Top 5 UC Berkeley news events of 2016

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Berkeley Law dean Sujit Choudhry sued for sex harassment

Former dean of the UC Berkeley Law School Sujit Choudhry was sued for sexual harassment by his executive assistant in March.

In the lawsuit, Choudhry’s then-executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell, alleged that Choudhry hugged, kissed and caressed her without her consent multiple times per week.

A confidential campus investigation conducted in July 2015 found that Choudhry’s behavior had violated UC sexual misconduct policy. Some law school students criticized the decision to keep the investigation confidential.

Choudhry took an indefinite leave of absence from his role as dean in March but has remained on the law school faculty. He initially was punished with a 10 percent reduction in salary for one year and was ordered to write an apology to Sorrell. In her lawsuit, Sorrell alleged that former executive vice chancellor and provost Claude Steele said he had “seriously considered terminating the Dean” but decided against it because it would ruin Choudhry’s career.

The campus’ Title IX office has found that 19 employees have violated its sexual misconduct policy in the past five years.  

— Pressly Pratt

Claude Steele resigns as campus executive vice chancellor and provost

Former executive vice chancellor and provost Claude Steele stepped down from his position in April, citing his wife’s declining health as the reason for his resignation.

The announcement came amid criticism for Steele’s disciplinary action against former Berkeley Law school dean Sujit Choudhry, who was found to have violated UC sexual harassment policy.

Although Steele was originally supposed to appoint an interim dean for the law school, he recused himself from the selection process after facing campuswide opposition. A group of three administrators later selected campus professor Melissa Murray as interim Berkeley Law dean.

Later, it was revealed that Choudhry had appointed Steele to the Berkeley Law faculty, a decision met with even more criticism. Both UC President Janet Napolitano and Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, however, defended Steele’s appointment.

With his resignation, Steele announced he would return to working as a psychologist and writer, positions he held before assuming the role of executive vice chancellor and provost. He is set to join the faculty of UC Berkeley’s psychology department next year.

— Cassandra Vogel

Student Action sweeps partisan executive seats

In this year’s April ASUC elections, Student Action swept all four partisan executive positions for the first time since 2012. Will Morrow won president, Alicia Lau won executive vice president, Andre Luu won external affairs vice president, and Frances McGinley won academic affairs vice president.

The results came after CalSERVE swept all four partisan executive seats in 2015. While the 2013 and 2014 elections saw executive positions distributed among Student Action and CalSERVE officers, a single party has swept the partisan executive seats in seven of the 10 years before 2013.

Student Action also came out of the elections winning the most ASUC Senate seats of any party — 10 of the 20 senate positions — while CalSERVE won seven. With the 10 seats and an executive vice president for the first time in years, Student Action gained a majority in the senate.

In addition, all four referendums passed, including the Green Initiative Fund Referendum, the Ink Initiative Student Fee, the Declaration of and Action to Mitigate the Student Housing Crisis Referendum and the Constitutional Clarity and Consistency Amendment 2016.

— Cassandra Vogel

Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announces resignation

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced in August that he would resign once his successor is selected. Over the course of his tenure, which began in 2013, Dirks has faced multiple controversies, including criticism for his handling of sexual harassment and misconduct cases, campus cost-cutting efforts in an attempt to right what he has called “substantial and growing” structural deficit and an investigation by the University of California for alleged misuse of funds and athletic services.

When he first arrived on campus three years ago, Dirks wanted to create more personal relationships with students through programs such as his “fireside chats.” Despite this aim, students have critiqued his building of a nearly $700,000 fence around his on-campus residence and a $9,000 emergency exit near the chancellor’s office.

His resignation announcement came after the departures of other campus officials, such as former vice chancellor and provost Claude Steele in April, former vice provost of strategic academic and facilities planning Andrew Szeri in June, and former vice chancellor for administration and finance John Wilton in February.

Dirks plans to stay on at UC Berkeley as a full-time faculty member and to work on a task force to ensure the financial success of Cal Athletics.  

— Pressly Pratt

Cancel for nonpayment policy catches flak

In July, the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs announced the implementation of the cancel for nonpayment policy, which required undergraduate students to pay 20 percent of their semester tuition by Aug. 19 to avoid being dropped from their courses.

The policy was instituted to discourage students from remaining enrolled in classes they were not planning to attend, according to campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff. After the policy was met with widespread criticism and protest from students — many of whom receive financial aid — the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs extended the deadline to Aug. 30.

In August, the ASUC Inter-semester Committee unanimously passed a bill declaring the ASUC’s opposition to the policy.

But campus administrators announced in November that the policy would carry into the spring semester, requiring that undergraduates pay 20 percent of their tuition by Jan. 13 or face enrollment cancellation.

Campus representatives have said they will be working to identify students who are potentially at risk and will offer them assistance to meet the deadline, according to Ratliff.

— Cassandra Vogel

Contact the news desk at [email protected].

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