Cal Drops Harassment Case Against Law School Dean

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The University of California, Berkeley is dropping disciplinary proceedings against former its law school dean, who was accused of sexually harassing his executive assistant for several months.

Under an agreement with the University of California regents, Sujit Choudhry will remain a tenured law professor “in good standing” until May 31, 2018. He will keep an office on campus until next spring, when he is expected to take an unpaid sabbatical, after which he will resign. He’ll also receive travel reimbursement and have the full use of $97,210 in research funds.

Choudhry had sued the regents in September 2015 for launching another investigation against him over his executive assistant Tyann Sorrell’s claims that Choudhry hugged and kissed her several times.
Choudhry claimed the second proceeding was spurred by public outrage that the school wasn’t disciplining its professors harshly enough for sexual harassment, and by the negative publicity from Sorrell’s lawsuit against the school for not taking her sexual harassment complaints seriously.

After Sorrell sued the school, Choudhry offered to resign as dean. The school then initiated a second disciplinary action, where Choudhry stood to lose tenure.

Choudhry dropped his lawsuit against the regents in November 2016.

In a separate settlement with Sorrell, Choudhry agreed to pay $50,000 to nonprofits of Sorrell’s choice that fight against sexual assault and harassment and $50,000 to her attorneys.

The UC regents incorporated this provision into their settlement agreement, making it appear they had some part in the deal.

While the agreement was signed on March 31, it wasn’t released until late Friday, when the school issued a press release containing a statement from Sorrell calling the $50,000 payment a “significant financial contribution to a number of organizations of my choice that deal with the serious issues of sexual harassment and abuse.”

But Sorrell’s attorney Leslie Levy, with the Oakland firm Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams, said Sorrell is not at all pleased with the agreement.

“She is disappointed and upset about the terms of the settlement between Choudhry and the UC,” Levy said Tuesday by phone. She noted the agreement was not signed by Sorrell.

Levy added that the inclusion of the $50,000 payment provision was also misleading.

“It has created confusion as to the source and purpose of that money that was paid,” Levy said.

Responding to the UC’s press release, Sorrell said, “This deal insults all who suffer harassment at the hands of those with power and privilege.”

In a statement, Levy also criticized the timing of the release, saying, “It is no accident that UC opted to make this public late on a Friday evening, attempting to avoid the scrutiny of the public and the reaction of the students to their continued mishandling of these matters.”

Sorrell has reached her own settlement with the school, and Levy said she could not comment on the details, nor confirm the $1.7 million figure reported Tuesday by The San Francisco Chronicle.

The Chronicle obtained the number through a Public Records Act request, reporting that the settlement would be the largest ever paid by a UC.

 

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