A Law School Dean of University California – Berkeley has resigned after a lawsuit was brought forth over a sexual harassment complaint.
Berkeley’s chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, accepted Dean Suit Choudhry’s resignation immediately upon its submission. A reporter for the Washington Post, Susan Svrluga, notes that under the University of California’s tenure system, Choudhry remains a faculty member.
“We can and must do better as a campus administration,” Dirks said in a statement. “We must move in the direction of stronger sanctions, and in doing this, we want and need the broad input of the campus community.”
Tyann Sorrell, a former assistant to Choudhry, claims that from July 2014 to March 2015, Choudhry sexually harassed her with hugs, kisses, and groping. When she complained to supervisors, they did not stop him and even tried to retaliate against her.
The lawsuit came seven months after an internal investigation corroborated Sorrell’s claims, accusing Choudhry of engaging in daily “unwelcome conduct of sexual nature” that professionally and personally took a toll on Sorrell.
Reporters for the Daily Californian write that Sorrell used sick leave and vacation time to take leave from the university and avoid Choudhry; she currently remains on leave. The allegations also accuse Choudhry of subjecting other women, including the dean’s chief of staff, senior assistant dean, and chief operating officer, to sexual harassment.
For her part, Sorrell is asking for monetary compensation that includes damages “sufficient to punish and make an example out of all individual Defendants” and is demanding attorney’s fees and costs of the suit to be paid.
According to Michael Pearson of CNN, Provost Claude Steele, upon learning of Choudhry’s behavior, docked his pay by 10%, required him to undergo concealing, and required him to apologize to his assistant. Choudhry, however, continued serving as dean at the prestigious law school, which education analysts consider one of the best in the nation.
“We believe the dean’s resignation is an outcome in the best interests of Berkeley Law and the University as a whole,” Steele noted in a statement. “At the same time, we are under no illusion that a resignation could or even should bring this matter and broader, related issues to a close.”
Students and alumni of Berkeley expressed widespread disgust over the incident. More than 450 alumni signed a letter in less than 24 hours calling for an independent investigation into the handling of the episode. The co-chair of the student-run Coalition For Diversity said, “The incident highlights UC Berkeley’s history of insulating those who perpetuate sexual violence against members of our community and the culture that allows them to thrive.”
Choudry now becomes the second Berkeley law dean forced out by sexual harassment charges. In 2002, Dean John Dwyer resigned amid allegations that he abused a former law student. Additionally, Choudhry is also the second prominent faculty member accused of such conduct in the past year. In October 2015, an astronomy professor, Geoffrey Marcy, resigned from his post after breaching the campus sexual harassment policies in June 2015. Evidently, Marcy had a history of sexual misconduct spanning several years.