Anti-Semitic remarks, a 'slut test,' and intimidation alleged in - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Anti-Semitic remarks, a 'slut test,' and intimidation alleged in federal suits against Christian university president and son

(Source: WIS) (Source: WIS)
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -

Allegations of sexual harassment, intimidation, lewd behavior, and racist comments are the subjects of two federal lawsuits filed against Columbia International University's president and his son following the president's tenure at an Ohio university.

In those two federal suits, Dr. Mark Smith and his son, Doug Smith, are named as defendants alongside several senior members of Ohio Christian University's staff while Dr. Smith was president. 

According to one suit, the plaintiff, Cynthia Dove, alleges Doug Smith made numerous sexually charged and racist comments while the two worked together in the school's IT department.

Dove's suit claims Doug was "a favored employee, despite his poor work performance and work ethic" due to the fact he was the president's son. Dove claims Doug was also complained against several times before. 

"Although Mr. Smith’s coworkers complained about his behavior, he was never disciplined for his behavior and, as a result, Mr. Smith’s inappropriate work behavior continued," the suit said.

The suit points at several incidents in particular. One of which involved anti-Semitic remarks after a university employee accidentally dropped a ladder.

"Mr. Smith yelled at the coworker, 'Stop being such a Jew!' Plaintiff told Mr. Smith that she was offended by his remark and asked if he knew that she was Jewish. Mr. Smith ignored her," the suit said.

Another incident claims Doug said he hated black people and Mexicans. 

"Alarmed, and assuming Mr. Smith’s comments were nothing more than brash hyperbole, Plaintiff asked, 'Why?' Mr. Smith responded, 'All black people act like they’re entitled to everything,' and Mexicans are 'always poor' and 'dirty freeloaders.' For emphasis, Mr. Smith added that he was 'dead serious,' the suit said.

Yet another incident accuses Doug of sexual harassment against Dove after Doug allegedly placed his finger in the plaintiff's mouth.

“'That was a slut test. If they close their mouth, they’re a slut.' [Dove] got up from her office chair and moved to a different room," the suit said.

Dove, according to the suit, made a formal complaint against Doug that resulted in her being moved to another department, but Doug remained an employee despite alleged evidence he should have been fired. 

"Those employees who opposed or spoke out against Dr. Smith or Mr. Smith were silenced by various means, including but not limited to, termination, failure to hire, and/or non-renewal of contract," the suit said.

One of those employees, the university's former attorney, Jeremy Davitz, filed the second suit and largely co-signs Dove's allegations against Doug. But Davitz's suit also alleges Dr. Smith retaliated against him as Davitz moved to investigate the allegations against Smith's son, Doug. 

One instance in particular discusses the moments where Dr. Smith found out that it was recommended by Davitz that his son be fired because the allegations opened OCU to "tremendous risk for litigation and resulting damages."

"Upon learning that Doug Smith would be fired, Mark Smith lashed out at Davitz and [OCU Vice President of Finance Rob] Hartman, banging his fists on the desk several times. Mark Smith yelled that he, himself, was a victim and that his son was a victim who had gone through tremendous hardships," the suit said.

From there, according to the suit, Dr. Smith and the university "significantly decreased" Davitz's responsibilities and he was "shut out" of many of the university activities he had engaged in. 

The suit said Dr. Smith even admitted to reducing Davitz's work load during a Board of Trustees meeting because "we don't trust him anymore."

"The trust factor is gone," Dr. Smith allegedly said to the Board. 

Davitz was eventually terminated from OCU. Dr. Smith also resigned from the university due to unknown reasons, the suit said.

Dr. Smith was hired by CIU in February of 2017. His son is also now employed with the university. The two suits were filed months later in September.

CIU released a statement on the pair of suits and their employment of Dr. Smith and Doug Smith.

"Columbia International University fully vetted Dr. Mark A. Smith prior to hiring him as CIU president, and found him to be an exceptional candidate for office.  Several months after his hiring, two lawsuits were filed against Ohio Christian University naming Dr. Smith and several other administrators.  Upon receiving the lawsuits, Dr. Smith immediately communicated with the CIU Board of Trustees and was completely transparent throughout the process.  Upon review, CIU supports and has complete confidence in Dr. Smith," the statement said.

As for Doug, CIU says they completed a "a full background and reference check before hiring him including former employer references" and that his suit with the former student has been resolved.

"In his first year as president, Dr. Mark A Smith has ushered in a new era of enthusiasm and energy into CIU, and we look forward to many more years of continued success during his tenure as president of Columbia International University," the statement said.

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