TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Students, Alleged Victim Of Sexual Harassment By Former UC-Berkeley Law School Dean Protest His Return To Campus

UC Berkeley (2016)Following up on Monday's post, Despite UC President Napolitano’s Previous Ban, Former UC-Berkeley Law Dean Still On Campus:

The Daily Californian, An Open Letter From Sujit Choudhry About Sexual Harassment:

To the students of the UC Berkeley School of Law:

Last week, I went to work in my office on campus. I understand that this has caused some of you confusion or even alarm. I know many of you thought I had been banned from campus. But even in times of controversy, and in fact especially in times of controversy, the facts still matter. The undisputed fact is that I am not and have never been banned from campus. There is not, and has never been, any legal or factual basis for banning me. I have the right to go to work. I am exercising that right, peacefully and unobtrusively.

In the spring of 2015, the evening before she went on leave, Tyann Sorrell sent me an email in which, for the first time, she complained to me about my conduct toward her. She assured me in her email that “I know you don’t mean anything by it, other than, perhaps, a warm and friendly greeting.” She described me as having “pure intentions.” She said that she assumed I meant nothing by my gestures and, for that reason, she had never before signaled her discomfort. She did not allege — and she has never alleged — that my actions were of a sexual intent. When I read the email, I was shocked. I was embarrassed. I immediately ceased the conduct. I apologized. I was, and remain, extremely sorry that I had put her in an uncomfortable position. I reacted in this way precisely because, as she knew, I meant nothing by my gestures. ...

My most sincere hope is that you will take the time to understand the truth in this matter. That, recognizing that you do not know all the facts and cannot at this stage, you will refrain from judgment. That you will not sign the next online petition calling for my head so hastily. That you will not go on social media and hurl invective at me. That you will leave me in peace and let me go to work, as is my legal right. And that you will draw your conclusions based not on your justified concerns about sexual violence, which I share, but on a measured and objective review of all of the evidence, and the principle, central to the profession into which you plan to one day seek admission — that there is more than one side to every story.

The Daily Californian, Students Protest After Former Berkeley Law Dean Returns to Campus:

As a new semester begins at the UC Berkeley School of Law, former dean Sujit Choudhry returns to the school for the first time since news broke that a campus investigation found he had violated university sexual misconduct policy, attracting criticism from students and faculty members alike.

About 40 students and community members gathered on Sproul Plaza on Wednesday afternoon and later marched through the Berkeley Law campus protesting Choudhry’s return, as well as the publication of an open letter written by Choudhry and published in The Daily Californian’s opinion section Tuesday. “I don’t want to feel unsafe walking down a hallway to a classroom,” said Axenya Kachen, a campus senior who organized the protest. ...

Senior editors from the Daily Cal addressed the publication of Choudhry’s letter in an editors’ note published Tuesday night. “The publication of others’ beliefs, however — even those that are unpopular and contentious — is fundamental to a multifaceted dialogue on pressing matters related to the campus and city,” the note said. ...

The Guardian, UC Berkeley Dean Who Violated Sexual Harassment Policies Returns to Campus:

The former University of California, Berkeley law dean who was found to have violated sexual harassment policies has returned to campus as a professor, sparking outrage from the woman at the center of the controversy who said his presence could “silence victims from coming forward”.

Sujit Choudhry—who resigned in March as head of the prestigious law school, in a case that sparked a national debate about discrimination on college campuses—is returning to his Berkeley office where administrators say he will be working this fall.

In her first comments on the embattled professor’s return, his former executive assistant Tyann Sorrell told the Guardian that she was “hurt and angry” to learn of his arrival on campus and was particularly devastated to read Choudhry’s op-ed in the student paper that attempted to discredit her substantiated claims. “I’m still trying to piece myself back together,” Sorrell said on Wednesday during an interview at her lawyer’s office in Oakland. “But he’s backed by his credentials and status … He’s a scholar who gets to return to work and a sense of normalcy.” ...

“I still feel expendable,” said Sorrell, who remains on administrative leave and said she cannot return to the law school while Choudhry is still present. “He just waltzes back in without ever really accepting any of his wrongs.”

In his Tuesday op-ed in the Daily Cal, Choudhry argued that his behavior was never sexual and selectively cited from an email Sorrell sent him in 2015 in which she said, “I know you don’t mean anything by it, other than, perhaps, a warm and friendly greeting.”

Sorrell and her attorney Leslie F Levy said that it’s common for women who have been harassed or assaulted to initially downplay the seriousness of the offenses, because they may be in denial or are trying to keep their jobs and avoid confrontation.

“My shame played a big role in this,” Sorrell said, noting that when she first complained to Choudhry, she was trying to be “diplomatic”. “He was still my boss. I had just been protecting him for so long.”

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/09/students-alleged-victim-of-sexual-harrassment-by-former-uc-berkeley-law-school-dean-protest-his-retu.html

Legal Education | Permalink

Comments