Time’s Up on UC Berkeley administrators failing to address gender discrimination

Jessica Khauv/Staff

Harassment. Discrimination. Retaliation. Gaslighting. While this might sound like a promo for a spy thriller or a reality show, this is what I actually endured for three years as I tried to report my experiences working in Information Services and Technology, also known as IST or simply IT, on this campus to the appropriate and responsible administrative authorities. My goal was to improve what a campus investigator had determined was a “hostile work environment” for future female employees who might be exposed to a team that had “spit out” five women, including me, as one male colleague described it.

Pando published an in-depth expose and a follow-up in late February about the experiences of five women who worked in IT under Chief Information Officer Larry Conrad and Chief Technology Officer Bill Allison, and The Daily Californian also wrote an article about our experiences.

Ben Gross, who reported to Allison, hired me as well as two other women onto an IT team in what we were later told was an attempt to cover up that two women had been pushed off the team before us. Our hiring wasn’t an inclusion and diversity step but rather an optics and perception step to throw off the scent of foul play. The two women who had left the team before us had been bullied, isolated, mocked, prevented from having access to do their work, chastised for trying to do their work and eventually forced off of the team, exactly as we were.

In response to the Pando expose, Conrad sent out a request this past Friday, March 9, 2018 — a day after International Women’s Day — to all IT employees on campus, asking us to “speak up if you see or know of behavior that is contrary to the values we want to engender in IST” and asking for our “ideas about tangible steps we can take to engender and support the values we want the organization to represent and to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.”

While these are fine ideas, and this might sound like a reasonable response, this is all too little, too late.

You see, in September 2016, after other employees and I had reached out to him, Conrad said in an email:

“I want you to know that I take seriously any allegation of sex discrimination or hostile work environment based on sex, and I will be taking appropriate action to ensure that the EEI unit–and IST more generally–is an environment where all employees can do their best work.”

And earlier that same year, on April 20, 2016, Conrad emailed IST to say:

“It is extremely important to me—and I hope all of you as well—that we create and sustain a culture where abusive behaviors are not tolerated, where we share the responsibility of preventing such behaviors, where we act responsibly if they occur, and where all employees feel supported.”

So what was the serious action that was taken by Conrad and Allison after they learned of a hostile work environment for women? They rewarded the men responsible for creating the misogynistic environment and terminated my position with a justification of mandatory budget cuts.

I still have great love in my heart for UC Berkeley, but I cannot endorse or support leadership that routinely ignores the truth and avoids accountability. I am not alone in this position; the University Professional & Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America Local 9119 union representing 14,000 workers, including technical and professional employees, is circulating a petition calling for the removal of Conrad and Allison. Please consider signing and sharing the petition if you believe that Time’s Up for giving tone-deaf campus administrators a second chance.

Vanessa Kaskiris is the former senior technical project manager of the campus Endpoint Engineering and Infrastructure (EEI) team in IT.