Lawsuit claims Clemson University violated anti-discrimination laws

South Carolina News

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – A lawsuit filed in Oconee County last week claims Clemson University violated anti-discrimination laws after a student came forward about being sexually harassed and assaulted by a professor.

A university spokesperson confirmed that the professor was dismissed last July. The professor is not facing any criminal charges. 

Title IX protects victims of sexual harassment from discrimination. The lawsuit says a victim lost out on educational opportunities because he reported a professor, making him a victim twice. 

According to the suit, Bradley Hieronymus was a junior food science major at Clemson when a professor started showing interest in him last year.

The lawsuit claims Professor Felix Barron asked him to come to Mexico on a “business trip” with him. When Hieronymus suggested he couldn’t afford it, Barron offered him a job paying $7.50 an hour. 

Hieronymus’ mother said he was excited about the opportunity. 

“[Barron] promised him…’I can get you a job with Amazon…you stick by me, and I’ll be able to show you how to make a lot of money,” said Susette Hieronymus.

The lawsuit also alleges Barron became controlling, having Hieronymus over to his house in the evening, giving him wine, and asking him to stay the night. 

The lawsuit states sexual harassment turned into sexual assault on a trip to Peru, where Hieronymus was assisting Barron with presentations. 

“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Susette Hieronymus. “It was horrible.”

Hieronymus took his complaint to the university. According to a report included in the lawsuit, the university found some of Barron’s communications to Hieronymus were inappropriate. It also said, “We further conclude the preponderance of the evidence shows Dr. Barron touched you in ways that were uncomfortable for you and unwanted.”

Four days later, Barron was dismissed. No criminal charges have been filed. 

7 News reached Barron on the phone, but he hung up when he learned we were calling from the local news. 

According to one of Hieronymus’ attorneys, the university didn’t go far enough to take care of him after he came forward. 

“He lost his opportunities for those externships that Dr. Barron had literally set up for him,” said attorney John Reckenbeil, who is representing Hieronymus. 

7 News asked Reckenbeil if Clemson University should be held responsible for compensating for opportunities for Hieronymus that Barron facilitated.

“Clemson University, multibillion-dollar university, only has one person in a department such as that?” Reckenbeil said.

Recekenbeil also claims his client lost out on his job because Barron was gone. 

“They didn’t pay him for the whole month of April because Dr. Barron had to be the one to sign off on his time sheet,” he said.

The lawsuit is asking the university to announce a policy that will offer corrective action to students who have faced discrimination or have their Title IX funding stripped.

A university spokesperson declined to comment on the pending litigation. 

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