UTLA director Phil Nemy placed on leave, UT investigating new allegations into sexual misconduct

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Photo Credit: Phil Nemy, Pulled From Facebook

Update (Friday 11:50 a.m.): 

UTLA director Phil Nemy has been placed on administrative leave, according to an email provided to The Daily Texan by a University source.

“As of this morning, I have placed Phil Nemy, UTLA Director, on official leave, pending investigation by UT OIE into new allegations,” the email said, which was sent out by Jay Bernhardt, Dean of Moody College of Communication to chairs in the college.

“We understand that many people are extremely concerned and upset with the recent news related to UTLA, and we share those strong feelings,” Bernhardt wrote. “We are doing everything we can, working closely with University leadership, to fully investigate these matters and we will take swift actions to address them.”

University spokesman J.B. Bird confirmed to the Texan that Nemy has been placed on official leave.

The Moody College of Communication is working to get updated information to faculty who work directly with Nemy as well as students who plan to attend the program.

“We do not expect these issues to affect UTLA operations and are prepared for all 2019 programs to proceed as planned,” Bernhardt said.

Update (Thursday 9:58 p.m.):

In a statement to the Texan, Nemy denied the allegations made against him of sexual comments and unwanted touching.

“I would never, under any circumstance, intentionally cause anyone distress, and I most sincerely apologize if my attempt at humor offended anyone,” Nemy said in an email. “I am deeply saddened and sorry that I may have caused some students to feel harassed. It hurts to hear these accusations again, and it’s embarrassing to be thought of in this way.”

Nemy said the UTLA program has undergone changes since 2013, and he has too.

“I enrolled in Sexual Harassment classes to better understand the nature of these actions and ensure that I learn from them,” Nemy said. “I also sought counseling to explore what I may be saying or doing that would cause students to feel uncomfortable around me, and where such comments/actions may be coming from that I subconsciously may not be aware.”

Nemy said he has received thank you cards and emails from students over the years from students that enjoyed his course and the UTLA program.

“I will continue to work on myself and continue to learn how to create a safe environment for our students and the level of professionalism and respect that is required,” Nemy said. “And I will continue to seek their forgiveness.”

Original story:

UT Los Angeles director Phil Nemy was found guilty of sexual misconduct by a University investigation in June 2013. Five years later, Nemy is still the director of UTLA. 

The allegations against him included nonconsensual touching and inappropriate sexual comments directed at female students. 

The Office of Institutional Equity’s 2013 report, obtained by The Daily Texan through a public information request, recommended the University consider taking action to prevent further incidents.

As of press time, Nemy could not be reached for comment, despite calls to three different phone numbers and one request via email. University spokesman J.B. Bird said Nemy received counseling after the investigation. 

“He was reprimanded and received counseling (from his superiors) consistent with the University’s approach at the time,” Bird said in a statement to the Texan. “Had this situation occurred today, the University might have responded differently, given changing norms and the University’s evolution in responding to such incidents."

Bird said the University is only responsible for enacting the policies at the time of the incident.

“When there are cases with findings of misconduct or violations of University policy, disciplinary actions are taken according to the policies and practices in effect at the time,” Bird said. “Additional discipline is not enforced retroactively.”

In its investigation, the office interviewed four former female students of the UTLA program and a member of the UTLA staff. The names of the participants of the investigation were redacted before being sent to the Texan

One former female student said she avoided Nemy because he flirted with students and made them uncomfortable, according to the report.

“The student states she has heard some girls complain about him touching them, lingering with his hands on them and making them feel uncomfortable,” the report said. “However, the student did recall one incident where another female student directly told her that Mr. Nemy had licked the other female student’s hand.”

At a beach party for UTLA students, Nemy made several lewd comments to female students, according to the report. One former female student said that as she changed from a shirt into a sweatshirt, Nemy said, “No one would mind if you stayed in a bikini.”

The same student said Nemy approached another student who was adjusting her shirt and said, “Are you looking at your boobs because everyone else is doing that for you.” 

Students in the UTLA program spend a semester in Los Angeles taking courses and participating in internships. Nemy has been director of the program since 2005 and teaches an internship course that meets several times a semester.

Communications Dean Jay Bernhardt did not know about the investigation into Nemy until the Texan reported it.

“Protecting our students is our highest priority and we will not tolerate people or situations that may put them at risk,” Bernhardt said in a statement. “Although this incident occurred five years ago, I only learned about the details as the Daily Texan was reporting this article. We are now working with the University on appropriate follow-up actions and will share updates as they become available.”

The office began the investigation on June 24, 2013, after the Moody College of Communication received a complaint from a former UT-Austin employee. The former employee said Nemy made sexual comments toward students, allowed students to consume alcohol at UTLA-sanctioned events and drank with students, all in direct conflict with University policies. 

As part of the investigation, the office sent Nemy the complaints from the former employee. In July 2013, Nemy submitted a 12-page response. 

“To my knowledge, I have never made an inappropriate comment or joke towards any of the women attending the program,” Nemy said. “There have been times when female students have attended my class dressed in skimpy clothing making it difficult to teach the class … I may have commented to (redacted) about this and how their choice of dress made it difficult for me to lead class. If it is inappropriate to say that to (redacted), then I am guilty of this.” 

Nemy denied allegations of drinking with students. 

Another former female student said there were several instances where Nemy made inappropriate comments and left his hands on other students’ shoulders “entirely too long,” but she said she was not a witness to these events. 

“He made inappropriate comments to several of the girls, including some that were sexual in nature,” the report said. “He usually played it off as being a joke, but it was really offensive and quite frankly gross.”

One of the students said when she told Nemy that she got an internship with an agency, Nemy asked if she saw the other interviewees, according to the report. 

“He then went on to say that she was probably more attractive than the others and that’s why she got the job,” the report said. “He also said that because she was more attractive, she would go further in Hollywood. Mr. Nemy said this in front of the whole class, and she felt it was inappropriate.”

The office also interviewed a member of UTLA staff, who said Nemy had a “fatherly, caring mentality.” 

“Mr. Nemy has not done anything ridiculously inappropriate, but he has times where he probably shouldn’t have gone there or he shouldn’t have said that,” the staffer said in the report. 

The office concluded Nemy’s behavior was counter to UT standards, and students were too afraid to speak up. 

“Mr. Nemy’s conduct runs afoul of what is expected behavior for faculty and staff,” the report said. “His interactions with female students do not demonstrate or model the level of professionalism and respect that is required in the performance of his job as the director and a lecturer at UTLA.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Dean Jay Bernhardt, clarification on the type of counseling Nemy received in 2013 and further comment from University spokesman J.B. Bird.