C.W. Park USC Lawsuit
One of the most recent and controversial cases of sexual harassment and discrimination in academia is the C.W. Park USC lawsuit, which involves a high-profile professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business and his former student who later became a professor at the same university
In 2020, the University of Southern California (USC) found itself at the center of a major scandal and controversy when a professor filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, assault, discrimination, and retaliation by another prominent professor over the course of several years. The case, which pitted Professor Christina Woo Park against Professor C.W. Park, two individuals with no familial relation, sparked intense debate over power dynamics, misconduct, and accountability in higher education.
Background on the Two Professors
To understand this complex legal battle, it is important to know the background of the two professors involved. C.W. Park joined USC’s Marshall School of Business in 2006 as a highly decorated academic in the field of marketing. With over two decades of experience, numerous awards and publications, and leadership of the school’s Global Branding Center, he was considered one of USC’s star faculty members.
Christina Woo Park, while less renowned, was an accomplished professor of social work at USC with over 20 years in academia herself. Praised for her passion and dedication, she was a widely respected member of the USC community.
From Mentorship to Alleged Abuse
According to Christina Woo Park’s lawsuit, she first met C.W. Park in 1997 when she was his doctoral student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He became her dissertation advisor and then allegedly initiated a sexual relationship, claiming he would leave his wife for her.
The lawsuit states this inappropriate relationship continued for years, even after Christina graduated and joined USC’s faculty in 2008. She claims C.W. Park persuaded her to move to LA near him and sexually abused her repeatedly.
Disturbing Allegations Against C.W. Park
Christina Woo Park levied numerous serious charges against C.W. Park in her lawsuit, alleging misconduct over two decades.
Years of Sexual Harassment
The lawsuit asserts that C.W. Park sexually harassed Christina for over 20 years through unwanted advances, requests for sex, groping, exposing himself, sending explicit messages/photos, and creating a hostile environment.
Repeated Sexual Assault
Christina alleges C.W. Park sexually assaulted her many times using intimidation, drugs/alcohol, violence, or threats to force her into sex, cause her injury, or impregnate her.
The lawsuit claims C.W. Park discriminated against Christina by treating her differently, denying her opportunities, and undermining her reputation due to her being an older, disabled Asian American woman.
Retaliation for Rejecting Advances
Christina asserts that C.W. Park retaliated against her by sabotaging her career when she reported him or rejected his advances.
C.W. Park denied these allegations completely, stating that their relationship was consensual and that she actually harassed and threatened him.
USC Also Faces Serious Allegations
In addition to accusing C.W. Park, Christina Park’s lawsuit also leveled the following charges against USC as an institution:
Negligence in Hiring and Supervising
The lawsuit alleges USC did not properly address red flags around C.W. Park and failed to act even after receiving complaints about him.
Vicarious Liability as C.W. Park’s Employer
Christina asserts that USC is liable for C.W. Park’s misconduct since his alleged actions were within the scope of his employment.
Breach of Contract
The lawsuit claims USC violated its own policies around sexual misconduct, non-discrimination, due process, tenure denial, and termination.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
Christina alleges USC betrayed her trust by ignoring or covering up her reports of abuse and retaliating against her.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
The lawsuit states that USC intentionally caused Christina severe anguish and suffering by allowing C.W. Park’s harassment and creating a hostile environment.
As with the allegations against C.W. Park, USC denied any wrongdoing in its handling of the situation.
The Evidence Presented Has Mixed Credibility
Both sides presented various forms of evidence to support their version of events, but the strength of this evidence varies.
- Testimony from others about C.W. Park’s misconduct
- Records confirming her qualifications and achievements
- Emails/messages demonstrating harassment
- Photos/videos showing the assault
- Expert opinions backing her claims
C.W. Park’s Evidence
- Testimony defending his character and relationship
- Emails/messages showing Christina threatened him
- Information alleging Christina lied about qualifications
Overall, Christina presented compelling evidence from third parties, while C.W. Park’s evidence relies more on his personal credibility versus verifiable facts.
Settlement Reached, but Debate Continues
In the end, the lawsuit concluded in November 2021 with a settlement between Christina Woo Park and USC. The terms were not disclosed publicly. C.W. Park had resigned from USC when the allegations first emerged.
Mixed Reactions to Outcome
Many expressed disappointment that details were not disclosed and believe USC avoided fully reckoning with the issues raised. Others argued that settlement was best for all parties to move forward.
Impact and Analysis
Nonetheless, the case fueled ongoing discussions about preventing abuse of power, protecting victims, and promoting transparency in academia. It also raised concerns about USC’s culture and policies.
Insights Gained from This Complex Case
While the C.W. Park USC lawsuit has now concluded, it provides important insights for USC and academic institutions at large.
Improvements Needed at USC
This case highlighted significant concerns around USC’s handling of harassment that demand examination to improve policies, training, and accountability.
Examining Power Dynamics in Academia
Broader debates about preventing and addressing misconduct, particularly given the complex power dynamics between faculty and students, continue.
There is greater awareness of the need to support victims in coming forward and provide them options to report abuse safely.
Pressure has increased for academic institutions to be more transparent in investigating allegations of harassment and misconduct.
By thoroughly analyzing this case, universities can take steps to better prevent similar situations in the future.