Eight alumni from Ringling College of Art and Design allege the school mishandled reports of assault.
The students, including Megan Ruiz, allege the college failed to provide a safe campus environment by mishandling reports of student-on-student sexual assault, sexual harassment, threats of violence and stalking.
Ruiz spoke on behalf of the plaintiffs telling 10 Tampa Bay, “I was harassed, belittled, mocked and intimidated by my boss.”
Ruiz said she worked as a resident assistant while attending Ringling College but was intimidated and fearful of her boss. She was most concerned by her supervisor’s alleged tendency to spread personal and private information about other students, which Ruiz says violated several laws the resident assistants were trained on prior to employment.
“When a student tells you their information, say they’re queer, they have health problems, a disability — that information stays with you unless there’s an emergency,” Ruiz said.
A spokesperson for the school said, “The safety of our students and the entire Ringling College community is and always has been a top priority. As a practice, however, the College does not comment on pending legal matters.”
Shortly after she graduated, Ruiz said she filed a formal human resources complaint with the university about her experiences, which she believes were ultimately ignored.
A few years later, she took to social media to warn people about her former supervisor and the culture she experienced while attending Ringling.
“It made me sick to my stomach that someone would choose to go to Ringling because they looked up to me and I never gave them the full story,” she said.
Ruiz said her social media posts were met with a wave of people describing similar experiences that went far beyond one supervisor: “Dozens of people, alumni, former students, current students, former faculty members, people who still work at the college reaching out to me about their concerns with the college.”
She and seven other plaintiffs decided to file a lawsuit when they noticed an alleged trend of mishandling reports of misconduct and covering them up.
“My goal was always to make sure I was helping in any way I could to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students in the Ringling community,” Ruiz said.