Ph.D. Student Files Federal Complaint, Says USC Retaliated Against His Pro-Men Title IX Activism
Last month, Kursat Christoff Pekgoz, a Ph.D. student and Provost's Fellow at the University of Southern California (USC), filed a federal complaint against USC under Title IX. In the complaint, Pekgoz claims that USC officials retaliated against his activism on behalf of men who face sex discrimination, including in his own case of alleged sexual assault. Title IX historically defended women from sex discrimination, but given the fact that women now dominate universities (with many programs Pekgoz has termed "affirmative action" still in place to advance women only), Pekgoz has led efforts to defend men.
"On college campuses, the odds are really stacked against male students since women are the majority of students," Pekgoz argues in a video about his case. "My experiences and my research have led me to believe that men face discrimination in various walks of life here in the United States. Men face significant forms of discrimination in family courts, also in the criminal justice system, and last but not least in the education system."
Pekgoz has filed numerous Title IX complaints alleging discrimination against men. When a woman filed a Title IX complaint against him, alleging sexual harassment, he responded with claims that she sexually assaulted him. He filed a complaint against Georgetown Professor Christine Fair, who said the "entitled white men" who voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh "deserve miserable deaths." He also filed a complaint against Harvard University over the American Psychological Association's "masculinity" guidelines, which slammed "traditional masculinity."
According to Pekgoz, the professors and administrators at USC are aware of his self-defense and his activism and targeted him for it.
"They all know that I am a Title IX activist for men, with strong libertarian/conservative views," Pekgoz told PJ Media Wednesday.
He had filed a Title IX complaint alleging retaliation back in 2017, and the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) rejected his complaint, claiming that the evidence "did not support a causal connection between the Complainant's protected activities and the adverse activities."
The new complaint includes new evidence that seems to bolster Pekgoz's case, however.
The original complaint mentioned a discussion between Pekgoz and John Holland, the director of the USC Writing Program. Pekgoz claimed that Holland threatened to have him removed from the graduate program, told him that upper-level administrators wanted Pekgoz put on a probationary contract, and pressured him to take his fellowship year early — effectively preventing him from achieving his Ph.D. Holland denied those assertions and cited poor student evaluations of Pekgoz.
The new complaint includes a transcript of the meeting in question, in which Holland appears to say, "I think you should talk to your department about whether you should take your final fellowship year and try to finish off early this year."
In comments to PJ Media, Pekgoz noted that the 2017 investigation "acknowledged that my student evaluations were not really the lowest. They were bad on my first semester, but then they improved significantly. I am unaware of any other Assistant Lecturers who have ever been placed under a probationary contract during the same time period (2-3 years)."
"If 'bad evaluations' were the real reason I was singled out for this unique sanction, it would be necessary for the University to prove that I have consistently received the worst evaluations possible throughout all these semesters," he argued. "This clearly didn't happen."
Furthermore, Pekgoz claimed that USC stopped relying on evaluations, so the university could not defend this pretext any longer. He also claimed that "absenteeism (another reason offered by John Holland) was also pretextual" since "absenteeism is common and I volunteered to help absent instructors before."
Importantly, he also demonstrated evidence that Hillary Schor, the academic advisor of the woman who accused him of sexual harassment, tried to sabotage his Ph.D. dissertation. While Schor told him she supported his dissertation, she sent an email encouraging her colleagues to reject it.
Pekgoz suggested there was a political motive to her attack. Schor "wrote the witch hunt letter that forced President Nikias to step down, and I believe Nikias was persecuted by amoral identitarians for the original sin of being a white male, for allegedly covering up sexual harassment," he argued. President C.L. Max Nikias resigned last May after more than 300 people — most of them former female patients — accused university gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall of mistreatment and sexual abuse dating back to the early 1990s.
He found another professor to replace Schor on his dissertation committee.
Finally, Pekgoz noted that the university took away his stipend, "while granting lavish stipends to 'intersectional feminists' who spout garbled, postmodern poetry." He requested a routine Ph.D. extension for one more year, and that was denied.
"Such contractual renewals are routinely granted and many doctoral students take more than the allotted time (i.e. five years) to complete their degree," he wrote in the complaint, referencing two specific examples.
When reached by PJ Media, a USC spokesperson declined to speak about Pekgoz's case.
"USC is committed to maintaining an environment that is free from discrimination and that encourages fair treatment of all students, faculty and staff, a value that is emphasized in university policies. Because of privacy laws, we are unable to talk about individual cases," the spokesperson said.
Pekgoz insisted that his complaint aims not just to reverse the alleged injustice and retaliation he faced, but also to hold universities accountable.
"As long as academic institutions are not held accountable, such retaliation will continue and dissident voices will be silenced," he told PJ Media. "There are other prominent examples of retaliation and free speech violations in academia, which I included in the retaliation complaint. President Trump signed an executive order but we haven't seen any reliable consequences yet."
As for the issue of Title IX protections extending to men, Pekgoz vehemently defended the equality of the sexes on this issue.
"Men are also human beings and the Constitution offers equal protection to all. Men are also a vulnerable minority in colleges in particular, since they are often persecuted by a class of diversity bureaucrats whose employment serves no legitimate purpose. Since this persecution only happens to some men, and always behind closed doors, the public isn't always aware of what is going on," he concluded.
While the Office of Civil Rights rejected his first complaint, the new evidence in this more recent complaint justifies a new investigation. Pekgoz confirmed to PJ Media that while he submitted the complaint on May 29, he has yet to receive a response.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.