Grad Student Suing U of Southern California Over Harassment Case

October 30, 2017

A graduate student at the University of Southern California is suing the institution for failing to sufficiently address her allegations of harassment against a professor, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. Karissa Fenwick, who has been public about her case, says that Erick Guerrero, an associate professor of social work, asked her to come to his hotel room during an academic conference in New Orleans and tried to kiss her on his bed. After Fenwick refused and ran out of the room, she says, Guerrero threatened her to keep quiet. He “told me that if I ever told anybody about what happened that it would ruin both of our careers and he would take down anybody that I told, and that the dean would never take my side or let anything happen to him,” Fenwick told reporters last week. She nevertheless filed a complaint but is dismayed that Guerrero was not terminated after the university determined that misconduct had occurred.

The university says that Guerrero was disciplined and warned that any recurrence could lead to dismissal. He was also blocked from holding leadership positions and teaching or supervising students this year. The institution “took the complaint of sexual harassment very seriously,” it said in a statement. “The university is reviewing the recent legal filing to determine if additional action is warranted.”

Mark Hathaway, Guerrero's attorney, told Inside Higher Ed that his client denies all of Fenwick's allegations and is grieving the university's investigation into his conduct. Hathaway said that Fenwick came to Guerrero's room voluntarily after a night of socializing with colleagues to order a ride back to her hotel via Uber, and that she departed shortly thereafter.

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