The University of Southern California (USC) is facing a wave of scrutiny following a lawsuit filed by a former student alleging sexual assault and harassment by tenured Marshall School of Business professor Choong Whan Park. The lawsuit, filed in April 2021, accuses Park of targeting female students of Korean descent for years, creating a hostile work environment, and retaliating against those who spoke out against him.
The allegations have sent shockwaves through the USC community, prompting calls for an investigation and raising questions about the university’s handling of sexual misconduct complaints. Park, who has denied the allegations, remains on leave from USC pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
A Pattern of Abuse
The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Yi Youn Kim, alleges that Park began sexually harassing her in 2018 when she was a student assistant in his research lab. She claims that Park subjected her to unwanted physical contact, including hugs, kisses, and groping, and made numerous sexually suggestive comments. Kim also alleges that Park retaliated against her when she tried to rebuff his advances, giving her poor performance reviews and limiting her research opportunities.
Kim’s lawsuit also includes allegations from three other women who claim they were also harassed by Park. The three women, who are identified only as Victims 1, 2, and 3, allege that Park subjected them to similar behavior, including unwanted touching, sexual comments, and pressure to engage in sexual activity.
A University’s Failure to Respond
The lawsuit alleges that USC knew or should have known about Park’s alleged misconduct but failed to take appropriate action. Kim claims that she reported Park’s behavior to USC’s Office of Equity, Equal Opportunity, and Title IX (EEO/Title IX) in 2019, but that the investigation was mishandled and no disciplinary action was taken against Park.
The lawsuit also alleges that USC failed to adequately protect other students from Park’s alleged misconduct. Kim claims that USC was aware of Park’s reputation for harassing female students but failed to warn students or take steps to prevent further abuse.
A Call for Justice
The lawsuit against Park and USC has sparked outrage among the USC community and beyond. Students, alumni, and faculty have called for a full investigation into the allegations and for USC to hold Park and any other responsible individuals accountable for their actions.
Kim’s attorneys have also called on USC to implement reforms to prevent sexual misconduct on campus. These reforms include mandatory training for all faculty and staff on sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as a more transparent and impartial process for investigating and adjudicating sexual misconduct complaints.
The allegations against Choong Whan Park are deeply disturbing and raise serious questions about the culture at USC. If the allegations are true, Park’s behavior is reprehensible and he should be held accountable. USC also has a responsibility to ensure that its campus is a safe and welcoming environment for all students, and it must take steps to address the systemic issues that allowed Park’s alleged misconduct to continue for so long.
- What is the status of the lawsuit against Choong Whan Park and USC?
The lawsuit is currently in the discovery phase. There is no trial date set yet.
- What is USC doing to address the allegations against Park?
USC has placed Park on leave and launched an independent investigation into the allegations. The university has also pledged to implement reforms to prevent sexual misconduct on campus.
- What can students do to protect themselves from sexual misconduct?
Students should be aware of their rights and resources, and they should not hesitate to report any incidents of sexual misconduct to the appropriate authorities.
- What can universities do to prevent sexual misconduct?
Universities should implement comprehensive sexual misconduct prevention policies, provide mandatory training for all students, faculty, and staff, and create a climate of respect and accountability.