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When will sexual harassment culture at UC Berkeley change?

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DECEMBER 01, 2017

Berkeley is filled to the brim with people accused of sexual harassment. Sujit Choudhry can still be found doing research on Berkeley’s campus and Norman Pattiz sits complacent on the UC’s highest governing body. Why are they still here?

At this moment, allegations of sexual harassment are being taken seriously like never before: Powerful men have been toppled across Hollywood, news outlets and capitol buildings. As incredible stories of power abused make headlines, the reckoning feels incomplete in our community.

It’s clear that men in power cultivate cultures of fear and silence in the workplace — particularly in industries in which personal connections and reputation are still common currency.

On college campuses, graduate students’ experiences mimic those found in Hollywood: Graduate student is to professor advisor as aspiring actor is to well-connected film producer. Some seem optimistic that fervor over Harvey Weinstein’s (and many others’) allegations could change the game for responses to misconduct in academia.

But that would require breaking down barriers to punishing tenured faculty and dismantling an entrenched culture in higher education that is averse to removing star astrophysicists and law school deans.

“Privileged or scholarly status should not pardon nor minimize the consequences for engaging in sexual harassment,” Tyann Sorrell, who sued Berkeley Law’s former dean for sexual harassment, wrote in an op-ed to The Daily Californian.

The deep culture of neglect for survivors will be the hardest to uproot. Survivors are too often doubted, or worse, blamed for their assaults. Conversations on the importance of consent are repeatedly tossed aside and belittled. As allegations surface faster than we can process, investigations open and public figures fall like dominoes, we must remember that each individual has to take the fight upon themselves for a real culture shift to occur.

And that fight should not be politicized. There’s a storm brewing over this state’s very own Capitol, as allegations of rife sexual harassment and assault behind closed doors surface. Moreover, the California Legislature has come under fire for the severe mishandling of complaints.

“What everybody here knows is that we have rapists in this building. We have molesters among us,” the head of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, Christine Pelosi, told the Mercury News.

We cannot be lenient on some lawmakers because they might perform support for more robust sexual harassment policy enforcement in public even as they make unwanted advances on co-workers in private.

Sorrell concluded her statement by saying that, “regardless of your status in life, you have every right to learn and work in a safe environment, free of harassment and abuse.” But so long as all of the Sujit Choudhrys and Norman Pattizs remain on their pedestals, Berkeley will never be able to build such an environment.

We cannot rest until everyone has been afforded this right.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

DECEMBER 01, 2017