In the last five months, more than 10 women have publicly accused the University of South Carolina (USC) of mishandling their harassment and abuse complaints — and no one has been held accountable for these claims.
In response to the inaction from the university, a group of students and faculty called the Coalition to Fire David Voros are planning to march through USC’s Columbia campus at 10 a.m. to demand change.
“We’ve learned over the past few weeks just how complicit the University is in this kind of abuse and for real change to happen we need a strong, specific call to action,” USC student and coalition member Lauryn Workman said. “The coalition’s is Fire All Abusers. Period. And that’s what we’ll be calling for at tomorrow’s protest.”
The coalition was formed just days after FITSNews published its exclusive story on USC alum Allison Dunavant, who sued USC and David Voros — the School of Visual Art and Design (SVAD) professor who she says harassed, intimidated and isolated her during a horrific 2016 study abroad trip to Italy when she was a graduate student.
Dunavant told FITSNews that USC’s system for reporting harassment 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,” 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.”
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A few weeks ago, the State Newspaper’s investigative story published allegations of 10 women who claim USC failed to handle their harassment complaints.
Days after that story ran, USC president Bob Caslen announced very vague plans to change the school’s system for handling sexual misconduct claims.
Caslen’s plan did not mention firing the alleged abusers and enablers — despite students’ consistent demands.
One week after Caslen’s announcement, another sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against USC. In the latest lawsuit, 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.
Snyder was removed from all campus activities and responsibilities including teaching last week after FITSNews published its story. He is the third USC professor recently removed from classroom duties after being accused of sexual harassment.
Three of the professors accused of abuse — David Voros, David Snyder, and Robert Richmond — are all being paid by the university while they are forbidden from campus and teaching duties.
“The problem has only grown since our last protest, and it affects the entire university, so we’re making sure the entire university sees and hears us,” Sophie Luna, USC student and coalition leader, told FITSNews.
On Thursday, after newly sworn-in USC student body president Alex Harrell was trolled on Twitter for failing to address USC’s widespread issue with abuse, Harrell broke his silence and issued a statement saying “we support survivors.”
In the statement, elected student body officials vowed to stand next to sexual assault, abuse and harassment survivors and called on the university “to take swift action to ensure that these matters are thoroughly investigated and appropriate measures are taken.”
“It should not take lawsuits and media attention for survivors to be taken seriously,” the statement said.
Student body vice president Emily Dengler will be serving on the new Title IX Task Force (which is a part of Caslen’s recently announced plan).
Luna said that Harrell’s statement was vague and evasive, like Caslen’s statement weeks ago.
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“While it’s good that Harrell has commented on the topic of sexual abuse, the fact of the matter is that, like Caslen’s statement, all it’s doing is creating yet another pointless bureaucratic body to ‘find out what’s going on,’ when we’ve consistently been making it clear what’s happening, and we’ve made it clear what we want, which is to fire all the abusers and all the administrators who enabled them,” Luna said.
So tomorrow, students and faculty will march through campus starting at Longstreet Theater to the Osborne Administration Building to address the coalition’s demands, which are
“Tomorrow is going to be a large coming together of the Carolina community in support of survivors,” Workman said. “Our collective voice will be heard. We want all abusers and their enablers fired.
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 Coalition is demanding the following individuals are fired:
- David Voros: the art professor accused in 3 lawsuits of harassment and abuse
- Laura Kissel: accused of enabling and protecting Voros
- Peter Chametzky: accused of enabling and protecting Voros
- Carl Wells :EOP interim director accused of enabling and protecting Voros
- Robert Richmond: theatre professor accused of sexually harassing students
- Mike Dollar: chief technology officer at USC accused in a lawsuit of impregnating his employee, coercing her into getting an abortion, and threatening to fire her
- David Snyder: the USC history professor accuse of harassment, abuse and grooming
The group has also launched a petition outlining all of its demands and collected more than 3,100 signatures.
“UofSC claims to be the flagship university in South Carolina, but their silence about these abuses isn’t the behavior we expect from a flagship institution,” said USC student Charlotte Morrison, a member of the coalition. “This university should protect students and not abusers. I worry about how deep his problem actually reaches.”
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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