A Cal Poly student stated in a lawsuit filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court April 27 that her prior instructor sexually assaulted and harassed her by grabbing her thigh and attempting to hypnotize her.
Junior Jaqueline Pederson is seeking damages for sexual harassment, sexual assault, battery, sexual battery, emotional distress and negligent supervision and retention against former communications studies lecturer William Ausmus and Cal Poly.
The suit states that Cal Poly administrators were aware of Ausmus’ history of sexual harassment at the time of Pederson’s assault. The professor had 155 student evaluations on the site Polyratings, many of which claimed that Ausmus favorited and inappropriately approached his female students.
“Overall nice guy… maybe a little too nice, girls, if you’re pretty he’ll love you but if [you] need to go to office hours I would go with someone,” a Cal Poly junior wrote on Polyratings in December 2004.
“Best advice I can give for this professor is don’t take him. He is cocky, arrogant, perverted, and he flirts with his female students,” a freshman wrote in January 2005.
“This man is the most perverted and rude teacher I have ever had in my life … I am a girl and, unlike what some other evaluations say, I was given so special treatment. In fact, I felt that because I was a girl I was harassed everyday by this man,” a sophomore wrote in May 2005.
“He brags about his ‘accomplishments’ and hits on all the decently attractive girls until they feel uncomfortable in class,” a freshman wrote in March 2009.
“This man is the most disgusting abuser. I feel uncomfortable by his presence on this campus and it isn’t just me. All my friends are creeped out and scared that faculty members are preying on students and abusing their positions of power. I feel unsafe at this school,” a freshman wrote in April 2018.
Neither Ausmus or Cal Poly have filed responses to the civil suit. Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier said the university could not comment while litigation is pending. Ausmus was employed at Cal Poly for 15 years from September 2001 to August 2016.