In a relatively slow week for UC news, UC Berkeley saw yet more controversy after the publication of a letter by Sujit Choudhry. Choudhry was dean of the law school until revelations about a lawsuit alleging he sexually harassed his assistant. Elsewhere, there was an interesting story on lobbying efforts by California’s community college students.
9/6 – Op-Ed: An open letter from Sujit Choudhry about sexual harrasment (sic) (DailyCal): Choudhry argues the on-going investigation is inappropriate in light of an earlier report that included he had no sexual intent toward his assistant. Here is an excerpt worth reading:
I received an investigative report that concluded, correctly, that I was unconscious of my actions toward Ms. Sorrell. The report made many factual findings that I contested then and which I contest to this day. But I accepted the report in an effort to take responsibility for my actions, to learn from what had happened and to try to enable both Ms. Sorrell and myself to move on. And I accepted the report in exchange for a complete set of sanctions that the university handed down to me through then-executive vice chancellor and provost Claude Steele — sanctions that the entire campus leadership, including Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and his legal advisers, described as “warranted and appropriate for this situation.” By accepting the settlement offered to me by university leadership, I also made the judgment call not to exercise a number of rights available to me under university policy, which, in real and practical terms, I cannot effectively exercise now. I abided by and fulfilled every term of that sanction, including by apologizing in writing to Ms. Sorrell — an apology that, unbeknownst to me, the university literally put in a drawer and failed to provide to Ms. Sorrell for roughly two months.
This past March, Ms. Sorrell launched a lawsuit against the university and me. For days, the lawsuit was international news, and my picture appeared online, in print and on local television. My family was besieged for weeks by media from around the world. Four days after the lawsuit was commenced, I learned, through an article in a newspaper, that UC President Janet Napolitano had directed Dirks to ban me from campus and initiate a second, “do-over” disciplinary process against me, and that she had earlier called my behavior “groping.”
The public response was fast and furious. Petitions were circulated calling for me to be fired. I was called a rapist on Twitter. A leading national newspaper accused me of “forcibly kissing” Ms. Sorrell (it retracted that statement later). Another newspaper called me a “predator.” My 11-year-old daughter learned about the lawsuit from the internet on her school computer. She read racist online comments about me that she cannot erase from her mind. My wife developed serious health problems. I became too frightened to leave my own home, an exiled pariah. I watched helplessly as my reputation as an academic administrator, a scholar, a husband, a father and a friend crumbled in a matter of days.
The university has now launched a second disciplinary process against me, more than a year after the initial complaint was made and many months after the first process concluded with a full, complete, “warranted and appropriate” sanction. The public reaction to my case has everything to do with the university’s unprecedented effort to launch this “do-over” investigation. That public reaction was also fueled by the university’s handling of other sexual harassment investigations within the UC system. While I understand that context and share in the community’s concern that the university must be a respectful and inclusive environment, it is a fact that my case has been handled in an unprecedented manner because of the conduct of others and the administration’s desire to deflect attention away from itself.
Although neither Ms. Sorrell nor the university’s investigators considered my conduct to be sexual or predatory in intent, that fact — that uncontested fact — has, remarkably, fallen by the wayside in the rush to condemn me.
9/7 – Law school ex-dean’s letter on sex-harassment case sparks protest (SFGate): Protesters descended on Boalt Hall following the letter’s publication. Some even went so far as to question the Daily Cal for publishing the piece.
Higher Ed News of Note
9/4 – Lobbying for California’s 2.3 million community college students with a $0 budget (EastBayTimes): Despite a state law allowing community college’s to collect student fees to support lobbying efforts, the system’s campuses have been slow to impose the fee and organize student government structures to support lobbying. Nonetheless, a few students have taken it upon themselves to work for their colleagues, and five of the seven bills they supported are awaiting Gov. Brown’s pen, including a bill that requires schools to allow homeless students access to campus showers.
9/8 – Clinton to convene meeting with Petraeus, other national security experts (Politico): UC President Janet Napolitano will meet with Clinton to discuss the state of US security.
9/3 – Citing Safety Concerns, Northwestern U. Bans Tenured ‘Gadfly’ Professor From Campus (Chronicle): In an uncomfortable situation, Jacqueline Stevens has been asked by NU to undergo an evaluation of her “fitness for duty.” She counters that she is being punished for speaking her mind. Some of her colleagues say she has made them feel unsafe.
9/8 – UK vs. Kentucky Kernel newspaper | What we know (CourierJournal): The University of Kentucky is still suing its student newspaper over the publication of records it tried to conceal.
9/9 – Pennsylvania State Colleges Faculties Vote on Whether to Strike (NBC): The faculty of 14 campuses have been without a contact since June of 2015.