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WSU professor facing sexual harassment suit resigns

A professor facing a highly publicized sexual harassment trial has resigned from Washington State University, as part of an agreement in which the school will provide him legal representation and reimburse him for his lost tenure.

The school will also indemnify Bernardo Gallegos, which means he wouldn’t be responsible for paying any judgment in the civil case. He will be paid more than $87,000 for his tenure, though he will lose some benefits. His salary was more than $132,000 a year.

Gallegos, a distinguished professor of multicultural education who was brought to WSU with some fanfare in 2004, is accused of making advances toward a married graduate student in his home in February 2005.

The student, Christina Garcia, sued both him and the university, arguing the incident damaged her ability to get an education and that WSU hadn’t appropriately disciplined Gallegos, despite the fact that a university investigation concluded that he violated school policies.

Gallegos has maintained his innocence. He didn’t return a message seeking comment Thursday, nor did Suzanne Parisien, an assistant attorney general representing WSU.

According to the agreement between Gallegos and the board of regents, which was approved Friday, he first asked the university to provide him with legal counsel in November 2005 and was denied. He then retained a private attorney.

In return for his resignation, WSU will defend and indemnify him until the case is closed, the agreement says.

The lawsuit, filed against Gallegos and WSU in Whitman County Superior Court, alleges Gallegos committed sexual harassment when he took Garcia to his candlelit home and made an advance in February 2005. Gallegos was not her direct supervisor or instructor but was in a position to influence her education, a judge ruled earlier this year in allowing the claim to move forward. A trial is set for September.

Guy Nelson, who represents Garcia, said he was happy to see the agreement.

“We believe the board of regents took a very positive step,” he said.

The regents also adopted a new policy on sexual harassment and discrimination on Friday. The revisions to the policy were first proposed shortly after the lawsuit was filed and controversy was stirring about the issue in the College of Education, where Gallegos worked, and around campus.

The new policy creates new reporting responsibilities for supervisors and establishes a more specific range of disciplinary action, among other things.

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