Paul L. Caron

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Former UC-Berkeley Dean Obtained Appointment Of Provost To Law School Faculty While Provost Was Investigating Sexual Harassment Claim Against Him

UC Berkeley Primary Logo Berkeley BlueFollowing up on my previous posts:

Los Angeles Times, UC Berkeley Chancellor Defends Provost Under Fire in Sexual Harassment Case:

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks defended the campus provost Friday, saying concerns that he imposed lenient sanctions in a sexual harassment case in exchange for a faculty appointment at the law school were completely unfounded. "This is absolutely untrue," Dirks said in a statement regarding Provost Claude Steele's action in the case.

Steele has been widely criticized for his handling of the case against Sujit Choudhry, who resigned as law school dean last week after his former assistant sued him alleging sexual harassment.

The provost ordered a 10% pay cut in Choudhry's $415,000 annual salary, required Choudhry to attend counseling and ordered him to apologize to the assistant, Tyann Sorrell, after Berkeley officials determined last July that the then-dean had violated the campus' sexual harassment policy by repeatedly forcing unwanted kissing, hugging and touching her

The actions provoked widespread campus outrage and the intervention of University of California President Janet Napolitano, who has ordered a new systemwide review process for sexual harassment sanctions and additional actions against Choudhry.

Napolitano said in a statement Friday that her new review process, which will consider and approve all sanctions in substantiated sexual harassment cases involving senior university leaders, would "ensure there is not even a perception of conflict in the resolutions of these cases." 

"Claude Steele is an eminent scholar and the relevance of his path-breaking interdisciplinary work, reflected in his appointments in the Graduate School of Education and Psychology, to legal issues made him a valuable addition to the law school faculty," she said in a statement. ...

According to documents obtained Thursday, Choudhry urged the faculty to approve Steele's appointment to the law school in May, at the same time the dean knew he was being investigated over sexual harassment allegations.

In his May 29 email, Choudhry told the faculty that Steele's appointment would be an "excellent opportunity" for Berkeley.

"When his term comes to an end, Provost Steele may wish to return to full-time research and education," Choudhry said in the email. Steele already had appointments in the Department of Psychology and the Graduate School of Education.

In what he called an "unusual and exceptional procedure," he asked for an online vote rather than the traditional process of at least two meetings with the candidate. Choudhry said the online vote was used in at least two other cases -- his own appointment and that of former UC President Mark Yudof. ...

Steele's "interdisciplinary work in social psychology is being increasingly used in legal theory and practice, which is why I suggested that he have an appointment in the law school" alongside his positions in the psychology and education departments, Dirks said.

Steele was asked about the questionable timing at a March 10 faculty meeting and denied there was a connection, according to law school sources. But he agreed at the meeting to resign from the law school appointment, which the faculty approved in voting completed last June.

The appointment was designed to remain inactive, with no law school duties or pay, presumably until Steele stepped down from his administrative duties and began teaching and researching again.

Steele also agreed this week to remove himself from the search process for an interim dean, after widespread criticism of his leadership -- including a survey that found 75% of nearly 400 law students surveyed did not want him involved. ...

In a statement Thursday, the law school's six associate deans said that faculty members were unaware of the sexual harassment investigation when they approved Steele's appointment in June. The deans called him an "extraordinarily well-regarded scholar, who clearly meets the standards for an appointment to the law school" but said it was better that he stepped down.  

"We believe that Steele's resignation is in the best interest of the law school at this time and will allow the interim dean to assume that post without any concerns about the appointment process," the statement said.

But Steele allowed Choudhry to remain in his job while faculty, students and staff were unaware of the sexual harassment finding against the dean until it came to light with the lawsuit last week.

Legal Education | Permalink


Just fire the lot of them, starting with Big Sis.

Posted by: catorenasci | Mar 21, 2016 6:04:50 AM

Choudry sounds like a piece of [work] . . .

Posted by: Kneave Riggall | Mar 20, 2016 4:30:28 PM