Eighteen more current and former students joined a class-action lawsuit against USC and former campus men’s sexual health doctor Dennis Kelly Thursday. A total of 50 men, most of whom identify as gay and bisexual, have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct and gender discrimination against Kelly.
In February, Kellogg & Van Aken LLP, a firm that represents most of the plaintiffs in the suit against Kelly and the University, filed its first lawsuit against USC and Kelly, after several victims came forward. In March and April, the original complaint was amended to add 26 new plaintiffs.
“With today’s announcement, the number of plaintiffs has quickly grown to 50 young men who allege they suffered abuse at the hands of Dennis Kelly and an indifferent USC administration,” Kelly Van Aken, a partner at the firm, said in a press release. “Thanks to the efforts of the news media and LGBTQ community, we are seeing more and more men bravely come forward to tell their stories.”
The lawsuit alleges that Kelly targeted gay and bisexual men by performing unnecessary rectal examinations and inquiring about their personal sex lives.
“Dr. Kelly did not treat men he knew to be heterosexual or men who were not interested in men in a similar manner and did not penetrate their anuses or perform rectal examinations,” the new complaint read.
The University acknowledged the lawsuit and allegations in February.
“We’re working to understand the facts of this matter,” the statement read. “We care deeply about our entire Trojan family, including our LGBTQ+ community, and take this matter very seriously.”
The University has yet to issue an official apology regarding the lawsuit as it did following sexual abuse allegations made against former campus gynecologist George Tyndall.
“It is shameful that USC has not issued any statement regarding its students and former students’ brave and credible allegations against Dr. Kelly, who we allege targeted USC’s vulnerable LGBTQ community,” Van Aken wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan.
Mikayla Kellogg, a partner at the firm, added that she opposes USC’s decision to hire a lobbying firm to work against AB1510, a California State Assembly bill that would allow student survivors of sexual assault at a campus health center a year to bring forward claims of sexual assault even if they are past the state’s statute of limitations.
“It is outrageous USC is the lone opponent of AB1510,” Kellogg said in a press release. “What is even more appalling is USC’s brazen willingness to disregard the well-being of its own students by hiring a powerful San Francisco lobbying firm to try and kill this bill that is supported by a broad coalition of consumer advocacy groups, women’s groups, and civil rights organizations.”
In a letter obtained by the Daily Trojan, Michelle Rubalcava, senior counsel at Nielsen Merksamer, wrote to Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Mark Stone on April 1 that USC “strongly opposes” the bill because it is unnecessary and harmful to plaintiffs.
“Although it may appear unfair to bar actions after the statute of limitations has lapsed, the limitations period serves important policy goals that help to preserve both the integrity of our legal system and the due process rights of individuals,” Rubalcava wrote.
With new leadership entering the University, including President-elect Carol Folt who begins her term July 1, Van Aken said she hopes that USC will begin to create positive change.
“We are hopeful that the administration changes that have been made in recent months will help make the cultural and institutional changes necessary to protect USC students,” she wrote.