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.