The University of California, Berkeley's second-highest ranking administrator —who had faced criticism for allegedly being too lenient on a fellow administrator accused of sexual harassment — resigned from his post on Friday, citing personal reasons.
Claude Steele, a prominent social psychologist who became the top academic officer at Berkeley two years ago, said in a statement he was stepping down as provost and executive vice chancellor because his wife has serious health problems that preclude him from devoting himself to the job.
"The choice has thus become clear: I can no longer offer UC Berkeley the time and level of commitment it needs from its (provost), while at the same time being a part of my family in the way I want to be," Steele said.
Steele, 70, became a target of angry faculty and students last month after the executive assistant to the dean of Berkeley's law school revealed in a lawsuit that her boss had violated university sexual harassment policy by kissing, hugging and touching her repeatedly, but received from the provost only a temporary pay cut and orders to undergo counseling as punishment.
The dean, Sujit Choudhry, resigned several days later amid mounting faculty outrage that he had been allowed to remain as dean after a campus investigation substantiated his assistant's sexual harassment allegations.
While Steele initially defended the disciplinary measures he had imposed on Choudhry as appropriate, he and UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks later reversed course, saying "the initial decision not to remove the dean from his position is the subject of legitimate criticism."
Steele, whose research focuses on academic under-achievement among minority students, alcohol and drug addiction and destructive stereotypes, said he expects to return in the fall as a faculty member at Berkeley, where he holds dual appointments in the Psychology Department and the School of Education.
He previously served as a dean at Stanford University and provost of Columbia University in New York.