St. Bonaventure University Assistant Professor Edward Warzala Jr. never made the inappropriate comment that he was accused of making and that cost him his job, according to deposition testimony in Warzala's $18.3 million lawsuit against the school.
"This isn't the end of it, but Professor Warzala is vindicated. He never said the words," his attorney, Nira T. Kirmisch of Rochester, said Wednesday. "Hopefully, now we can resolve this."
Warzala, founder of the annual Model United Nations High School Conference at the university, was accused of saying at the model U.N. session in spring 1995 that a female conference participant had "a nice a--."
He was denied tenure and given a one-year contract.
Just days ago, his alleged accuser, now a St. Bonaventure alumna, said in a deposition in Buffalo that she never claimed "that those words specifically came out of Dr. Warzala's mouth. As a matter of fact, they did not come out of his mouth in that way at any time."
According to the young woman's testimony, she was upset about an incident that took place during the 1995 U.N. conference involving a St. Bonaventure student and a high school delegate who went off campus together.
She said she took her concern to George Solan, the university's vice president for student life.
"What I said to George Solan was, the manner in which Dr. Warzala was speaking about the incident . . ., he may as well have said that the girl had a nice a--."
In the deposition, the young woman said she later repeated what she told Solan to St. Bonaventure President Robert J. Wickenheiser -- again saying Warzala "may as well have said" the high school student had "a nice a--."
Warzala, 45, was present at the deposition. "It was the first time I was able to learn (what happened)," he said. "I knew I had never made the statement, but there was never a forum where I could be heard and could find out what happened."
Mary E. Freeman, vice president for public affairs, said university officials cannot comment, noting university policy prohibits them from discussing ongoing suits.
Warzala's suit, filed in June 1996 in State Supreme Court in Cattaraugus County, claims that the university never allowed due process to determine the origin of the accusations against him.
It also claims defamation of character as well as gender and age discrimination and breach of contract. It seeks Warzala's reinstatement with tenure, as well as $18.3 million in damages.
"It is a horrible thing, to be accused of saying such a thing -- and all the connotations that go with it," he said. "It is over two years now since I was falsely accused. My career has disintegrated since then, probably my reputation as well."
Meanwhile, a St. Bonaventure student whose name appears briefly in the suit has spent the summer wondering if she will be called to testify.
"I'm really disillusioned," the young woman told The Buffalo News. "This is part of why I've decided to graduate early. . . . If you know Dr. Warzala, you know (the inappropriate comment) is not something he would say."
A senior political science major who asked that her name not be used, she said she was called in fall 1995 into the office of a staff member.
"She told me, 'You have two more years at this school.' Then she asked me how I would feel if Professor Warzala looked at me in a sexually explicit manner," the senior recalled.
"Then she said, 'You could fail his class if you said anything against him' but that the president (Wickenheiser) and vice president for student life (Solan) could support me. They would give me recommendations for graduate school.
"I thought, 'Is this bribing me?' "
The student felt she was being asked to testify against Warzala, she said, adding that she later received a phone call from Wickenheiser at her dormitory.
"He asked me if I had talked to (the staff member) and if I knew that two more students said Dr. Warzala was negative toward women," she recalled.
The student said she told Wickenheiser, "The comment was not made, and Dr. Warzala is not negative toward women."