Former Courier adviser Warren Swil will be reinstated as an instructor next spring after admitting to showing naked pictures of himself to a student in an incident that led to a months-long sexual harassment investigation, sources confirmed.
Swil, 61, was put on paid administrative leave in March for complaints regarding sexual harassment and grade retaliation by Courier staff member Raymond Bernal. He alleged Swil showed him naked photographs and lowered his grades on assignments after the incident.
The school immediately launched an investigation that finally culminated in a letter notifying Swil of his reinstatement in late November.
Several sources close to the investigation confirmed to the Courier that Swil admitted to showing Bernal the naked photographs. But the full results of the investigation are being withheld to protect Swil, according to General Counsel Gail Cooper.
“It is important to remember that no matter how much interest there may be, Mr. Swil has a right of privacy in his personnel information that the District must protect,” Cooper said via email.
Swil received a letter from the college explaining his reinstatement and the terms of the investigation on Friday, and he described the experience as “surreal,” but he declined to address the allegations specifically.
Earlier this week, he explained in an email that his experience on administrative leave was “unimaginably traumatic and was totally unnecessary.”
Bernal referred the Courier to his lawyer, who declined to comment on Wednesday. Swil’s attorney, Michael Anderson, did not return phone and email messages requesting comment on this story.
Faculty Association President Roger Marheine would not comment on the findings of the investigation but described Swil’s reinstatement as a victory for faculty members on campus.
“[The administration] overreacted to what would normally be considered a minor discussion,” Marheine said.
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 of sexual harassment and grade retaliation. With the claim rejected by the board, Bernal is able to file a lawsuit. Bernal would not comment on whether or not he would follow through with legal actions.
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 alleged that Swil gave him low grades on assignments after the incident.
From the outset of the investigation, Marheine asserted that Swil’s placement on administrative leave was a tactic from the administration to stop the Courier from harshly reporting major news on campus, such as the calendar change.
“It’s absolutely an attempt to stifle dissent. To stop not just student journalists but also faculty members from speaking out,” Marheine said.
Joseph Futtner, dean of the Visual Arts and Media Studies division, reported Bernal’s complaint regarding Swil’s alleged acts of sexual harassment and grade retaliation to administration officials back in March, but did not comment on his reinstatement.
Swil will be reinstated starting Jan. 13 next year. However, it is unclear what his assignment will be as an instructor, or if he can come to the campus at all before then, according to Marheine, who had demanded that Swil be immediately allowed back on campus.
“The Faculty Association (FA) is advising Professor Warren Swil that he may return to campus immediately to attend to campus duties and responsibilities. The FA anticipates no opposition
from the college,” Marheine said in an email to the administration on Wednesday.
For now, interim Courier advisor Nathan McIntire is contracted to continue his term until the end of Spring 2014.