College agrees to readmit man who harassed

September 01, 1994|By Boston Globe

BOSTON -- Swarthmore College decided yesterday to readmit a student who was suspended last year in a sexual harassment dispute, but the student may choose to continue attending Boston University, where he spent the spring and summer studying engineering.

Swarthmore officials said Ewart Yearwood, now a sophomore, had fulfilled the conditions of his one-semester suspension, in particular undergoing counseling, and would be readmitted without conditions.

Mr. Yearwood was accused of sexually harassing and stalking a fellow student, Alexis Clinansmith, last fall. A college disciplinary board cleared him of the harassment charge but found that he had violated an order to stay away from her and had been intimidating. After Mr. Yearwood threatened to sue, the college agreed to pay for him to spend the spring semester at another university.

"Based on the reports of two counselors, one in Boston and one at Swarthmore, he has made substantial progress and has agreed to maintain the decorum required of students on this campus and to respect Alexis' rights," said Swarthmore Vice President Harry Gotwals.

But Ms. Clinansmith is fighting Mr. Yearwood's return. She has filed suit in federal court to block the college's action and is seeking more than $100,000 from Swarthmore for severe emotional distress, her attorney said.

Mr. Gotwals said the college "is committed to making her feel secure but wanted to be compassionate and fair to both students."

Mr. Yearwood's attorney, Harvey Silverglate of Boston, said his client had not decided whether to return to Swarthmore, a liberal arts college in Swarthmore, Pa., near Philadelphia, although he had met with college officials Monday to discuss his case.

Mr. Yearwood kept a low profile during his seven months at Boston University.

The Boston University Women's Center had protested the school's decision to accept Mr. Yearwood, saying they were "shocked and appalled by the university's cold and uncaring attitude toward the women of Boston University." But the protests soon died down and Mr. Silverglate said Mr. Yearwood enjoyed attending Boston University.

Boston University officials declined to comment on Mr. Yearwood's plans, citing rules about confidentiality.

Swarthmore paid the full costs of Mr. Yearwood's attendance at Boston University for the spring and summer terms and has offered him an aid package, including a partial scholarship, if he returns this fall.

Mr. Silverglate said that Mr. Yearwood would make his decision by Labor Day. Classes start today at Swarthmore and Sept. 12 at Boston University.

Throughout the controversy, which has drawn national attention, Mr. Yearwood has denied harassing Ms. Clinansmith. He acknowledged he had sought to date her and been rebuffed, but suggested that Ms. Clinansmith misinterpreted his gestures because of their different upbringings. Mr. Yearwood is a Hispanic male from a poor neighborhood in New York City while Ms. Clinansmith is a white woman from an affluent Michigan suburb.

However, Ms. Clinansmith said she was frightened by his advances, which she said persisted despite her attempts to reject him. She said he followed her around campus, repeatedly called her, made verbal threats and had made a frightening gesture with a lacrosse stick.

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