WATERVILLE – A tenured economics professor at Colby College was forced to resign late last month after allegations surfaced that, while chaperoning an international student trip, he set up a hidden surveillance camera to take photos of female students in a bathroom, according to court documents.

Philip H. Brown, an associate professor of economics at Colby since 2003, has not been charged and an investigation by the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit is ongoing. Brown’s resignation was confirmed by the college.

Investigators executed a search warrant on Brown’s campus apartment Jan. 27 and seized his college-owned computer and other electronic devices, according to an affidavit filed in Kennebec County District Court in Augusta.

Detective David Armstrong of the computer crimes unit said that while the alleged offense took place in China, “there was some concern that there may be some issues back home and that’s what we based our search warrant on, but we haven’t found any evidence of that yet. We don’t have a crime you can prosecute in this country.”

Colby College President William Adams wrote to students and staff on Jan. 28 that Brown had resigned after college officials had indicated they were prepared to fire him over “violation of student privacy.”

Brown’s trip to China with a group of students was part of the college’s “Jan Plan,” when students undertake different projects outside of regular classes.

According to Armstrong’s court affidavit, the allegations surfaced on Jan. 22 when two students were writing a blog post related to the trip and accidentally deleted the entry. The students attempted to retrieve the blog post from the computer’s trash bin “and found disturbing images of a fellow student.”

The student in the photo, a female, was “nude from the waist down.”

On Jan. 24, Armstrong received a complaint from the college’s attorney Jerry Crouter, concerning the trip to China, which included four female students.

“Students on the trip had reported the discovery of images on a computer apparently taken by a hidden surveillance camera placed in the female students’ bathroom in the hotel they were staying in while in China,” Crouter said.

The student in the photo spoke with Armstrong by phone and said that Brown had asked if she would “agree to be in charge of the medicine box” during the trip. The box contained a first aid kit, medicine container and black box, which Brown said “contained necessary information about the trip.” She said that during the first night in the hotel, Brown placed the containers in the bathroom and insisted they be left there so everyone would know where they were.

After the female student confirmed that the photo was of her, she and other students searched the bathroom and found a surveillance camera in the black box. They reported the discovery to college officials and sent the image to Detective Armstrong.

College officials confronted Brown in China by phone on Jan. 25, according to the affidavit. Lori Kletzer, vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty, placed him on administrative leave. Brown called back and apologized, saying the students’ allegations of invasion of privacy were true. He went on to say that was the first time he had done this, the affidavit said.

After returning to Waterville, Brown allegedly told officials that he had taken pictures during a previous China trip in 2009. He said he had also taken such pictures in his Waterville apartment, but not of a student.

As the seized electronic items are reviewed, the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office will determine whether any charges should be filed, according to Armstrong.