Student protestors held up their middle fingers to the administrative building on the University of South Carolina campus to show their anger at the administration’s inaction on sexual harassment cases. Photos by Julie Crosby
On Thursday, dozens of students chanted, yelled and shouted expletives on the University of South Carolina campus to push for the firing of two tenured professors and an administration official accused of sexual harassment and other alleged crimes against women.
Students marched from Greene Street to the Osborne Administrative Building chanting “Stop harassment, stop abuse, USC has no excuse!” Speeches in the Osborne courtyard highlighted the disappointment and fear that students experienced due to the perceived inaction of the administration.
Art professor David Voros, who was recently suspended from online teaching in the spring, is still on the university payroll with other alleged abusers Mike Dollar, an IT executive, and Robert Richmond, a UofSC theatre professor. One sign simply read: “Still?”
“Let’s keep it up until the admin gets the hint and learns that firing these scumbags and making sure this never happens again is the easy way out,” said Sophie Luna, a UofSC undergraduate and one of the event organizers.
The university did not respond to requests for comment Friday, but earlier announced that Richmond and Voros will not be teaching in the spring and remain barred from campus, pending further investigation.
Many protestors spoke about the lack of safety and student protection felt around the university.
“We’re here today, sadly enough, because the university is still refusing to fire the sexual abusers in its midst because they would rather close ranks and protect the people who they should be protecting us from,” said Luna.
The protest started with prepared speeches about each of the alleged abusers employed by the university.
Allegations in an internal university investigation against Richmond, whose legal name is Richard Bourne, accuse him of sexually harassing female students by asking them to perform lap dances at auditions among other harassment allegations. Richmond has admitted to sending inappropriate text messages asking a female student to sleep with him. Although suspended from teaching, Richmond, like Voros, is still part of the UofSC faculty, earning $130,443, according to state records. Voros earns $91,923, according to the state records.
“The USC administration knew these allegations, it even knew about these exact text messages but the equal opportunities program still claimed that Richmond did not violate university policy,” said Ally Hall, one of the protesters.
Allegations against Mike Dollar, associate vice president and chief technology officer in the Division of Information Technology, accuse him of coercing a woman into having an abortion by threatening her job. Dollar was Hannah McLeod’s superior at the university and they had a consensual relationship prior to the abortion. Court filings show that UofSC determined McLeod did not face sexual harassment.
“The healing process for victims is never ending, but the abusers here at USC are allowed to walk back to their office or class or even get paid leave. We demand action, we demand Mike Dollar be fired now,” said protester Hannah Witler.
Allegations against Voros come from three civil complaints against him, the complaint from Pamela Bowers, the complaint from Jaime Misenheimer, and the complaint from Allison Dunavant, which has since been settled.
Bowers, Voros’ ex-wife and former UofSC professor, alleged continued physical and sexual harassment after they divorced due to Voros’ alleged sexual relationships with students. The complaint also alleges that Voros sent abusive emails to her and made sexually offensive comments about her.
Misenheimer, a UofSC professor, filed a Title IX complaint before her civil complaint that addressed the allegations that Voros was trading employment benefits for sexual favors. Voros changed the courses Misenheimer would be teaching to give more classes to Alexandra Stasko, a graduate student who Voros allegedly had a sexual relationship with. According to the complaint, Stasko was not qualified to teach the classes to which she was assigned. Misenheimer also alleges sexual harassment from Voros.
Dunavant’s complaint alleged that Voros forced her to do manual labor on a study abroad trip, put students in unsanitary housing, and traded sexual favors for privileges on the trip. The full complaint alleges abusive behavior and sexual harassment.
Lauren Chapman, a UofSC School of Visual art and Design alumnus, and her mother, Tracy Howard, were in attendance at the protest. Chapman was deposed in lawsuits against Voros and alleged that Voros attempted to hug and kiss her and that he allowed her to be sexually harassed in the studio by a nude model. Since the deposition, Howard alleges that her daughter has been stalked.
“I have paid tens of thousands of dollars for my child to receive an education in her degree which was art. What I got instead, I remember sitting at my home on St. Simons Island, getting a call from my daughter that a professor was circling her home over and over and over. I could do nothing,” said Howard
While the abuse allegations sparked the Fire All Abusers movement, they aren’t always the main focus of The Coalition to Fire David Voros, the group that organized the protests. Student safety and lack of trust in the school were common themes as students took over the open mic portion of the protest.
“As students who go into debt to attend this institution, as students who take pride in their school, as human beings with a moral compass and compassion for others, we deserve to know that our peers are safe from this sort of behavior,” said Hall.
Some protesters pointed out that the issue of sexual harassment in academia does not start and end with the University of South Carolina. They stated that harassment is a systemic problem in academia and that the university could make history by taking a stronger stance.
“I just see all over the place, especially in USC’s marketing, that Gamecocks can change the world . . . Well, to the upper administration of USC, if you really want to change the world then do something that no other university has done, I can assure you, and make this a space that’s safe for women and victims,” said Elizabeth Harlow, a UofSC senior.
Sophie Luna, one of the protest organizers, became emotional while talking about the lack of safety on UofSC’s campus because of the alleged abusers.
Char, a social media manager for the “fire all abusers” protest, holds up a sign Thursday that echoes the focus of the protest calling to “Fire All Abusers.”
Tracy Howard, mom of Lauren Chapman who is one of the victims, expresses her disdain about UofSC professor David Voros and other alleged abusers not being fired from the university.
Ally Hall shouts out her call for UofSC to hold the alleged abusers accountable.
Students raise their voices to call out UofSC at the “fire all abusers” protest.
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Julie Crosby is a fourth year multimedia journalism student from Charleston, South Carolina. As a former South Carolina State House intern, Crosby is particularly invested in writing stories that combine her passion for politics and education. She hopes to tell the stories of educators who are advocating for continued policy improvement for students in South Carolina. In her free time, Crosby enjoys reading and spending time with family and friends.
Mackenzie “Ken” Patterson is a senior multimedia journalism and studio art student from Greenville, South Carolina. They are passionate about the environment and human rights and will use that passion to pursue a JD in environmental law. On campus Patterson has worked as the social media coordinator for Sustainable Carolina and continued that work off campus as a social media intern for the Post Landfill Action Network. Outside of journalism, they enjoy gardening, painting, and gaming with family.