Berkeley University Administrator Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Scandal

by Joseph C. Maya on Mar. 31, 2017

Employment Employment  Sexual Harassment Other  Education 

Summary: Blog post about a professor at Berkeley University resigning after allegations of sexual harassment.

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The University of California, Berkeley, announced Friday that Claude Steele, the university's executive vice chancellor and provost for the past two years, resigned his administrative positions for personal reasons.

Mr. Steele's abrupt departure comes at a time of turmoil for the university, as he and other top administrators have been criticized for their handling of a widening sexual harassment scandal.

Dan Mogulof, a spokesman for the university, said an interim successor for Mr. Steele would be named in the coming days.

In a statement released by the university, Mr. Steele said his wife faced ''quite significant'' health problems and that he needed to spend more time with her.

The university's chancellor, Nicholas B. Dirks, praised Mr. Steele for his ''lasting impact'' on the university, citing his work in dealing with the university's finances and fund-raising and ''improving the campus climate'' with regard to racial diversity.

Mr. Steele will remain at Berkeley in a faculty position, joining the psychology department next year, according to the announcement.

The statement did not mention the sexual harassment scandal, which has grown in magnitude in recent weeks.

Mr. Steele has been criticized for his handling of claims of sexual harassment made against the dean of the law school, Sujit Choudhry.

A report by the university found that Mr. Choudhry had repeatedly hugged and kissed his executive assistant, behavior that an investigator concluded was ''unwelcome and objectively sexual in nature.''

Mr. Steele allowed Mr. Choudhry to stay on as the dean, but ordered a one-year cut in his salary and required that he undergo counseling and write a letter of apology to his assistant, who was told to look for work elsewhere at the university.

Alumni and students expressed outrage at the terms of the punishment, which became public in March when Mr. Choudhry's assistant, Tyann Sorrell, filed a civil suit. Prominent alumni of the law school called the punishment ''feeble.''

Court papers filed with the lawsuit say that when Ms. Sorrell questioned why university officials had not taken stronger action against Mr. Choudhry, Mr. Steele told her that he had decided against termination because it ''would ruin the dean's career, that is, destroy his future chances for higher appointment.''

Mr. Choudhry has since resigned.

The university this month released hundreds of pages of investigative reports showing violations of the university's sexual harassment policies by 19 university employees. Most of the cases had not previously been made public. In addition to these cases, the university is investigating 16 cases involving sexual harassment and nine involving sexual violence.

If you feel you have been mistreated by your employer or in your place of employment and would like to explore your employment law options, contact the experienced employment law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com. We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients in both New York and Connecticut including New Canaan, Bridgeport, White Plains, and Darien.

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Thomas Fuller, Berkeley's Provost Resigns Amid University's Turmoil, The New York Times, (April 26, 2016) at A13.

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