Keep Carla at USC
Keep Carla at USC
Why this petition matters
Carla used to be a grad student in the Molecular Biology Ph.D. program. She was dismissed from the university after she confronted her then Ph.D. advisor (James Boedicker) on his bullying behavior towards her and other students and staff. She has been appealing her case for over a year now, unfortunately, the university considers that her bullying was not intense enough to initiate disciplinary action against the professor nor grant reparatory measures that could help her or any other of the people affected by Dr. Boedicker. As of now, Professor Boedicker continues to teach courses to graduate and undergraduate students and is the unsupervised advisor of graduates, undergraduates, and even underprivileged minority background high schoolers. Carla in turn has been dismissed from the university, her academic career is practically over, and is at risk of deportation.
If Carla loses this battle she will no longer be able to work or study at USC, and might even face deportation, so please sign this petition to support Carla in her fight for justice and help her tell her story.
Carla joined USC in the fall of '19 as a Ph.D. student in the molecular biology program. Because of her own interests and previous research experience, she chose Prof. James Boedicker's lab as the place where she would carry out her doctoral studies, which she began at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020. The first task she took upon herself was to complete control experiments for another Ph.D. student's journal submission. Said student had graduated recently and was no longer at USC. Soon after she started carrying out the controls, she realized that she could not reproduce any of the main results reported by the previous grad student. After eight months of failed attempts, she informed Prof. Boedicker of her findings and raised concerns about the validity of the original data. Professor Boedicker responded by becoming visibly upset at her, raising his voice and discharging her from the project.
In parallel to this event, experiences of bullying and mistreatment from Professor Boedicker have been shared among graduate students since January 2021. Common themes included but were not limited to "passive aggressiveness, demeaning attitude, no respect for students nor their work and constant warnings they were not working enough". After her discharge from the other student's project, Carla moved on to work on the project that would be her thesis work. Mistreatment from Prof. Boedicker continued and psychological pressure mounted as he kept insisting progress was not enough. Three months passed and following advice given by Prof. El-Naggar, she decided to confront Prof. Boedicker on his attitude towards her and the rest of the lab members. After an exchange of emails in which she stood up for herself, she was immediately fired by Prof. Boedicker.
Having no advisor, she met with Prof. Matt Dean, the then Molecular Biology Ph.D. program director. He effectively set the meeting so no talk about her experiences of bullying could be brought up by immediately stating that "we need to look to the future". A previous meeting had occurred between Prof. Boedicker and Prof. Dean and sadly Professor Dean decided to take Prof. Boedicker's word for granted as he did not verify the information provided by Boedicker and no attempts to mediate nor remedy the situation were attempted. Sadly, Professor Dean decided to believe his fellow white male colleague even though he had evidence Carla was an excellent student - she had taken his class. After stating they needed to "look into the future", Prof Dean continued the meeting by making it very clear that finding a Ph.D. advisor was Carla's sole responsibility and that neither he nor any other faculty could force any professor to take her in their lab. Carla reached out to seven different professors and was told among other things that there wasn't any funding for more students, that her interests and expertise
did not fit with those of the professors, and that she didn't have priority over incoming first-year students. Consequently, she was dismissed from the Ph.D. program in December 2021. The same day she was dismissed from the program she received an email from USC OIS asking for her plane tickets back to South America, if she didn't leave the US before the semester ended she was going to be deported.
In January 2022, Carla filed a complaint with the office of Title IX for bullying and mistreatment. Because she wasn't mistreated under any of the protected categories, Title IX directed her to file another complaint to the university's office of conduct, accountability, and professionalism (OCAP). Carla was assigned a case investigator, Dr. Tracy Pearson, who let her know that as a plaintiff she was entitled to receive supportive measures from the university so she could continue her studies. In an effort to get her back on track, Dr. Pearson contacted Dr. Samuel Steinberg at the Office of the Graduate School who agreed to help Carla. Nevertheless, once Carla met with Prof. Steinberg, he denied the existence of any supportive measures available and subsequently blocked any efforts by Dr. Pearson to get Carla the help she needed. Three months into the investigation, the head of OCAP Mark Manley warned Dr. Pearson "to stay within her lane" and a month later Dr. Pearson was dismissed from the case and replaced by an external lawyer, James Godes LLP from Godes and Preis.
By the end of summer, James Godes reached a verdict: the mistreatment Carla and others were subjected to was not enough so an external observer, himself - James Godes, deemed that university policy had been violated. Additionally, James Godes ruled over a data fabrication concern that was not brought up by Carla, the concern was (and remains) being for data irreproducibility. By allowing James Godes to rule over a scientific matter with no proper background in STEM or any other science, OCAP has effectively corrupted the investigation. Moreover, James Godes being a white, heterosexual male and successful attorney, cannot serve as an unbiased observer. Indeed, he fails to address the power imbalance existing between Carla and her then-Ph.D. advisor, as well as her and others' attempts to seek help to deal with Dr. Boedicker's bullying.
Now Carla will face her third appeal attempt against an academic panel and needs our help. Please sign this petition to support Carla in her fight for justice and help her tell her story.