ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CN) – A University of New Mexico professor was pressured to resign as director of the creative writing program after complaining that a colleague was a dominatrix in sex-for-pay, bondage-themed Web sites featuring photos of at least three graduate students, the professor claims in Santa Fe County Court.
Sharon Warner claims David Jones, head of the English department, asked her to investigate whether allegations about professor Lisa D. Chavez’s sex-themed Web sites were true.
Warner says she checked out various Web sites and verified that Chavez and two graduate students were phone-sex workers for various sadomasochistic and bondage Web sites, including peplove.com. Photographs showed Chavez and the students “portraying various S&M sexual activities,” the lawsuit states.
Warner claims a third student, a former graduate student, was no longer involved in the phone-sex operation, but her image still appeared in short films “featuring nudity.”
Warner says she told Jones that Chavez’s participation on the Web sites made her uncomfortable and placed her students in potentially compromising relationships with Chavez.
Other graduate students allegedly told Warner that Chavez threw parties at her house, regularly belittled other faculty members, and urged students to accompany her to “live-sex shows.”
The former grad student who quit her job as a phone-sex worker said Chavez ridiculed her in class and dropped her as a dissertation advisee, Warner claims.
When Warner repeated the allegations to Jones, she says he admonished her — “literally banging on his desk” — not to file a complaint with the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity.
University President David Schmidly eventually hired an outside attorney to investigate the situation. The lawyer interviewed 16 students, faculty and staff, and Warner, who says she was surprised to learn that the investigation had flipped on her.
“The investigation focused on Professor Chavez’s allegations against Plaintiff and whether Plaintiff discriminated against Professor Chavez on the basis of her ethnicity and sexual orientation,” the lawsuit states.
Warner says Chavez falsely insisted that Warner had fabricated the photos of Chavez and the students, ostensibly as part of a retaliation scheme.
However, Warner kept pressing for an investigation of the complaints against Chavez, but the university allegedly failed to act.
She claims she faced several forms of retaliation, including being denied the chance to chair the English department, having to resign her directorship of the writing program and having the university audit the summer writing conference she founded.
She wants the university to pay damages for breach of contract, bad faith and violation of the New Mexico Human Rights Amendment.
Her attorney is Diane Garrity of Serra & Garrity in Santa Fe, N.M.