Few UT-Austin officials knew of UTLA director Phil Nemy investigation before he was placed on leave

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Photo Credit: Phil Nemy, Pulled From Facebook

UT Los Angeles Director Phil Nemy was placed on official leave Friday morning pending an investigation by the UT Office of Institutional Equity into new allegations of misconduct. 

The announcement came one day after The Daily Texan reported on a 2013 Office for Inclusion and Equity (OIE) investigation revealing Nemy, who has been director since 2005, violated University sexual misconduct codes and kept his job. Jay Bernhardt, Moody College of Communication dean, said he did not know about the investigation until reading The Texan’s article and has since placed Nemy on leave while a new investigation is underway.

The 2013 investigation included allegations against Nemy of inappropriate comments and unwanted touching. UTLA provides exposure to students pursuing careers in the entertainment, film and television industries.

Many Moody faculty did not know about the allegations against Nemy or the investigation. Radio-television-film professor Paul Stekler, who was department chair at the time of the investigation, was one of these faculty members.

“(The Texan’s) article was a shock to myself and everyone I know at the RTF department,” Stekler said in an email. “If we had known anything at all back then, we would have made our concerns heard.” 

Stekler said he had concerns about Nemy and how the investigation was handled. 

“Why the chair of our department wouldn’t have been informed about any of this is a question, especially given our responsibility to make sure of the appropriate supervision of our students,” Stekler said. 

Moody spokeswoman Kathleen Mabley said the University is discussing its protocol on sharing information with the appropriate leadership. 

“In most cases, personnel actions and information are considered confidential and protected,” Mabley said in an email. “The University is examining its protocols for what types of personnel information should be shared during leadership transitions.” 

Nemy released a statement Thursday evening following the publication of The Texan’s article and denied the allegations. 

“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.”

The Texan called Nemy Sunday afternoon, but he declined to comment regarding being placed on leave. 

Former students have come forward saying Nemy displayed similar behavior toward them when they participated in the UTLA program. UT alumna Sasha Snow, who graduated in 2012, said she was interviewed in the original investigation and recognized her testimony in The Texan. 

Snow said while she was in the UTLA program, her class visited a film set in New York where the set director showed students footage of a young woman pole dancing. 

“I was the only woman in the group, and Phil Nemy said, ‘Oh Sasha, I bet you could do those moves,’” Snow said. 

Nemy also repeatedly reached under her shirt and put his hand on her back, Snow said. 

“I kept removing his hand … and he kept doing it,” Snow said. “The next day, he emailed me saying that I was dressed completely inappropriately for the set.”

Snow’s allegations match the ones she gave in the 2013 investigation. 

Wendy Miller, whose daughter participated in the UTLA program last spring, said her daughter told her Nemy said inappropriate things in his course, “How Hollywood Works.” 

“He would stay stuff in class like, ‘You could work your way to the top or screw your way to the top,’” Miller said. 

Miller said she went to Los Angeles to stay with her daughter because Nemy made her uncomfortable. 

Stephen Reese, Moody’s associate dean for academic affairs in 2013, said he worked with Moody Human Resources, UT’s OIE, and met with Nemy following their investigation. 

“As a personnel issue, findings and outcome were shared with relevant Dean’s Office staff and University officials,” Reese said in an email.

Mabley said it would have been these officials, along with Moody Human Resources office and UT’s OIE, who determined whether Nemy remained on staff. The decision to terminate Nemy would not have been made by one person, she said.

Communications professor Roderick Hart was Moody’s Dean during the 2013 investigation. Although the OIE did not specify a course of action in the report, Hart said his office followed guidelines on due process and institutional equity and inclusion.

Mike Wilson, the assistant dean of external relations at the Moody College, supervises Nemy and began overseeing the UTLA program in January. 

“I’ve not been aware of any student concerns with the director,” Wilson said in an email. “The safety of our students is our highest priority and we commit to rapidly addressing the current concerns and improving our UTLA program.”

In an email, Bernhardt assured students enrolled in the coming spring UTLA program that the program will continue with interim leadership. 

“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,” Bernhardt said in the email.