The Trojan Advocates for Political Progress held a rally and sit-in in front of Bovard Auditorium Thursday to protest the University’s opposition to AB 1510, a bill that would allow victims of former campus doctors George Tyndall and Dennis Kelly’s alleged sexual abuse to file lawsuits if their statute of limitations has run out.
Nearly forty students sat outside Bovard with duct tape taped over their mouths to symbolize the University’s intent to silence students. They held signs that read “University of Sexual Criminals” and “USC Wants to SILENCE me”.
“What this sit-in is designed to do is to draw attention to the fact that USC is actively silencing survivors,” TAPP President-elect Alex Kriksciun said. “USC often tries to bury these things under the rug [and] hide whatever nefarious things they’re doing.”
Victims of Tyndall and Kelly shared their testimonies in Hahn Plaza near Tommy Trojan.
“I wanted [students] to have a face and a specific story … [and] for them to understand what this really meant and how it has devastated the lives of survivors,” said Mai Mizuno, a student and alleged victim of Tyndall who spoke at the rally. “This event serves as a reminder that this issue has not gone away, just like the trauma of our abuse has not gone away. Therefore, we will continue to stand together and knock loudly on the door of Bovard.”
Mizuno, a senior majoring in international relations and philosophy, politics and law, flew to Sacramento last weekend with other survivors to lobby California Assembly members to support the bill.
The University hired lobbying firm Nielsen Merksamer Parrinello Gross and Leoni LLP to oppose AB 1510, which grants a one-year window so that sexual assault victims can seek claims, despite having passed the current statute of limitations of two to 10 years after the assault.
“In the eyes of the administrators, [victims] are no more than a potential legal settlement,” said Katherine Thanos, a junior majoring in law, history and culture who helped organize the rally and spoke at it. “[Victims] are no longer a member of the Trojan family, but a skeleton to be hidden in the closet.”
At the rally, protestors demanded the University to terminate its relationship with the lobbying firm and to match the amount of money spent on lobbying against AB 1510 to fund Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Services. They also called for the University to release an apology to survivors and publicly acknowledge allegations against Kelly.
The University has acknowledged the lawsuits against Kelly, but has not released a statement regarding an internal investigation into the allegations.
“We are aware of the lawsuit and are concerned by its allegations,” the University said in a statement. “We’re working to understand the facts of this matter. We care deeply about our entire Trojan family, including our LGBTQ+ community, and take this matter very seriously.”
“We are not going away just because it’s the last day of classes,” said Shany Ebadi, an organizer of the event and former Undergraduate Student Government co-chief diversity officer. “This is something that is a life or death struggle for a lot of people.”
Members of TAPP handed out flyers to students passing by, alerting them about AB 1510 and requesting them to call California senators to lobby for the bill.
“USC is trying to protect themselves from consequences,” said Cameron Roper, a freshman majoring in narrative studies and cognitive sciences who attended the sit-in. “USC should be taking responsibility, they should be supporting [the bill].”