Former Berkeley Law dean remains on campus despite UC president’s previous ban

Sujit Choudhry

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Update 9/4/16: This article has been updated to reflect new information from campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof and co-president of the Boalt Hall Student Association Alfredo Diaz.  

Former UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry will be on campus this semester working in his office, according to an email sent Thursday by interim Berkeley Law dean Melissa Murray to law faculty, staff and students.

Earlier this year, UC President Janet Napolitano asked Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to ban Choudhry from campus for the remainder of the spring semester after a former employee sued him for sexual harassment. According to Choudhry’s lawyer William Taylor, however, the ban was never implemented by Dirks, and Choudhry retained access to campus for that time.

Choudhry was not on campus at any time in the spring or summer after he resigned in March, according to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

While Choudhry is now a tenured professor at the school, he is not scheduled to teach classes this academic year, Murray stated in her email. Taylor said that as a fully employed faculty member, Choudhry — like any other law professor — should be allowed to research, write and consult at his place of employment.

“Faculty members’ campus access rights are determined by confidential Central Campus processes,” Murray said in the email obtained by The Daily Californian.

In light of news of the lawsuit against Choudhry in March, Napolitano launched a new review of his actions that could strip him of his professorship. Choudhry currently faces a faculty investigation into whether there is probable cause for filing charges that he violated the Faculty Code of Conduct.

“The Procedures do not provide for automatic exclusion from campus of accused faculty while the process is pending,” said Mogulof in an email.

In 2015, the campus Title IX office found that Choudhry had violated university sexual harassment policies by repeatedly acting inappropriately with his executive assistant Tyann Sorrell. Then-executive vice chancellor and provost Claude Steele, with approval from Dirks, disciplined Choudhry with a 10 percent reduction of his dean salary for one year, counseling and a written apology to Sorrell, who brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Steele and Dirks received widespread criticism for the punishment, which many saw as lenient for a high-profile campus figure.

“People really need to relax and be calm and ask themselves what happened when the complaint was first undertaken and when it was investigated and the discipline was agreed upon,” Taylor said. “So what if it was too lenient? It was the punishment that the university faculty and (privileges and tenure committee) decided was appropriate.”

After Steele’s resignation, in an op-ed in the Daily Cal, he expressed regret and acknowledged that the situation that resulted from his sanctions against Choudhry “wound up protecting the dean’s career without equally protecting the complainant’s career.”

Over the past year, Choudhry, Steele and Dirks have all announced their resignations from their administrative positions. After stepping down, Choudhry assumed his position as a tenured member of the Berkeley Law faculty, but that did not end his legal troubles.

Choudhry has challenged the second disciplinary process against him with multiple grievances, the latest of which was filed in the beginning of August. Faculty investigators have until mid-September to complete their investigation.

“As a tenured professor, (Choudhry) has the right to be in his office, and on campus generally, and can exercise this right as he sees fit,” said Alfredo Diaz, co-president of the Boalt Hall Student Association, in an email.

Contact Austin Weinstein and Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks at [email protected].