‘The Writing is on the Wall': Records Show 19 UC Berkeley Employees Violated Sexual Harassment Policy

Documents released by the University of California, Berkeley show 19 employees, including six faculty members, were found to have sexually harassed students, employees or both since 2011.

The records obtained Tuesday by the East Bay Times after a Public Records Act request reveal 11 new cases that had not been disclosed during the recent high-profile sexual harassment cases involving a renowned astronomy professor, a vice chancellor, the dean of the law school and Cal's assistant basketball coach.

The reports show sexual harassment complaints against an assistant diving coach, a counselor for disabled students, an adjunct statistics professor, and an assistant professor in South and Southeast Asian studies. Seven of the victims were students and 10 were employees.

The documents showed that all of the employees fired over the violations were staff members, and none were tenured faculty, the newspaper said.

Tyann Sorrell, who has sued the university's board of regents and former law school dean Sujit Choudhry for sexual harassment, spoke at a news conference Wednesday. 

She said she was "just heartbroken" by the news that "more people have gone through this."

Sorrell continued: "I sat and wondered, 'What did the victims go through? Was it what I went through? Was it worse?'"

Sorrell says she endured months of unwanted hugs and kisses from Choudhry. The University disciplined him with a pay cut and asked that he write an apology letter to Sorrell, but did not fire him.

After Sorrell filed her suit, Choudhry was put on a leave of absence and eventually resigned.

School spokesman Dan Mogulof told the newspaper the relatively small number of overall cases makes it difficult to say whether professors are given preferential treatment over staffers, but a new task force summoned by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks will review all the cases and their handling.

"We want everything to be examined, up to and including how discipline is imposed and whether indeed there are disparities of how discipline is imposed based on the status of the accused,'' Mogulof said. "The writing is on the wall. We know we must do a better job.''

The release of nearly 400 pages of documents come as UC Berkeley faces a growing outcry over its handling of sexual harassment and misconduct on campus. It prompted University of California President Janet Napolitano to announce last month a new process for reviewing sexual harassment claims against administrators.

A new system-wide committee would review and approve all proposed penalties for high-level administrators who violate sexual assault and harassment policies.

Mogulof said Wednesday, "We can't turn back the hands of time. We know we have to do a better job in terms of how we impose discipline."

The university says it's taking new steps to deal with the issue, including forming a peer-review panel and speeding up their response time to complaints.

Sorrell and her attorney, however, said major changes are needed and what's taken place at UC Berkeley is inexecusable.

"There needs to be a systemic overhaul — a major overhaul," she said. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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