Longtime USC English Professor Seeks Damages in New Legal Action

Judge gavel with books on wooden table

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A longtime USC English professor -- and former poet laureate of California -- has filed a second legal action against the university stemming from her suspension without pay for the fall 2020 semester for allegedly writing excessive emails to students and breaching a student's privacy.

Carol Muske-Dukes' Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit was brought Friday, alleging discrimination, retaliation, fraud and negligent misrepresentation. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Muske-Dukes filed a petition on Feb. 18 asking a judge to order the university to set aside its findings and sanctions against the 75-year-old professor that resulted from an Office of Professionalism and Ethics investigation conducted from November 2018 through October 2019. Trial in that case is scheduled next March 25.

USC issued a statement regarding the new case.

“The university stands by its investigation and sanctioning process and plans to vigorously defend itself against this lawsuit,'' the statement read.

According to the new suit, Muske-Dukes is an “award-winning teacher and nationally known author having published 16 internationally reviewed books, including novels, poetry, essays and co-edited anthologies. These works have generated awards and acclaim.''

Muske-Dukes received a gubernatorial appointment as poet laureate of California from 2008-2011, a position held by only nine poets since 1915, according to her suit.

“Plaintiff's professional accomplishments have brought nothing but acclaim and prestige to USC,'' the suit states.

Citing several examples, the suit alleges USC has “repeatedly and consistently applied a separate standard regarding the conduct of male faculty, administrators and other staff and has imposed entirely different discipline compared with its policies toward women.''

The accusations against Muske-Dukes were made “by a few graduate students'' and for most of that period, USC “hid the investigation from plaintiff, failed to notify her of the charges against her or to identify her accusers and failed to permit her to review the evidence,'' the suit alleges.

Muske-Dukes was summoned for an interview in June 2019 that turned into a five-hour interrogation by two attorneys, and that is when she learned why was being investigated, the suit states

“Plaintiff was not permitted to have even an advisor with her during the interrogation,'' the suit states.

In October 2019, the university found that Muske-Dukes violated the privacy and confidentiality of a student, pressured a student regarding a professional opportunity and engaged in inappropriate and excessive communications with students, according to the suit.

When Muske-Dukes was suspended without pay for the fall 2020 semester, she lost more than $110,000 and she was prohibited from any university role, honorific recognition, lectures on campus, use of her office and attendance at any university or departmental events, punishment she alleges was “grossly disproportionate,'' according to the suit.

Muske-Dukes was hired by USC in 1984, obtained tenure in 1991 and became a full professor two years later, a title she holds to this day, her suit states.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content