College officials released details about a claim filed by a Courier staff member alleging sexual harassment and retaliation by journalism instructor and Courier adviser Warren Swil today.
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Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since its original posting.

College officials released details about a claim filed by a Courier staff member alleging sexual harassment and retaliation by journalism instructor and Courier adviser Warren Swil today.

Swil, who was put on administrative leave on March 28, has been the focus of an investigation following complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation.

Journalism student Raymond Bernal filed a claim for $100,000 with the college on May 22. The claim, which was rejected by the board of trustees on June 5, listed the accusations, but only stated that the claim was filed against an unnamed district employee. With the claim rejected by the board, Bernal is able to file a lawsuit.

Although people speculated that Swil, 61, was the subject of the complaint, his identity was not confirmed until today.

In the complaint, Bernal asserts that in early January following winter break, Swil called him into his office, closed the door, and revealed naked pictures of himself taken on a boating trip.  Bernal said that when Mr. Swil pointed to the naked picture, smiled and asked him what he thought about the picture, he tried to change the subject to other pictures depicting sexually benign subject matters.

The complaint also states that “Undeterred, Mr. Swil grabbed the second group of pictures, again pointed to a picture of himself naked, smiled and asked Mr. Bernal what he thought about that pictured. When Mr. Bernal changed the subject a second time, Mr. Swil was visibly disappointed and acted as if he had not received the desired response to his provocative pictures. As Mr. Bernal left, Mr. Swil said, “Let’s keep this between you and me.”

Bernal originally filed a complaint with Joe Futtner, dean of the visual arts and media studies division, pior to Swil being put on administrative leave in late March. Bernal said he “was unsure if Mr. Swil had made a sexual advance or if Mr. Swil simply felt more comfortable sharing risque photographs with him.”

Both Swil and Bernal are gay men.

Bernal, 49, also claimed Swil retaliated against him by giving him bad grades on articles that were written for the Courier.

According to the complaint, before the alleged sexual advances, Swil regularly gave Bernal high scores on articles. But after the incident, he said Swil began giving below average marks on articles that other members of the staff, including the Courier editor-in-chief at the time, Nicholas Saul, found to be very well written.

One such article, which focused on places where students hook-up for sex on campus, was slated for publication by Saul, but when Swil read the article, he gave it a near ‘0’ mark, according to the complaint.

When Mikki Bolliger stepped in as the Courier’s interim adviser, she read Bernal’s revised article and gave it an ‘A’ grade. The article ran in the Courier’s print edition. Bolliger said, “The story Raymond wrote was very well done; however, you also have to remember that I only saw a revised copy.”

Swil declined to comment on the complaint.

The complaint also states “Mr. Swil began to criticize Mr. Bernal, and stopped giving him the same level of attention he provided before his sexual overture. Mr. Bernal became afraid to speak with or interact with Mr. Swil. Some days, he would show up to class, get to the door and turn around due to the fear and shame he suffered as a result of Mr. Swil’s conduct.”

Bernal maintains that “classmates noticed both the change in Mr. Bernal’s demeanor as well as the change in Mr. Swil’s treatment. Mr. Bernal sought treatment at U.S.C. Medical Center for symptoms of depression, anxiety, headaches and stress caused by Mr. Swil’s treatment.”

Bernal, who said he did not want the complaint made public, explained to the Courier that he did not wish to injure Swil’s reputation as a professor.

However, Bernal’s lawyer, Kevin Rehwald, explained in a statement that the college’s General Counsel Gail Cooper was required to release the “private internal complaint” against Swil because of a public records act request filed by the Pasadena Sun.

“Bernal regrets that his private complaint will be released. However, we understand PCC’s legal obligations. Due to [Bernal’s] affiliation with the Courier, [he] has decided to release his complaint to the Courier first,” Rehwald said.

Swil’s lawyer Michael Anderson explained that he did not find the complaint to be completely verifiable. “After reviewing the student’s complaint, I do not see the claim as having merit,” Anderson said.

