An email from a USC professor regarding due process in sexual assault allegations stirs up protest and debate

Students voiced discomfort, concern after prominent campus voice called for due process in U.S. Supreme Court hearings.

A USC professor inspired backlash after sending out a mass email last week to all students in his department and voiced his belief in due process in sexual assault allegations, hours after Christine Blasey Ford's testimony in front of the Senate on Thursday. Ford accused the Supreme Count nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.

The Price School of Public Policy Professor James Moore stated in his email, "accusers sometimes lie," and made an argument favoring due process protection in regards to accusations of sexual assault. The initial email Moore responded to was an event announcement for "Coffee and Title IX with Price Women and Allies."

Moore's email sparked immediate disagreement from a number of students.

"As a female student, I feel very uncomfortable that a male professor whom I have never met is trying to interfere with my access to knowledge about my federal rights," Price grad student Kyla Coates wrote in an email.

The email made its way to social media and opposition grew, including some calls from students for Moore to step down.

Students Audrey Mechling and Joelle Montier, Facebook administrators for a group protesting Moore's statement, say time's up for Moore, a reference to the #TimesUp movement that pushed for response to allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein.

"Professor James Moore has created a hostile environment in which many survivors of sexual assault do not feel safe. If you feel as we do that this is unacceptable, and that USC must take action to remove this man from his position of power, join us in protest," they wrote on their event page. Dozens attended the Monday afternoon protest at USC Price chanting "I am not a liar" and "believe survivors."

The original email Price Women and Allies sent to all students was timed to Dr. Christine Blasey Fords testimony and opposed Kavanaugh's selection to the high court.

"We are personally inspired to reiterate the importance of educating and empowering women and allies alike, and most of all, to believe survivors," organizers wrote. "We can only hope to have a modicum of the courage she has displayed today in the face of adversity that great in our lifetime."

Following the controversial email exchanges, Moore said in an interview on Friday that he had some concerns regarding the initial email's message.

"What had really prompted me to respond was the call to 'believe the victim,'" Moore said. "If you believe the victim, there's really no point in the due process."

Although he didn't watch much of the Senate judiciary committee testimony, Moore said he's followed the case since it started, and it caused him to feel concern for Kavanaugh.

"If I had to guess whether or not I think she was attacked I think she was attacked. I can't conclude it was necessarily Kavanaugh," Moore told Annenberg Media. "We've got a high stakes decision to make."

Appointing a new Supreme Court justice typically results in a national debate over their merit and political views – but the Kavanaugh decision has stirred a deeper gender divide in the midst of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

Master student Marianna Jordan with USC Price shared how Moore's words are adding to the nation's triggering environment.

"Seeing Mr. Moore's email in my inbox was quite upsetting," she said. "The initial email was meant to raise our attention to an absolutely critical initiative."

David Valdez, who is also a master student of Public Policy, echoed this.

"I find it beyond disturbing that a professor is so bothered by this event that he felt compelled to email the entire Price community in defense of the accused," Valdez wrote in an email. "We can change policy, create new offices and instill new administrators; however, until those in position of authority such as James Moore are removed, nothing will change."

Moore believes when people are expelled from campus on the basis of allegations of sexual assault and misconduct, the change is damaging to their future.

"If you've been expelled on the basis of sexual misconduct you're not quite getting an economic death sentence but it's close," he said. "It's not just that school that has rejected you. It's the entire higher education system that is rejecting it and those stakes are very high."

At least one study has found that false accusations of sexual assault are very rare, occurring "between 2 and 10 percent" of the time. The 2010 study looked at 136 cases that were reported at a major Northeastern university over a 10-year period to determine the percentage of false allegations.

But Moore finds fault with those types of studies.

"I would presume even without the study that false accusations are infrequent. I don't argue otherwise," he said. "It's because they're infrequent but they definitely happen that we have to be very careful."

Moore has worked at USC for 30 years and believes losing his job is unlikely.

"I think that my words were careful enough that that won't happen because they would be subject to criticism; they don't like criticism," he said.

Moore said he plans to attend the upcoming Coffee & Title IX session, and has been responding to emails privately voicing concerns about his views.


Correction: In the previous version, our headline is "Email from USC professor supporting Brett Kavanaugh stirs up protest and debate."

After reviewing email exchange and interviews, we think that although Professor Moore's email response is under the context of Kavanaugh testimony, it's not showing his support to Kavanaugh. His comments focus on defending the due process in sexual allegations. 

We changed our headline to "An email from a USC professor defending due process in sexual assault allegations stirs up protest and debate."

We changed the headline to better reflect the email sent by Moore. 

We also made changes to our first paragraph, which previously was"A USC professor inspired backlash after sending out a mass email last week to all students in his department and voiced his support for Brett Kavanaugh, hours after the nominee's emotional testimony during a Supreme Court vacancy hearing." 

Changes are made at 12;40 a.m. on Oct 2. 

Additional changes made at 5:51 p.m. Oct 2.