Tyann Sorrell returns to campus, alleges retaliation by administrators

Phillip Downey/Senior Staff

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When Tyann Sorrell returned to her office Wednesday, it smelled like a flower shop.

Dozens of friends and strangers with hugs and bouquets welcomed Sorrell back to campus more than eight months after she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer, then-UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry. But despite the warm welcome, she alleged that her return has prompted retaliation from campus administrators.

In an interview with The Daily Californian, Sorrell said that, per an agreement with campus, she will resume her normal duties as an executive assistant in the office of the Berkeley Law dean three days a week so she can accommodate ongoing medical treatment necessitated by Choudhry’s alleged sexual misconduct.

But Sorrell said her part-time pay is insufficient and inequitable because she will be forced to use her sick and vacation days to accommodate this schedule — a practice that the campus Title IX office determined was inappropriate in its initial July 2015 investigation.

“I’m being punished for continually seeking treatment as a result of what was done to me at the hands of Choudhry and the institution,” Sorrell alleged. “This is the worst retaliation that I’ve received thus far.”

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said in an email that Sorrell is receiving salary and benefits consistent with university policy, which states that employees are only paid for the time they work. Mogulof did not explicitly address the issue of retaliation in his response.

Berkeley Law students, faculty members and staff have already criticized the campus’s response to the handling of Sorrell’s case, which has been fraught with a number of controversies ranging from Choudhry’s purportedly lenient treatment by campus administrators to his return to campus this fall.

“This is about Tyann taking back part of her life,” said Sorrell’s attorney Leslie Levy. “They’ve put one obstacle in front of another for her return.”

Despite the campus’s actions, which Levy said are unfair compared to the campus’s treatment of Choudhry — who receives full pay as a tenured nonteaching faculty member and has since sued the university for racial discrimination in connection to his disciplinary proceedings — Sorrell said she is honored to return to UC Berkeley and rejoin the Berkeley Law community that has provided her much-needed support.

She also noted that her decision to return was a protest against the campus’s oversight of her sexual misconduct case and an affirmation to herself and other victims of the right to work in a workplace free of sexual harassment and assault.

Choudhry, whose motion to stop the university-sanctioned second disciplinary hearing against him was denied Wednesday, declined to comment on Sorrell’s return via his attorney William Taylor.

Sorrell, for her part, wanted to thank the campus community for its support.

“It’s not about me,” she said. “It’s about this movement that’s happening — this demand (against) tolerance of sexual harassment and assault. I don’t think the campus is going to be the same.”

Adam Iscoe covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @iscoe_dc.