UTLA director Phil Nemy fired as result of ‘unacceptable conduct’

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Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

UT Los Angeles executive director Phil Nemy was fired on May 13 as a result of “unacceptable conduct,” according to a University spokesperson.

Nemy was placed on an “alternative work assignment” in December 2018 following new allegations that arose after the Texan published a 2013 investigation by the Office of Inclusion and Equity that found Nemy to be guilty of sexual misconduct.

A new Office of Inclusion and Equity investigation began as a result of the new allegations, but the findings have yet to be made public. 

University spokesperson Shilpa Bakre said Nemy had no oversight of students while on an alternative work assignment, but he continued performing other duties of his job and maintained his salary of $7,921 per month. Nemy, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment, had directed the UTLA program since 2005.

“It was in the best interests of the University and the Moody College that Mr. Nemy’s position be terminated and that the UTLA program be taken in a different direction,” Bakre said in an email. “The University of Texas takes all allegations of wrongdoing, including sexual misconduct, seriously and strives to investigate complaints thoroughly and quickly while respecting the confidentiality of all involved parties.”

Mira Lippold-Johnson, a radio-television-film faculty member, was appointed interim director of the UTLA program for the coming year. A search for a permanent director will begin in the fall, Bakre said. 

In the 2013 Office of Institutional Equity investigation, originally reported on by the Texan, allegations against Nemy included inappropriate comments and unwanted touching directed at female students. Nemy was “reprimanded and received counseling consistent with the University’s approach at the time,” UT spokesperson J.B. Bird said in an email. 

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

At a beach party for UTLA students, Nemy made several lewd comments to female students, according to the report. One former female 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.”

“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 emailed response to the Texan’s initial coverage. “I am deeply saddened and sorry that I may have caused some students to feel harassed.”

Following the allegations of sexual misconduct, Stephen Reese, Moody’s associate dean for academic affairs in 2013, said in a 2014 performance appraisal obtained by the Texan through an open records request that Nemy was not meeting expectations for professionalism. In the annual evaluation, Reese also said Nemy had not reviewed University trainings on sexual misconduct, which were assigned to him following the investigation, for four months.

Reese concluded the evaluation by commending Nemy’s work at UTLA. 

“I know you have worked hard on behalf of the center, and students for the most part have responded with great appreciation for that work,” Reese wrote. “We want to make sure we preserve the positive contributions you have made and the great potential you have for shaping these young lives in rewarding directions.”

In June 2018, Nemy’s performance appraisal said he had a reputation for being difficult to work with, and those in the Moody College found him to be “combative and defiant.”

“Phil repeatedly offers excuses and points fingers to deflect attention to his own performance,” Michael Wilson, Moody College’s assistant dean of external relations, wrote about Nemy. “Phil might cite reasons for this, and some may hold true. He might also disagree with this assessment, but reality trumps all protests.”

Nemy responded to Wilson’s evaluation, and both documents were sent to the head of the department, Dean Jay Bernhardt. 

“It is not fair to say that I offer excuses or point fingers to deflect attention,” Nemy wrote in response to the performance appraisal. “I have and continue to passionately fight for what I believe the UTLA Program needs to best serve the students who have and continue to enroll in the program. This is what I was hired to do — serve them to the best of my ability. I will continue to do so as long as I am allowed the privilege of doing it.”