A UC Berkeley Dean Accused Of Sexual Harassment Won't Be Fired

Photo: David Madison/Getty Images.
Despite accusations of sexual harassment, a University of California, Berkeley law dean still has an office on campus and tenure. Sujit Choudhry was accused of sexual harassment by a former executive assistant and stepped down from his position after she filed a lawsuit against him last year. However, UC Berkeley decided not to fire the alleged sexual harasser, even after an internal investigation substantiated the claims.
Tyann Sorrell, Choudhry's former assistant, told The Guardian back in 2016 that the dean treated her like a maid and touched her on a "near daily" basis, allegedly giving her hugs and kisses and caressing her arms and shoulders. She said she first accused her boss of misconduct in 2015, but the university didn't intervene.
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After Sorrell filed a lawsuit and her claims caused a national uproar, Choudhry gave up his position as dean. However, he didn't resign, and wasn't removed from the faculty, all while maintaining his innocence.
Now, The Guardian reports UC Berkeley will allow Choudhry to stay on staff until "voluntarily" resigning in 2018. Though he won't be paid, the settlement he reached with the school says he'll still receive about $97,000 in research grants and reimbursement for up to $10,000 a year in travel expenses, as well as keep an office on campus. The settlement also states the university will "terminate the disciplinary process and withdraw all charges currently pending against Choudhry."
But this doesn't seem to be an isolated incident: A Mother Jones report revealed that at least 19 UC Berkeley employees were accused of violating the school's sexual harassment policy from 2011 to 2016, suggesting the university has a larger problem than just Choudhry. In addition to Choudhry, three other faculty members stepped down in the last few years after public accusations of sexual harassment — famous astronomer Geoff Marcy, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, and Provost Claude Steele.
And it isn't just a problem at Berkeley, either. Other universities, such as the University of Kentucky, have also allowed faculty accused of sexual harassment or assault to quietly resign rather than being firing outright or facing criminal charges. Documents obtained by the school newspaper showed that a UK professor was investigated for allegedly sexually assaulting and harassing students, but a settlement with the school allowed him to resign, dodging the disciplinary process and making it possible for him to work at other schools without disclosing the allegations.
Of course, allowing staff accused of sexual harassment to quietly step aside with little to no repercussions is too common in the business world, as well. Fox News pushed out former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes and news anchor Bill O'Reilly amid public outcry over allegations of sexual harassment, giving Ailes millions of dollars (no news yet on O'Reilly's payout) and maintaining that they were both excellent employees.
UC Berkeley isn't the only employer allowing accused sexual harassers to leave unscathed, but it certainly needs to address the problem. When the accused aren't formally charged or disciplined, it sends the message that their alleged actions weren't a big deal and the school's image is more important than the alleged victims' mistreatment.
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