USC files lawsuit against pranksters

“Prank” Youtubers frightened faculty and students in classroom stunts. On March 29, Ernest Kanevsky entered a Taper Hall lecture. (Charlie McCollum | Daily Trojan file photo)

USC filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Ernest Kanevsky and Yuguo Bai, who were involved in a series of “prank” YouTube videos filmed at the University. 

Kanevsky and Bai have staged three “panic-inducing classroom takeovers” since 2021, each happening at USC’s Mark Taper Hall of Humanities. The defendants are not affiliated with the University. 

According to the lawsuit, the pranks are suggested to Kanevsky and Bai by their YouTube subscribers as dares with the goal of increasing their social media presence. 

On March 29, Kanevsky entered a classroom during a lecture on the Holocaust dressed as a member of the “Russian Mafia.” Kanevsky asked Bai, who was already seated, if there was a “Hugo Boss” — a fashion designer who made Nazi uniforms during World War II — in the room. Bai said that he was Boss and, at the same time, vulgar language played from his phone. Kanevsky told Bai his father owed him $50,000. After hearing this, students fled the building. Following the incident, Kanevsky and Bai were detained at gunpoint and later arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department. 

In late September 2021, Kanevsky and Bai, along with another person not listed in the lawsuit, entered a data sciences lecture. Kanevsky told the professor that Kanevsky’s father owned the school and he was there to “supervise.” The three perpetrators later escorted the professor from the room, claiming his class was “boring” and later referred to the professor as “dangerous.” Once escorted, they told the class the professor was “taken care of” and began lecturing about the benefits of marijuana. The perpetrators fled before the Department of Public Safety arrived at the classroom. After the incident, the professor requested for a DPS officer to accompany him to classes for several weeks. 

On Nov. 12, 2021, Kanevsky, Bai and two additional people entered another classroom in masked costumes from the television show “Squid Game (2021).” Bai told the professor that he needed assistance in evading people chasing him with weapons. Kanevsky then entered, chased Bai around the room and gave the illusion of kidnapping him. Bai told the members of the class that his mother would die after what had happened. The perpetrators once again fled before DPS arrived. 

The defendants violated University policy on all three occasions by entering Taper Hall, as lecture halls and classrooms are not open to the public. 

USC claims Kanevsky and Bai posed irreparable harm to the University and its members. These harms include physical and emotional damage among students and professors, parental concern, financial harm from increased DPS escorts and emotional support, loss of instructional time and harm to the University’s reputation. 

“The defendants’ conduct has caused University students to experience emotional distress and genuine fear for their personal wellbeing; against the national background of active shooter concerns on college campuses,” the lawsuit read.

USC is seeking a temporary restraining order against Kanevsky and Bai, a preliminary injunction that would restrain them from all University-owned property, compensatory damages and for attorney fees and other lawsuit costs to be covered. 

“Kanevsky and Bai have disrupted the classroom learning environment through provoking extreme fear and anxiety just as Plaintiff, like all institutions of higher education, is attempting to safely return students and faculty to a sense of stability and comfort in an in-person learning environment,” the lawsuit read.