Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

UC-Berkeley Sex Harassment Scandal Exposes 'Double Standard' Over Professor Protections

UC-Berkeley (University)Following up on my previous posts:

San Jose Mercury-News, UC Berkeley Sex Harassment Scandal Exposes 'Double Standard' Over Professor Protections:

Along with the embarrassing revelations, UC Berkeley's sexual harassment scandal has exposed what a growing chorus of critics call a double standard: While university staffers were routinely fired or forced to resign, tenured faculty members who committed similar transgressions received lighter sanctions and were allowed to keep their jobs.

Before a public outcry that led to UC President Janet Napolitano's intervention, the university's most elite members who violated the campus' sexual misconduct policy were initially disciplined through secretive agreements with academic administrators rather than the formal faculty conduct process.

"The faculty are very much untouchable," said Jenna Kingkade, a UC Berkeley law student and president of the Graduate Assembly. "It's a function of the hierarchy on this campus." ...

Professor Geoff Marcy was merely given a warning after a UC Berkeley investigation found he had sexually harassed four students from 2001 to 2010. He later resigned, but only after public backlash and condemnation from his own colleagues. In March, a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Berkeley law school dean Sujit Choudhry by his former executive assistant revealed the dean kept his administrative position in an agreement reached with Provost Claude Steele.

Choudhry was given a one-year, 10 percent pay cut and was ordered to write his assistant, Tyann Sorrell, an apology for subjecting her to unwanted kisses and smothering hugs. He later stepped down as dean but remains on the faculty.

In recent months, furious and increasingly doubtful of their administration's commitment to protect them, graduate students -- especially vulnerable to harassment because they work so closely with professors holding great influence over their careers -- have been trying to get answers. Instead, Kingkade said, "We have gotten the runaround." ...

Tenure protections are standard at most universities. But if the faculty conduct process at UC is poorly understood, especially as it applies to sexual harassment cases, that could be because it is so seldom used. For all of the cases resolved in the past five years, according to new data from the university, the Academic Senate's Privilege and Tenure Committee has held just one hearing -- and not for a sexual misconduct case. The university does not comment on pending cases.

Instead, discipline for sexual misconduct cases involving faculty has been negotiated in an agreement between a professor and top academic administrators: usually, the provost or vice provost.

In Choudhry's case, even though the provost and chancellor had full authority to remove him from his role as law dean, they simply chose not to. "The provost is probably the guy who hired the dean," said Brian Leiter, a law professor at the University of Chicago. "He probably had become friendly with him. However, he made a big error in judgment. If the dean of your law school doesn't have the sense not to be hugging and kissing staff when it makes them uncomfortable and he doesn't notice, he's in the wrong job."

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A shaggy dog story about tenure:

Wonder Boys (2000) directed by Curtis Hanson was based on a novel by Michael Chabon. Michael Douglas stars as professor Grady Tripp, who has been unable to finish his second novel, his young wife has left him, and he is having an affair with the Chancellor of the university, Sara Gaskell (Frances McDormand), who is the wife of the chairman of his department.

During a party at the Gaskells' house, Sara reveals to Grady that she is pregnant with his child, and Grady's student James Leer shoots the Gaskells' dog when when it attacks Grady.

James Leer: Professor Tripp? Can I ask you a question?

Grady Tripp: Yeah, James.

James Leer: What are we going to do with... it?

Grady Tripp: I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out how to tell the Chancellor I murdered her husband's dog.

James Leer: You?

Grady Tripp: Trust me, James, when the family pet's been assassinated, the owner doesn't want to hear one of her students was the trigger man.

James Leer: Does she want to hear it was one of her professors?

Grady Tripp: ...I've got tenure.

Posted by: Walter Sobchak | Apr 12, 2016 8:09:13 PM