BERKELEY – Following the resignation of Nicholas Dirks from the
University of California Berkeley's Chancellor position, and the resignation of former law school Dean
Sujit Choudhry, the university is making
changes to how it handles complaints of sexual harassment.
Dirks was chancellor in 2015 when Choudhry was accused of sexual
harassment by his executive assistant, who has since filed a lawsuit
against Choudhry and the university.
As the university moves forward with finding a new
chancellor, it is taking action to make changes, according to Dan Mogulof,
assistant vice chancellor and executive director of communications and public affairs at the University of California Berkeley.
"Significant changes are already underway," Mogulof
told the Northern California Record. Mogulof
directed the Record to a March 18 message from University of California President
For example, Napolitano created a Systemwide Peer Review
Committee to review and approve all sanctions against senior university
personnel who have been found in violation of the university's policy on sexual
violence and sexual harassment. The
committee is composed of a dozen individuals, including Sheryl
Vacca, UC chief compliance and audit officer and chair of the President’s Task
Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence, Allison Woodall, deputy
general counsel, Fiona Doyle, dean of graduate division, professor of mineral
engineering (UC Berkeley), and nine other individuals in positions of
leadership from various University of California branches.
"Chancellor Dirks did not determine the sanctions imposed on
the former dean in his role as an administrator," Mogulof said."Disciplinary
issues in this case were handled by the former executive vice
chancellor/provost, Claude Steele."
Mogulof told the Northern
California Record that Steele is not on campus, but outlined his reasoning
behind Choudhry's sanctions in a letter to the Daily Californian.
In that letter, Steele wrote:
carefully developed and imposed on the dean — following standard procedures,
precedents and advice from legal counsel — a set of sanctions in a strongly
worded letter: a 10 percent pay reduction, mandatory counseling at his own
expense, monitoring in the workplace under the threat of losing his deanship
and a written apology to the victim. But looking back now — with reflection and
being much affected by others’ reactions to these sanctions — I understand why,
in the view of many, they fell short."
Steele noted that there were several issues to be aware of and to improve
on: the bureaucratic institutional distance that can grow between the decision-makers and individuals involved; the lack of an institutionally representative
panel to develop sanctions, and to ensure awareness that treatment of
individuals in classroom and workplace settings are not the same following
institutional rules and regulations.
Choudhry resigned from his position as dean of the law school and has
returned to his tenured faculty position, returning to campus in September
after a suspension earlier this year. The university is conducting a nationwide
search to fill the University of California Berkeley chancellor position.