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Former Courier adviser facing lawsuit upon reinstatement

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The journalism professor recently reinstated as an instructor at the college after admitting to showing nude photos of himself to a student is being sued by the student for alleged sexual harassment and grade retaliation, court documents show.

Courier staff member Raymond Bernal accused former Courier adviser Warren Swil of showing him naked photos of himself and unfairly lowering his grades after Bernal turned down his sexual advances last March. The administration immediately launched an investigation into the incident that concluded last month and recently announced Swil will be reinstated in the spring.

Bernal filed a lawsuit against Swil on Monday.

“The conduct of Defendant Swil as herein alleged was despicable and constituted oppression and malice, thus entitling [Bernal] to an award of punitive damages against Defendant Swil,” court documents obtained by the Courier state.

At the beginning of the Spring 2013 semester, Bernal asked Swil about his winter vacation in the newsroom. Subsequently, Swil invited Bernal into his office and closed the door behind him, according to allegations made in the documents.

Swil said that he had gone on a boating trip and printed a group of pictures to show Bernal that included a naked photo of him, according to the documents.

“Swil pointed to the naked picture, smiled, and asked Mr. Bernal what he thought about the picture,” the civil complaint reads.

When Bernal tried to change the subject after being shown another group of pictures, Swil seemed disappointed and said, “Let’s keep this between you and me” as Bernal left the office, Bernal alleges.

Attorneys for Swil and Bernal did not return messages seeking comment on this story.

Bernal did not immediately report the incident to the college because he was unsure of whether or not Swil had made a sexual advance or if he was just more comfortable sharing such photos of himself, the lawsuit states.

However, Bernal, who said he had received good grades and praise from Swil prior to the incident, began receiving lower grades on his assignments and was subjected to harsh criticism in front of the class, according to the documents.

“Swil taped a copy of the newspaper to the wall of the classroom and wrote his assessment of each story in red ink. Swil wrote ‘weak story’ next to Mr. Bernal’s story. Notably, Mr. Bernal was the only student that Swil subjected to public ridicule,” the documents state.

On another occasion, Swil refused to publish a story written by Bernal even though the editor-in-chief of the Courier at the time thought it was good and wanted to publish it, Bernal alleges.

According to the documents, other Courier staff members started to notice a decline in Bernal’s well being and he sought treatment for depression, anxiety, headaches and stress at the U.S.C. Medical Center.

Bernal is suing for general and punitive damages as well as a $25,000 civil penalty and attorneys’ fees.

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7 Responses to “Former Courier adviser facing lawsuit upon reinstatement”

  1. fedupprofessor says:

    Maybe Warren Swil and Gail Cooper can strategize together. They have more in common then they realize.

  2. Steven Lester says:

    I have known Warren for years and consider him a close, personal friend. Warren is a leader who I have followed VERY closely behind. I have your back Warren. If you ever drop the soap…I’ll be there !

    Steve

  3. Maria Elena says:

    This is an interesting turn of events for the journalism professor. I can’t help but think the suit may be a waste of time and money by Mr. Bernal because the college’s investigators already found there was not enough evidence to fire Mr. Swil or keep him on leave any longer. I am sure that he wouldn’t have been reinstated if the investigator found any evidence of grade retaliation.

    • anonymouse says:

      Maria, if you see this, here’s something to note: Mr. Bernal’s issues and potential financial gain from a lawsuit’s outcome aside, it might be good to consider a few things for the sake of all students here at PCC, with regards to this matter.

      First, take a read at Mr. Bernal’s articles here in the Courier. Read them and look at the quality of his writing. If grades are based on writing, and if I am any decent judge on it, I would say his marks should have been pretty high. But you can determine that for yourself. And only he and PCC officials know what his grades were before the incident took place, so only he and PCC would know of any disparity.

      Second, the article here indicates that there was public ridicule that was obvious to the class. Public. As in made aware of by all others present. So during the investigation, maybe these students did not want to step forward for fear of retaliation? Maybe many moved on and were no longer on campus or reachable for comment or input? Many things could have affected such an investigation, if you are accepting that a thorough one took place.

      Since your comment, in a more recent article on the matter it has been reported that Swil has admitted to showing the images to Bernal. That already is an ethical violation by a teacher against a student – even if that student is a consenting adult. To me, that is enough to warrant a denial of Swil’s return to the school as a teacher.

      Recently, there has been many an institution that has turned a blind eye over clear situations of wrong doing, including when there was admission to it by the violator, just to protect the reputation of the institution. An example: the Catholic Church and sexual abuse allegations and confessions by priests.

      So in the school’s inaction in this matter, one might assume that perhaps they are turning a blind eye in the hope that it will all blow over and go away. But by PCC not taking any further action to remove this teacher – a person who has a moral obligation to honor students’ trust that he provide a safe haven for them for learning – then it likely won’t. And chances are, there may be more potentially embarrassing stories as the events further unfold.

  4. Barnaby James says:

    How/why again was this guy “re-instated”? Just when you think the folks running PCC can’t get any dumber, they surprise you.

  5. Bruce Laplichor says:

    I am a journalism student at San Francisco Communuty College, and our class has been following this story with intense interest. It is so difficult to belive the gay student could not have anticipated the gay instructor’s pending advance.

    I am a gay man and I can spot another gay male a mile away. I am always acticipating the “come-on” of another gay guy. While this saga at PCC was in motion, I happened to visit the campus while in the LA area last October 31st.

    I strolled the campus for almost 30-minutes. The ONLY gay guy I saw was wearing a military costume (Holloween?) and driving a black Charger. He gave me that “look” and right away I knew.

    Best to all,

    B.

    • Simon Fraser says:

      The college has a diverse and large LGBT population. Perhaps a gay student would anticipate that a gay professor would behave professionally, and not that a come on was imminent. If you are identifying a gay population by the number of come on looks you receive, or generally anticipate gay professors not being able to resist making inappropriate advances to gay students, then that is somewhat perturbing.

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