Sujit Choudhry sues UC system over sex harassment discipline

Sujit Choudhry
Sujit Choudhry

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Former UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry sued the UC Board of Regents — among other university-related parties — on Thursday, alleging that he was the victim of racial discrimination and that the university was attempting to deprive him of his reputation and career.

The lawsuit comes after campus outcry over Choudhry’s return to campus this fall as a Berkeley Law faculty member, despite having resigned as dean in March after allegations of sexual harassment came to light. A campus Title IX office found that his behavior toward his former executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell, violated UC sexual misconduct policies.

In March, UC President Janet Napolitano, who is named in the lawsuit, called for a second disciplinary hearing for Choudhry, which could result in Choudhry being fired. He initially was punished with a 10 percent cut to his dean salary for one year, among other sanctions, and campus officials were widely criticized for implementing punishments that many have called too lenient.

The lawsuit alleges that “no one has ever suggested that Professor Choudhry’s conduct was sexually motivated or predatory” and accuses Napolitano of using Choudhry’s case to “improve the University’s image as well as her own.”

In two grievances filed in the past year, Choudhry has challenged the initiation of the disciplinary proceedings against him by UC Berkeley’s Academic Senate division per Napolitano’s request.

“By targeting Professor Choudhry, who is of South Asian descent and a non-U.S. citizen, the University hopes to deflect attention from its failure to meaningfully punish Caucasian faculty and administrators who were found to have committed appalling sexual misconduct, and from the fact that it deserted Ms. Sorrell,” the lawsuit alleged.

Choudhry’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

In addition to the UC regents and Napolitano, Choudhry’s lawsuit also names UC Berkeley administrators Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ, Vice Provost for the Faculty Benjamin Hermalin and former vice provost for the faculty Janet Broughton as defendants.

“At this point what can be said is that the University intends to mount a vigorous and successful defense,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof in an email. A UC spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

UC Berkeley has been grappling with a string of high-profile sexual harassment scandals in the past two years. In October 2015, former astronomy professor Geoffrey Marcy resigned amid sexual harassment allegations. In addition, Graham Fleming was removed from his role as Berkeley Global Campus ambassador in March, after having resigned in April 2015 from his post as vice chancellor for research amid allegations of sexual harassment.

In the past five years, UC Berkeley’s Title IX office has found that 19 campus employees violated UC sexual harassment policies.

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Anderson Lanham at [email protected].

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  • VictorCharlie

    The only gripe I have is the administraion’s initial mishandling of the case. Albeit the clunkiness, justice is running its course.

    Racial discrimination? Such bull, a forced retirement package should be denied! And … a guy growing up in a culturally conservative society would believe hugging and kissing female coworkers is an expression of friendliness at work?

    Hopefully the message is clear from this point onwards, this type of behavior simply isn’t allowed.

  • ajdk2613

    OK, so a white guy puts his hand up someone’s skirt or sends an email to the effect “lose some weight so I can get a grip on you” but keeps his job. A nonwhite guy is recommended for dismissal because he hugs someone repeatedly. Read the lawsuit. What gives?

  • Thurman Reed

    The usual, craven use of the race card.

  • s randall

    So what should the administration do to make up for all the years that it didn’t do its job?

    1. Ease into a new policy.
    2. Immediately start doing its job.

    When a tide turns, someone is always left high and dry. In a sense it’s unfair, but that’s how progress is made.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Everybody suing Janet Nepolotiwhatever for anything has my enthusiastic support :-)

  • mob

    Why hasn’t Donald Trump deported him already? Indian rapist here to steal American jobs and commit crimes in this country

    • nofrillsjustbills

      Yes! Build a big beautiful wall and make the Canadians pay for it!

  • Lindy K

    He could be a scapegoat. I wouldn’t put it past the administration, they were getting such bad press. Just let it play out. We don’t know the facts.

    • Nunya Beeswax

      Scapegoat-schmapegoat. He admits to having done everything Sorrell accused him of, and his only defense is “Um, well, I didn’t mean it sexually.” Lame.

      • Denise

        If you did something wrong, admitted it and were punished then a year goes by and because the victim decides to sue because she was ignored by her employer…..your employer decided to start another investigation and punish you a second time. Would you be ok with that? Does it seem fair? Now let’s say some of your colleagues did much worse things to students, were still in their positions unscathed….. if the victims complaint had been handled by the school she would not have filed a lawsuit…and we wouldn’t be talking about this right now

  • Gene Nelson

    The issue of race has never been mentioned or come up. The rapist himself never mentioned it before. This guy is total slime.

    • Adam Smith

      He hugged her, and kissed her on the forehead. He is not a sexual predator by any definition of these terms.

      • Nunya Beeswax

        He didn’t go around hugging and kissing John Yee, as far as we know. Nor any of his other male subordinates.

        • Adam Smith

          Your logic is flawless.

    • Denise

      He did not commit a rape….get the facts or remain ignorant