Fallout from the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a graduate student against a professor and the University continued to play out Monday with allegations on both sides regarding mishandling by the USC Office of Equity and Diversity.
The attorney of Erick Guerrero, the professor involved in the sexual harassment lawsuit, sent a letter to the Daily Trojan accusing the office of committing “egregious violations” in its initial five-month investigation, which began when Fenwick reported the harassment on Jan. 19.
“It’s a very arbitrary and unfair system where it doesn’t depend upon the evidence and actual facts,” said Mark Hathaway, Guerrero’s attorney, in an interview Monday with the Daily Trojan. “It’s very important that it’s thoughtful dialogue, and that these issues are determined in a fair and transparent way.”
Guerrero filed an appeal on May 11 after the initial investigation ruled in favor of Fenwick, causing the office to reopen the case, according to Fenwick.
After examining Guerrero’s appeal, the OED upheld the decision in Fenwick’s favor. Hathaway said in the letter that Guerrero filed a grievance to the Academic Senate on the grounds of his Title IX investigation, claiming the University withheld evidence from him.
Hathaway said this violated the policy in the Title IX bylaws, which state that the investigators must “provide the complainant, the respondent and appropriate officials timely and equal access to information” used in any meetings or hearings in the investigative process.
“Faculty disciplinary matters should not be guided by expediency and the momentary outrage of the majority, but rather by the well-established rules, practices, and policies that are set forth in the Faculty Handbook,” Hathaway said in the letter to the Daily Trojan.
Fenwick and her attorney, John Winer, also expressed concerns regarding the length of the investigation in an interview with the Daily Trojan Monday. Winer said the OED’s five-month investigation was not prompt, in accordance with California state law.
Although Fenwick was satisfied with the investigation’s findings and the assistance from the OED investigators, she believed the reopening of the case after Guerrero’s appeal, which had new evidence and witnesses, was unnecessary.
“[Guerrero] had been given multiple chances throughout the original first investigation to provide any evidence and witnesses,” Fenwick said. “This was not an appeal. It was treated like it was like a whole new investigation. It felt like an investigation of me — not of what happened.”
Fenwick added that while she agreed with the findings of the case, she did not agree with the resulting consequences. Fenwick, however, did not file a grievance with USC and filed a lawsuit with Winer.
Gretchen Means, OED’s director, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.