Community criticizes op-ed from interim lead on campus sexual misconduct response

Alvaro Azcarraga/Staff

On April 12, The Daily Californian’s opinion desk published a special spread on issues of sexual misconduct in light of recent sexual harassment allegations that surfaced against UC Berkeley administrators and faculty. The spread included an op-ed written by campus College of Letters and Science Dean Carla Hesse, whom Chancellor Nicholas Dirks recently appointed as interim lead on the campus’s response to sexual harassment and assault claims.

H​er op-ed generated a volume of responses from various on-campus faculty members and graduate students. Included in today’s opinion section is that op-ed for reference, along with 10 unique letters to the editor responding to it.

Op-ed: Mutual respect must inform any solution

“If we are to change the culture that too often tolerates or simply turns a blind eye away from abusive and disrespectful behavior, we need to find a way to draw a bright line between freedom and impunity.”

— Carla Hesse, interim lead on UC Berkeley’s response to sexual harassment and assault claims

Committee chaired by Hesse must redress systemic failure

“The committee that Hesse chairs must target and redress systemic failure in administrative handling of sexual harassment complaints, not an imagined lack of respect for difference that is irrelevant to the problem.”

— Feminist faculty concerned about sexual harassment

Hesse’s op-ed unfairly reinforces stigmas against people with disabilities

“Not only does the article use language that is actively harmful to people with disabilities, it uses, however unwittingly, the trope of psychiatric disability to deflect attention away from the serious issue of sexual harassment.”

— The Faculty Coalition for Disability Rights

Campus response to sexual harassment has been flagrantly inadequate, often destructive

“While a number of recommendations and actions coming from the administration have been encouraging, Hesse’s diagnosis of the problems facing this campus are a sobering reminder that the harmful attitudes that got us here in the first place are still alive and well in the upper levels of the campus administration.”

— Alex Anderson, doctoral candidate in physics

Administration must look to survivors, those who study systemic oppression for guidance

“(Hesse’s) statement makes a deeply alarming suggestion that sexual harassment and assault are the consequences of individual “freedom” overstepping the boundaries that “respect” for others ought to constitute. This conception of “freedom” reads like a muddled encounter between Thomas Hobbes and Roman Polanski.”

— doctoral candidates at UC Berkeley

Carla Hesse unfit to head sexual harassment committee

“All too many instances of sexual harassment on this campus appear to follow the same pattern: high-powered administrator or Academic Senate faculty member harasses or assaults a student or worker, and then the cover-up begins.”

— doctoral candidates at UC Berkeley

Administrators shouldn’t prioritize prestige over students rights

“Hesse gives no indication that the administration is concerned with or even aware of these failings. Instead, the ‘immediate actions’ she promises are centered once again on employee compliance, bureaucratic expansion, and impotent committees.”

— doctoral candidates at UC Berkeley

University uses overly broad definitions of ‘hostile environment’

“Free speech and academic freedom are rights – not privileges – that we must defend from incursion by administrators who call for self-censorship in the name of “respect.”

— Risa L. Lieberwitz, Chair, AAUP Title IX report subcommittee

Call for ‘mutual respect’ should manifest in community engagement

“Now is the time for us to move forward in mutual respect for our charter of shared governance between centralized administration and the highly respected UC Berkeley faculty represented by the Academic Senate.”

— Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Campus continues to prioritize funding over community safety

“Those of us who are in subordinate positions, who make the university work, who are so often the survivors of sexual violence need to believe that we have the power to end it, not the administration.”

— Blanca Misse, Beezer de Martelly, Amanda Armstrong

Close reading of Hesse op-ed introduces slew of questions

“Why are we forced to endure the repeated rehearsal of these shallow fantasies of community and of civility?”

— William Stafford Jr., graduate student in anthropology and UAW 2865 member


Karim Doumar is the opinion editor and Arielle Swedback is the assistant opinion editor. Contact them at [email protected]