Choudhry does not belong on UC Berkeley campus

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SEPTEMBER 09, 2016

Sujit Choudhry’s open letter in The Daily Californian’s opinion section demonstrates unequivocally that the former UC Berkeley School of Law dean still has no meaningful concept of his actions, their implications or sexual harassment in general. His diatribe weaves together the most prevalent tactics of sexual violence perpetrators — survivor shaming, self-victimization and false apologies — and further emphasizes why he does not belong on campus.

The community feedback we received about the open letter will inform future decisions about our treatment of this issue, such as by contextualizing opinion pieces that feature sensitive content or are written and submitted by polarizing figures. These steps include providing background information and references to previously published content along with these opinion pieces.

As we curate an opinion section that acknowledges a diversity of viewpoints, we will inevitably publish perspectives with which we disagree. And we wholeheartedly disagree with Choudhry and his continued presence on campus.

The administration’s efforts to create a campus that is safe and welcoming to all, particularly survivors of sexual violence, have stalled, likely because of the half-hearted nature of these efforts.

Survivors repeatedly make it clear that they must face the prospects of seeing these perpetrators on a daily basis and reliving past trauma when perpetrators are allowed to stay on campus.

Perpetrators who assert moral high-ground by invoking their “pure intentions” do not understand what it feels like to be trapped in the lower tier of an uneven power dynamic.

Perpetrators who cite the dismantling of their reputations, in deplorable attempts to gain sympathy, clearly expect that their prestige exempts them from the consequences of their offenses.

And why should they expect anything else? In the past year and a half, three high-profile faculty members were found to have violated campus sexual harassment policies. As a man among these abhorrent ranks, Choudhry shouldn’t have been allowed to return to campus.

Of the 19 cases within the past five years in which the campus Title IX office found a perpetrator to have violated UC sexual misconduct policy, only low-level staff have been fired, reaffirming the idea that prominent positions protect men from fair punishment. Higher profile perpetrators — including Geoffrey Marcy, Graham Fleming and now Choudhry — face far lighter consequences.

This, of course, has everything to do with systemic unawareness of the gravity of sexual violence allegations. The tenure system reinforces this apathy and continues to protect faculty members in non-academic transgressions. With the recent attention to a long-standing pervasiveness of sexual harassment on college campuses, however, a serious conversation about tenure and its scope and breadth is past due.

In the ongoing battle to create an environment where all people, particularly survivors of sexual violence, feel safe and supported on campus, Choudhry’s presence is a step in the wrong direction.

Choudhry implored readers of his op-ed to refrain from judgment until they understood the facts on both sides. His account has been published — in his own repugnant words. He can no longer hide behind the claim that his side has not been heard.

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SEPTEMBER 09, 2016