Comments

  1. Raymond Bernal deserves our support, and respect for dealing with all the blowback. Sexual harassment and rape situations show that the victim is continually punished for trying to stand up for themselves. Warren Swil had power and authority over Raymond Bernal and exploited it. Neither the administration nor Swil are heroes. Swil was put on administrative leave, because he left himself vulnerable by trying to sexually exploit a student during the Couriers reporting on the administration. The administration then used the situation to make themselves seem like heroes. The administration are not heroes, and do not behave in the same way toward all sexual harassment. Raymond Bernal is the victim in this situation and need our support as a community.

    1. Kevin, I met you many times at board meetings and such. I do not think you know Swil at all and you are way out of line leaving these uneducated comments on the Courier website.

      If you are going to make accusations, you should wait until the investigation is complete and we have the REAL facts, not what you think or hear from others at PCC.

      Besides, PCC has WAY more important problems than some lawsuit against Swil, why don’t you use your mind (I know you are a smart person and very involved) on things that will help PCC students get the education they need.

      If you are right, I will apologize and change my thoughts on my journalism adviser, but until then I think we need to keep and open mind and be careful about what you say. I worked with Raymond and Swil and believe both were good people. Until we know all the fact, we should be careful about what accusations we make.

      Swil is an excellent teacher and journalist. HJe taught me everything I know and got me into a top 50 rated university in the US.

      If you disagree, I am open for conversation on the subject.
      zebzebrowski@yahoo.com. I dont want to fight, but would love to hear your side and all the info I am lacking.

      Also, Mr. Clinton, have many years have you been at community college? maybe its time for you to move on with your life…

      1. Zeb ~

        Thanks for giving readers the voice of reason and calm in this matter. I agree with you. People like Community-College-Kevin, who attend Board meetings, take up residency in the quad, repeatedly take mindless courses to maintain their “lifer” status as a student should declare themselves litter and crawl into a can somewhere. Preferably off-campus.

        GS

  2. Wow… I worked with both of these people and ‘wow’ is the only thing I can say. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. I hope for all parties involved that none of it is true. Sketchy…

  3. WOW ! How did a story about Swil & Bernal get all the way over to the C-Building? If you are looking for a campus sex scandal story(s)…there is no reason to “cross the quad!” The campus security guys have been using the cadets as a dating-pool for decades.

  4. It seems to me the case re: sexual conduct against Mr. Swil, while important, pales in comparison to the corruption in the PCC administration. Will we ever uncover the truth about the hiring of Mark Rocha as the President, and the “gang” he brought with him?

    1. Jeff, I wonder if the charges against Mr. Swil are/were designed as a cover for Gail Cooper? The campus police were called to her office by former student trustee Hannah Israel and told take down a poster which read “sexual harassment will not be reported but it will be graded”
      And along comes an easy target like Mr. Swil, he’s gay, and allegedly is showing pictures of himself naked. But if you read the complaint against Cooper, it states that she lifted her blouse and exposed her pump for viewing, (by the way, that is not a pleasant picture) this whole things smells bad! With Rocha pulling the strings to mask his Seton Hall dalliance.

      1. @Colleague of Swil, you speak my mind. Thanks for the additional rumor/fact/information re: Gail Cooper.
        Now the question is what to do about it? With all the other negative press in the past couple of years reflecting on the PCC Administration, isn’t it (past) time to get rid of the Board members who have been ignoring faculty and students for the past several decades? Who might they be?

        More, please, about Rocha’s Seton Hall dalliance. I’d like to know.

    1. Concerned staff, thanks for posting this for everyone to read (do you remember when that anonymous email came out against Cooper and sexual harassment in 6/12, can anyone find that an post it!). If what plaintiff says is true, and she is leaking the personnel files of employees to her love interests on campus, then she should be fired and disbarred. V.P. Miller told a friend of mine that “she should leave because she is becoming a distraction” according to Miller she replied, “if I go down all of you go down.” What does she mean by this?
      That she is in charge of Swils investigation with the allegations against her out there should provide comfort to Swil. The allegations against Swil pale in comparison to the allegations against Cooper. What is happening to Swil is called DISPARATE TREATMEANT and is a violation of the law! But Cooper would not know this since she is such a “legal eagle” When are we going to take our college back!

