Ringling Official Sues Graduate; College Contradicts Claim

Todays News

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY AUG 28, 2020

The Associate Dean of Students for Residence Life at Ringling College of Art and Design, Christopher Shaffer, has sued recent Ringling College graduate, Megan Ruiz, for defamation, libel, slander, civil conspiracy and more, but the college itself has already disputed Shaffer’s version of events.

This past June, Ruiz publicly named Shaffer during a national social media conversation about “dangerous men in art communities,” warning women to “stay the **** away” and “Don’t go into a space alone with him.” The message was shared and retweeted thousands of times, and within two days Ruiz and another student had compiled accounts from as many as 40 students and alumni alleging a pattern of intimidation, emotional abuse, violation of student privacy and HIPAA laws, and improperly handling reports of sexual assault and stalking. They presented the allegations to the college alongside an open letter calling for Shaffer’s firing.

The college opened an investigation into the allegations, while issuing multiple statements to students about the importance of following the proper process when reporting improper behavior and emphasizing that every report is taken seriously. The story made the papers shortly after.

Now, with students possibly returning to campus soon, Shaffer has filed suit against Ruiz, the complaint stating Shaffer was “terrorized” by the course of events and “suffered severe emotional distress” and was seeking “civil action for greater than thirty thousand dollars”. The complaint stated that Shaffer was an “exemplary employee with no blemishes on his record” and that “on or about July 30, 2020 Ringling College concluded their investigation into the allegations by Ruiz and found no wrongdoing by Plaintiff.”

The reaction from students and alumni online has been swift and angry. “Students should have whistle blower immunity for reporting any behavior of the faculty or administration,” said one. “Where is the defense for students?” asked another. But the reaction from the college was even more striking.

“The inquiry in 2020 was not concluded,” said Raelyn Lincoln, Ringling College’s Special Assistant to the President, in response to a query via email. “It continues.”

Beyond that, the college had no comment on the ongoing investigation or the lawsuit between a member of its administration and a former student.

“It may have been a miscommunication between parties,” says Derek Bernstein, the lawyer representing Shaffer, continuing to say that the discrepancy does not affect the strength of his client’s case or the decision to move forward with it. “These types of allegations should be taken seriously and we’re glad that the school is doing their due diligence with these very serious but unfounded allegations. We are confident that they will find no misconduct on the part of my client.”

Ruiz has secured legal representation as well and says she stands by her allegations. “Being served with this lawsuit was terrifying and unexpected,” she says. “This is not a fight that I chose, but I will not be intimidated or bullied by Chris’ attempts to silence me. His lawsuit is completely without merit.”

« View The Friday Aug 28, 2020 SRQ Daily Edition
« Back To SRQ Daily Archive

Read More

All Faiths Food Bank Recognized as One of Top Food Banks in the Country

All Faiths Food Bank Recognized as One of Top Food Banks in the Country

Nov 24, 2020

Incentives Vote Keeps Economic Development Tool Available

Incentives Vote Keeps Economic Development Tool Available

Jacob Ogles | Nov 9, 2020

Goodwill to Host Free Consultations with Gulfcoast Legal Services Attorneys

Goodwill to Host Free Consultations with Gulfcoast Legal Services Attorneys

Nov 4, 2020

City Commission to Resume In-Person Meetings November 2

City Commission to Resume In-Person Meetings November 2

Oct 28, 2020