Former Berkeley law school dean blasts new sexual misconduct review against him
A former UC Berkeley law school dean who was disciplined for violating the university’s sexual harassment policies has lashed out at a new review of his behavior, calling it an unjust attack on his legal and academic rights.
Sujit Choudhry, who resigned as dean last month but remains on the faculty, has asked the disciplinary committee of Berkeley’s Academic Senate to drop the second review, according to documents released by his attorneys Monday. Depending on the findings, Choudhry’s tenure and continued employment at Berkeley could be in jeopardy.
In a university investigation last year, Choudhry admitted he repeatedly hugged, touched and gave kisses on the cheek to his former executive assistant from September 2014 to March 2015. Then-Provost Claude Steele, in consultation with Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and others, privately ordered the law school dean to take a 10% pay cut, undergo behavioral training and apologize to the assistant, Tyann Sorrell.
But University of California President Janet Napolitano intervened in the case after it came to light in a civil lawsuit filed by Sorrell last month. In a March 11 letter to Dirks, Napolitano ordered that disciplinary proceedings be launched in the Academic Senate.
Choudhry blasted Napolitano’s actions in a grievance filed with the faculty disciplinary committee Friday. He said her public condemnation destroyed his professional reputation. He also charged that her decision to order a second review was in violation of the university’s own disciplinary procedures.
Choudhry has declined requests for an interview. But his attorneys said Choudhry was made a scapegoat to deflect public criticism that UC officials have repeatedly mishandled sexual misconduct claims over the years.
“The second ‘disciplinary process’ initiated at President Napolitano’s command sends an ominous message that the retention of one’s position as an administrator or tenured faculty member is subject to the court of public opinion, not the policies and protections guaranteed to every faculty member of this institution,” Choudhry wrote.
UC officials referred requests for comment to Berkeley.
Dan Mogulof, a Berkeley spokesman, said the university’s policy allowed administrators and faculty to take separate disciplinary actions against those who violate its code of conduct.
“There is no ‘duplicative process,’” Mogulof said in a statement. “The administration’s steps have complied with university policy and reflect the seriousness of the conduct described in the investigative report issued by the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination.”
Choudhry argued otherwise. He said Berkeley policies state that if an accused faculty member accepts a settlement offer, a hearing by the faculty discipline committee “shall not be necessary.”
He said he cooperated with the initial university investigation and accepted sanctions with the understanding that the case would be closed. He said Steele and other officials never stated or even suggested that a second disciplinary process would be launched.
Had he known of that possibility, Choudhry said, he would not have agreed to the initial sanctions. Instead, he said, he would have considered other options that are now lost to him, including an appeal of the findings.
“President Napolitano’s conduct in my case should serve as a warning to all University of California faculty and staff whose careers and livelihood are considered secondary to the leadership’s need to deflect public criticism and respond to public controversy,” he wrote.
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