Napolitano addresses sexual misconduct cases, orders Graham Fleming fired from new post

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Update 3/12/16: This article has been updated to reflect new information regarding disciplinary actions against Sujit Choudhry.

Update 3/13/16: This article has been updated to reflect new information regarding UC President Janet Napolitano’s letters to UC chancellors.

Former UC Berkeley vice chancellor for research Graham Fleming, who resigned last year amid sexual harassment allegations, was terminated Friday from his current role as a Berkeley Global Campus ambassador.

In a letter sent Friday, UC President Janet Napolitano told Chancellor Nicholas Dirks that she expected Fleming’s prompt removal from any administrative position on campus. She also sent a separate letter to all 10 UC chancellors, detailing two immediate plans to address sexual misconduct cases involving faculty.

The decision to fire Fleming, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, was reached after Dirks and Napolitano discussed their expectations for the handling of sexual misconduct incidents. The conversation was held in light of Sujit Choudhry’s resignation Thursday from his position as UC Berkeley School of Law dean, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

“I think in the aftermath of all that involved (former) dean Choudhry that the chancellor … and obviously the president have taken a look at the situation,” Mogulof said. “The chancellor and the president are on the same page.”

The campus is currently handling 17 sexual harassment investigations, according to Mogulof. In the past year alone, former campus astronomy professor Geoffrey Marcy was formally implicated in a breach of campus sexual misconduct policies after allegations arose that he had sexually harassed students.

In her Friday letter to Dirks, Napolitano asked that he ban Choudhry from the Berkeley campus for the remainder of the semester. In addition, she called for UC Berkeley’s Academic Senate division to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Choudhry, which could result in the termination of his employment.

Napolitano also told Dirks in the letter that the university has no intent to defend Choudhry in court against Tyann Sorrell, who is suing Choudhry for allegedly giving her unwanted hugs and kisses, among other forms of sexual contact. Sorrell is suing the UC Board of Regents as well for allegedly mishandling her complaints against Choudhry.

Napolitano’s letter to the UC chancellors Friday announced that a new peer committee, composed of members from every campus, would review all proposed sexual misconduct sanctions against senior leaders, as first reported the Los Angeles Times. She also announced that chancellors, provosts, vice chancellors, vice provosts and deans were ordered to complete sexual assault and harassment training by March 25.

“(At) a minimum, our employees are entitled to come to work without fear of sexual harassment or sexual violence,” Napolitano said in the letter. “Moreover, and I cannot emphasize this enough, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that substantiated claims of sexual harassment and sexual assault are dealt with firmly, fairly and expeditiously and that appropriate sanctions are imposed that recognize the serious nature of these claims.”

Fleming resigned from his position as vice chancellor for research in April 2015 after allegations arose that he had sexually harassed Diane Leite, former assistant vice chancellor for research enterprise services. Leite alleged that Fleming had inappropriately touched her and sent her affectionate emails — a breach of UC sexual harassment policies.

In 2014, the UC Office of the President began an investigation into Leite’s allegations, finding evidence that Fleming had more than likely violated UC sexual harassment policies. But according to Fleming’s spokesperson Sam Singer, Fleming’s legal team presented evidence that the university’s investigation was inaccurate.

UCOP could not immediately be reached for comment. The university has previously said it followed its normal processes in its investigation of allegations against Fleming.

After resigning from his position, citing personal reasons, Fleming remained a tenured chemistry professor — a position he still holds — but took a yearlong sabbatical.

Shortly after the announcement of Fleming’s resignation, more than 100 campus faculty signed a letter urging Dirks to review UCOP’s investigation, citing concern that UCOP had not properly followed due process.

Leite was fired in 2012 from her assistant vice chancellor role after she increased the salary of an employee with whom she was having a sexual relationship. Fleming had originally notified Leite before she was fired that she would be demoted and have her pay docked.

Before he was fired, Fleming’s role with the Berkeley Global Campus was to build research collaborations, according to Mogulof. Singer alleged that the decision to fire Fleming from that position was an attempt by the university to “cover its tracks” amid allegations of sexual harassment faced by Choudhry.

“Professor Fleming was already punished severely and wrongly, and now he is again being unfairly and unreasonably punished a second time for the law school dean’s alleged wrongdoing,” Singer said.

Fleming currently supervises several independent study courses and will remain on campus as a chemistry professor.

Andrea Platten is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @andreaplatten.