After intense pressure from student activists, the University of South Carolina has reassigned a tenured art history professor accused of intimidating and sexually harassing both students and faculty members for years.
“Professor David Voros will not teach classes at the University of South Carolina this spring,” USC spokesman Jeff Stensland said in a statement released Tuesday. “He will instead be assigned to other duties outside of the classroom until further notice.”
The university has not taken sexual harassment complaints like those against Voros seriously enough, according to the 2,280—and counting—students who signed an online petition calling for Voros to be fired.
Voros’ alleged behavior first came to light in 2018, when a former graduate student filed a lawsuit against him after a summer session abroad. In court filings, the student, Allison Dunavant, said Voros approached her during class about the “USC in Italy” program, saying that “her artwork would benefit greatly from visiting Italy and seeing artwork—such as that of Titian and Michelangelo—in person.”
But Dunavant claimed Voros misled her, as well as two other students on the three-week trip in 2016. The living quarters Voros provided in the Tuscan village of Siena had bars on the windows and the building was “filled with cat urine, scorpions, and spiders,” according to the suit. Voros wouldn’t let her eat until she finished her work, which included, among other things, “cleaning a terrace covered with cat feces and debris,” “removing paint from bricks with a sponge,” and “scrubbing cat urine from couches and their cushions,” according to Dunavant.
Voros allegedly promised Dunavant she wouldn’t have to work so hard if she would have sex with him—as one of the other two students on the trip apparently was. The university did nothing in response to her claims, Dunavant told The Post and Courier.
On Twitter, Dunavant called Voros’ removal from the classroom a “great step,” but said the professor should in fact be fired.
“This is still USC interpreting its policies in a way that is grey & unfavorable to the safety of students,” she wrote.
USC has not filed an official response to the allegations. A USC spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast. Last year, USC forbade Voros from taking students abroad.
In November, two former colleagues sued Voros, including his ex-wife, Professor Pamela Bowers, who also taught art at USC. After she left Voros in 2017 over his improper relationships with students, Voros became hostile and continued to make unwanted sexual advances towards Bowers, her lawsuit alleges. After being continually harassed and even stalked across campus, Bowers took an unpaid leave last year. She has not yet returned to work.
In a separate lawsuit, Jaime Misenheimer, who taught with Voros and Bowers, made similar claims. According to Misenheimer’s filing, Voros harassed her and made inappropriate sexual advances on numerous occasions. In one episode, Voros allegedly shut Misenheimer in a closet, put his arm around her, and held a plastic doll’s head in front of her face.
“Plaintiff could feel his heavy breath on her skin, and the front of his body touching the back of her body,” the lawsuit says. “Plaintiff froze in fear and felt disgusted and intimidated by Defendant Voros’ actions...Plaintiff left the closet shaking and reported the incident…”
When she complained, Misenheimer’s suit says school administrators told her to “think of the guy.” The department chair, Laura Kissel, allegedly told Misenheimer to “place crystals on her desk to feel safe.” After realizing USC would not be taking any substantive action against Voros, Misenheimer resigned in 2019.
“While the University may finally be removing David Voros from his teaching duties for the time being, the University has not terminated David Voros from his position as a tenured professor, and it is my understanding that he will continue to receive his full salary,” Elizabeth Bowen, a lawyer representing Bowers and Misenheimer, told The Daily Beast. “Moreover, the first accusations against David Voros began in 2016.”