      1. @Mad as Hell, I hope your question, “When are we going to take our college back?” is not rhetorical. Of course, to “take the college back” requires some kind of action.

        Votes of no confidence are easily ignored, and rejected by the Board.

        Demonstrations seem to only allow the venting of steam.

        I think the change needs to start at the top. How about some research about Board member votes on issues that effect students and faculty, with the intent to mount some serious opposition at the polls?

  5. I’d like to read the formal complaint filed with the court naming Dr. Rocha and Ms. Cooper defendants – anyone know where that can be gotten?

  6. a) Swill’s interaction with the student was inappropriate.
    b) Why was Swill removed when he was removed from PCC and not after an investigation had been done? Does PCC now operate on “guilty before proven innocent”?
    c) Why even after a formal complaint was filed with LA County Superior Court against Gail Cooper, the administration’s lawyer, for sexual harassment (and the plaintiff’s accusations in that public document are MUCH more in line with harassment than what I’m hearing from this article and Swill’s alleged behavior), is she still allowed to be on campus? Why hasn’t SHE been removed, too? This double-standard is awful, but somehow what’s to be expected from an admin that also sends out the court reporter from the fack-finding hearing..
    d) Has the Sun once reported on the fact that Mark Rocha is also named as a defendant on the lawsuit with Gail Cooper? Why aren’t they as concerned with that story as with this one!? I agree with “Curious” above- the administration has its own agenda and the Sun falls right in line with them.

  7. Would someone please post Swil’s naked photos so the court of pubic (sp?) opinion can get to work ? We are dying to see what sent the 49-year old fruit off to the doctor !

    Gay-Lord

  8. The behavior that Swil is alleged to have engaged in, including retaliatory grading, is certainly unacceptable (though we’d need to hear Swil’s version of events before assessing the charges). While the administration needed to respond to these allegations, it seems strange that they just yanked Swil out of the classroom in the middle of the semester, disrupting the functioning of classes and the school newspaper. Wouldn’t it make more sense to try to quietly counsel the parties through this, perhaps place some sort of reprimand in Swil’s personnel file or insist that he go through special monitoring or training in the future? Find a way to make it right with the student, perhaps arrange things so that he can continue his studies without Swil as his supervisor? Of course I can’t know the whole story here, but the story that is public so far leads me toward the conclusion that the administration acted rashly and very harshly, quite possibly with a retaliatory agenda of its own.

    1. It’s common practice to place the accused on administrative leave before and during an investigation. Further – ew. I would not want a professor that took advantage of his position over a student to remain on campus. Let alone one with charges of sexual misconduct.

  9. Making sexually explicit comments in the newsroom is a lot different than having to look at naked pictures of your teacher. That is very disturbing. I am not condoning any sexually explicit remarks, but I don’t see how anyone can think that hitting on a student no matter how old he is is OK. If you have never had someone sexually harass you, you have no idea how sick that can make you if you have to be around that person. Does that make Mr. Swil a bad teacher? I can’t speak to that, but as long as you stay out of his office, I guess it wouldn’t effect his teaching.

    1. Being sexually harassed is often a shocking experience which leaves the victim at a loss for a response, it’s a very common reaction, and so are the reactions of fear and disgust at having to be in the same room with that person afterward. Getting Swil’s account is an imperative but right now it mostly looks as if the BOT didn’t want to deal with Bernal’s claim and Swil utilized his position as a teacher as an opportunity to sexually manipulate a student.

  10. “Journalism student Raymond Bernal filed a claim for $100,000 with the college on May 22. The claim, which was rejected by the board of trustees on June 5, listed the accusations, but only stated that the claim was filed against an unnamed district employee.”

    Rejected??? If it’s rejected, then what does that mean? They’re not pursuing this or…?

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