SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — The ousted dean of UC-Berkeley’s Boalt Hall law school sued the university Thursday, claiming it unfairly forced him out and effectively banned him from campus after a former assistant accused him of sexual harassment.
Sujit Choudhry resigned in March, after Tyann Sorrell claimed in a lawsuit that Choudhry sexually harassed her for several months.
Sorrell’s lawsuit stemmed from allegations made the year before, when she complained that Choudhry was hugging and kissing her on the cheek and making her uncomfortable.
Choudhry and the university resolved Sorrell’s complaint by agreeing to a one-year pay cut of 10 percent and harassment training for Choudhry, and a written apology to Sorrell.
That case brought the university’s handling of sexual harassment complaints under the microscope, Choudhry says, and he is being made a scapegoat.
He sued the UC Regents, University President Janet Napolitano, Chancellor Nicholas Dirks and other administrators, claiming they failed to adhere to the settlement.
Shortly after Sorrell went public with claims that the school had taken her complaint too lightly, Berkeley’s Academic Senate held several public forums on sexual harassment, and wrote an open letter to the administration saying it was too lenient with Choudhry.
That prompted the university to make a second investigation.
In his lengthy complaint this week, Choudhry says: “President Napolitano and the University have made Professor Choudhry a pariah, repeatedly threatening to ‘ban’ him from campus and giving false information about his conduct to the national press.”
He adds: “The pretextual proceeding against Professor Choudhry is a direct effort to minimize the University’s gross mismanagement of Ms. Sorrell’s employment and meager response to actual predatory conduct on campus. After reaching the settlement with Professor Choudhry and Professor Choudhry’s full acceptance of responsibility for making Ms. Sorrell feel uncomfortable, the University deserted Ms. Sorrell, whom it turned down for ten successive jobs elsewhere in the University and who has now sued the University.”
Choudhry says the university is trying to deflect attention from white faculty members who have committed sexual misconduct, such as Vice Chancellor Graham Fleming, who was accused of groping an assistant vice chancellor. He says Fleming resigned as chancellor but remains a tenured chemistry professor.
Despite a spate of sexual harassment complaints against white professors, Choudhry says, he was the only one subjected to a second “sham” investigation. He attributes this “vastly different” treatment to his Indian descent, and not being a U.S. citizen.
In another example, he claims that UC Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment Discrimination found astronomy professor Geoff Marcy inappropriately touched several students, including grabbing one student’s private areas.
Though Marcy agreed to resign after he violated the terms of his settlement by repeating the behavior, he remains a professor emeritus and receives full pension benefits, Choudhry says.
He says he has not been assigned classes for the fall semester, and Napolitano has said he will not be teaching in the spring semester, either.
Choudhry’s appearance on campus last week drew a protest of about 40 students, according to student newspaper, The Daily Californian.
Choudhry seeks an injunction to put a stop to the second investigation and prevent administrators from breaching the settlement, and punitive damages for racial discrimination and denial of due process and equal protection.
His attorney Jamie Dupree, with Futterman Dupree Dodd Croley & Maier could not be reached for comment late Thursday.
UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said in a statement: “The university was made aware of this new litigation only on Thursday afternoon, and counsel has not yet had an opportunity to thoroughly review the complaint. At this point what can be said is that the university intends to mount a vigorous and successful defense.”
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