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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