Trigger warning: sexual violence
To The Daily Californian,
We understand that there will always be different perspectives of the same story but it becomes disgusting and downright hurtful when a perpetrator gets a voice and the victim is subjected to repeated scrutiny and shaming. When student platforms like the Daily Cal get extended to known perpetrators of sexual violence, it instantaneously becomes a form of oppression and continues silencing survivor voices. There is no actual need to humanize or glorify the “other side of the story.” There is no actual need to look at this damaging experience for Sorrell and try to be more analytical about the issue. The Daily Cal has maintained that it is a “neutral” news platform, but the paper could greatly benefit from encouraging a more sensitive and conscientious environment on campus. Publishing an op-ed that seeks to discount Sorrell’s narrative — a narrative she was strong enough to share with us — is not the most advisable way to move the discussion forward. It is hard enough for victims to come forward and report abuse, and it is not enough for the campus to plainly direct survivors to facilities on campus instead of ensuring that they feel safe and comfortable in the same environment that their abuse occurred.
Former UC Berkeley Law School dean Sujit Choudhry was officially found guilty by the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination of several counts of sexual misconduct including kissing and “bear hugging” the victim. Despite these known facts, he chose to appeal to students and faculty to remain peaceful and allow him to continue working on campus, even after UC President Janet Napolitano directed UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to ban him from campus. He was never dismissed.
This is an inequitable system. We live in a society that generally elevates the voices of perpetrators while slut-shaming and blaming survivors and victims of sexual violence. By giving a known perpetrator like Choudhry a voice in the leading student publication here at UC Berkeley, students, survivors, faculty and workers are all subjected to deeply triggering and trauma-inducing moments that horrify survivors and allies alike. Having someone like Choudhry still at large on campus serves as a heinous example of how poorly instances of sexual harassment are handled here at UC Berkeley. The campus community needs to show support for Sorrell and any other survivors who may still be subjected to seeing their perpetrators on campus who didn’t value basic respect and consent.
Choudhry needs to be held accountable for his actions and should not be extended the kindness of getting a platform on which he can clear his conscience and justify his wrongdoing. While he may express regret, the fact remains that he harassed a person working directly under him. First and foremost, we as a community, believe the victims and survivors, and do not take it lightly when these perpetrators are allowed to walk away freely — be it on campus or anywhere else in the world. We urge the Daily Cal and the UC Berkeley community at large to join us in sharing this sentiment and support.
Saakshi Goel is a member of 100 Strong and Axenya Kachen works at the campus GenEq center.
A previous version of this op-ed incorrectly stated that the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination found that Sujit Choudhry’s actions toward Tyann Sorrell were forceful. While OPHD did conclude Choudhry’s actions were sexual and unwelcomed by Sorrell, OPHD did not conclude that they were forceful.
A previous version of this op-ed incorrectly stated that Sujit Choudhry was involved in instances of sexual assault. In fact, he was sued on allegations of sexual harassment.