Chancellor Dirks announces faculty-led Peer Review Committee to address sexual misconduct violations

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An email sent May 4 from Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to the campus community outlined plans for the campus’s new Peer Review Committee, or PRC, tasked with reviewing faculty accused of violating UC sexual misconduct policy.

The new PRC will reflect “a peer-panel model,” consisting of faculty “with experience in matters related to faculty discipline, undergraduate and graduate student life advising and discrimination and harassment,” according to the email. The PRC’s membership will not consist of students or campus staff, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

Chancellor Dirks and Vice Provost for the Faculty Benjamin E. Hermalin will utilize the PRC in advancing an appropriate response to violations of UC Policy on Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment, or SVSH Policy, by faculty members.

Outside of the PRC, Dirks will receive advice and perspectives from campus entities including the PATH to Care Center director, Chief Ethics Risk and Compliance Officer, Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion and others.

In addition to this guidance, the email states that the respondent and complainant will have the opportunity to address the chancellor who will have the “ultimate authority regarding disciplinary actions.”

The implementation and processes of UC Berkeley’s PRC are consistent with the recommendations endorsed by the UC Office of the President, according to the email.

In March 2016, UC President Janet Napolitano issued new sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention and response methods in reaction to concerns relating to campus mismanagement of sexual misconduct cases.

Current procedures for review and sanctions regarding disciplinary cases remain in place, Gilmore said in an email.

Since late March, new directives for the PRC have emerged.

“We initially proposed a panel … made up for faculty, staff and students,” Gilmore said in an email. Gilmore added that, following the peer review model outlined under UCOP guidelines, the panel will consist of faculty only.

Vasha Dutell, a campus doctoral student in vision science, said students should be advising the chancellor. She added that a diverse set of students who have experienced sexual misconduct should also be included on the committee.

The chancellor will determine faculty member representatives for the committee by selecting from a pool of candidates provided by the Academic Senate, according to Gilmore’s email.

“This is one more instance of the faculty protecting themselves,” said attorney Leslie Levy, who represented Tyann Sorrell in her harassment suit against former UC Berkeley School of Law dean Sujit Choudhry. Levy added that the intent of a faculty-only committee is to safeguard the “ivory tower protections that faculty have.”

Levy advocates that the committee should have a variety of perspectives from students and staff including those who have experienced sexual harassment and sexual violence in an educational setting.

“As we know faculty sexually harasses staff as well as students,” Levy said. “Maybe if you have been through it you actually understand it.”

Contact Ahna Straube at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @akstraube.