Students urge dean to go public on case

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Thirty-five doctoral students from the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work met with administrators Monday to discuss how the school can move forward following a recent sexual harassment lawsuit against a professor at the school.

The students met with Vice Provost Martin Levine and Marilyn Flynn, the dean of the school, to present a statement with requests for Flynn to address in relation to the recent sexual harassment claims against a social work professor.

“We are pleased that Dean Flynn has agreed to partner with us in achieving our goal of confronting the unspoken grand challenge of ending sexual misconduct and abuse of power at our University and providing an example of institutional leadership on this issue,” the group of students said in a letter addressed to the Dworak-Peck community.

The letter said that they have partnered with Flynn to “confront the unspoken grand challenge of ending sexual misconduct and abuse of power” at USC.

It also said that Flynn agreed to directly acknowledge the harassment that Karissa Fenwick, a student who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit last week against Professor Erick Guerrero and the University, said she experienced. It stated Flynn pledged to create a committee to review the policies at the University and specifically at the School of Social Work.

The group said that the group will continue to work to advocate to administrators that they need to reconsider the sanctions against Guerrero and “develop policy recommendations to improve transparency, institutional culture, and reporting and enforcement mechanisms.”

Provost Michael Quick also sent a memo to the USC community on Sunday night, calling for similar steps to be taken by students and staff members alike to create a culture of respect and zero tolerance against abuses of power, though Guerrero and Fenwick were not named.

“We ask that each one of us take time over the next several days to reflect on our own past experiences and choices, and examine what roles each of us can play going forward that will make USC, and our larger society, fair, equitable, and free from harassment,” Quick wrote.

The memo also addressed, in general terms, the abuse of power and recent sexual harassment cases at USC.

“If we do not have equity, and inclusion, and opportunity — for everyone — then not only are we harming people, we are not maximizing our potential as a university,” Quick wrote. “That is a waste of our intellectual talent, and it limits our future at a time when we can ill afford it.”

Quick also called for the deans of the different to hold forums for students to speak about “creating a culture of respect.” He said deans will report back to him with steps in improving the general culture at the school.