As an alumna of Boalt Hall, I am astounded that Sujit Choudhry, an accomplished constitutional law scholar, still struggles to understand the most basic elements of workplace sexual harassment. One would hope that, in his months away from campus, he would have learned that the EEOC defines sexual harassment as unequal treatment on the basis of a person’s gender identity or sex. Whether Choudhry had “sexual intentions” toward Tyann Sorrell is, quite frankly, irrelevant. I can think of very few workplaces in which it is appropriate for a boss to kiss, hug or massage his support staff on a near daily basis.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of Choudhry’s letter, however, is that he does not understand, or does not care to understand, that he is responsible for the experiences he and his family have endured since his case became public. He laments that his reputation “crumbled in a matter of days,” but he refuses to recognize that his misconduct led to his fall from grace. He ignores that he terrorized Sorrell for months, ultimately pushing her out of her job. He then blames her for not telling him to behave professionally sooner, arguing that he had no idea she did not welcome his physical harassment. I would hope that a person would notice that a coworker who becomes slack each time he hugs her might not want to be touched.
Choudhry’s lack of empathy for Sorrell, and his effort to blame her for his misconduct, is reprehensible and craven. His failure to take responsibility for his conduct underscores the idea that he is not qualified to serve as a leader or representative of the law school. UC Berkeley’s staff members deserve better, and the Berkeley Law community deserves better.
Camille Pannu is a UC Berkeley School of Law alum.