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 Janet Napolitano.

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:

"We then 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.

 

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