawsuit.
“Snyder saw the vulnerability of Johns as someone who had been providing caretaking services for terminally ill family members,” the lawsuit said.
Snyder “coaxed” Johns to visit his house by saying he wanted to help her deal with her grief, according to the lawsuit.
At first, Johns thought Snyder was trying to help with the trauma in her life. According to the lawsuit, she shared personal details with Snyder about her PTSD.
But the relationship took a turn, according to the lawsuit.
“After multiple visits to Snyder’s house (under the guise of mentor), Snyder tried to touch and kiss Johns,” the lawsuit said.
The professor-student relationship escalated and got more complicated, according to the lawsuit.
“Snyder continued to cajole Johns about entering into a sexual relationship even though he was her professor, he knew she suffered from an emotional disability,” the lawsuit said.
Then Snyder started sending Johns lewd emails and the relationship became sexual, according to the lawsuit. Snyder was married at the time.
As things became more intense, Johns “grew increasingly alarmed by Snyder’s behavior and cut off contact” with the professor in her chosen degree department, the lawsuit said.
Snyder then sent Johns 184 emails (see example below), according to the lawsuit.
Even though she told him to stop contacting her, Snyder continued to pursue Johns until August 2020 ,the lawsuit said.
Johns “told her USC counselor repeatedly about instances of a USC administrator (Snyder was Faculty Principal of Maxcy) propositioning her and/or pursuing her sexually,” the lawsuit said. “Every time she told the counselor and the counselor did not advise her on Title IX policies is a separate occurrence under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act.”
The lawsuit, like several others, accuses USC of failing to protect victims of sexual abuse and harassment on campus.
“USC allows this sexual harassment, grooming, and abuse to continue unabated and those responsible continue to go unpunished,” the lawsuit said.
Rock Hill Attorney Randall Hood is representing Johns in the lawsuit (see below).USCLAWSUIT
According to his online bio, Snyder has been a professor at USC since 2008 and worked as the Faculty Principal of the Carolina International House at Maxcy College since 2014.
While USC reviews the allegations in the lawsuit, Snyder will not be allowed on campus and can’t contact students without permission from his supervisor, the State reported.
More than 10 women have recently accused USC of mishandling their sexual harassment complaints — and so far, no one has been held accountable for these claims.
Collectively, the allegations echo what USC alum Allison Dunavant told FITSNews months ago — USC’s system 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.”
After the State newspaper’s investigative story published detailed allegations of 10 women who all said the university failed to help them when they were harassed, University of South Carolina president Bob Caslen finally broke his silence on the issue.a
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 plan did not mention firing the alleged abusers and enablers — despite students’ consistent demands.
RELATED: Former Student Who Sued USC: System For Harassment Complaints ‘Revictimizes The Victims’
USC has taken two small actions to address the recent lawsuits and complaints.
Accused professors David Voros and Robert Richmond have been removed from their classroom duties. Both are still drawing a salary from the university.
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’?”
Yesterday, the Coalition to Fire David Voros wrote a scathing letter demanding that Caslen fire Voros, Richmond, and those who enabled them.
“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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