National Beat Reporter
After a series of legal disputes, a settlement has been reached between the University of California, Berkeley, previous UC Berkeley law school dean, Sujit Choudhry, and his former assistant Tyann Sorrell, who accused Choudhry of sexually assaulting her.
The legal settlement resulted in a series of financial remediation; Choudry will give $50,000 to a charity of Sorrell’s choice and pay another $50,000 to her lawyers, according to the terms of the settlement.
According to the terms of the settlement, the university will withdraw all the disciplinary complaints against Choudry and will officially consider him to be on a two-year sabbatical until May 2018, when he will officially resign.
In the meantime, Choudry will keep his benefits as a tenured professor, such as travel expenses and research funding.
This controversial legal battle began in March 2016, when Sorrell filed a lawsuit against her previous boss, claiming that he hugged, kissed, and touched her repeatedly in 2014 and 2015 without her consent and that the UC officials did nothing to stop it. Two days after filing this lawsuit, Choudhry resigned from his post as dean.
It was predetermined in July 2015 that Choudhry had violated the UC’s sexual harassment policy. The punishment issued by UC Berkeley officials was a temporarily reduced pay by 10 percent, from $415,000 to $375,5000, to apologize to Sorrell, and to seek counseling.
UC Berkeley students angrily rallied against this punishment, criticizing Choudhry’s punishment to coincide with the school’s record of tolerating offensive behavior.
In response to the student outcry and the public’s intensified magnifying glass on UC Berkeley, UC President Janet Napolitano wrote to the then-campus Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, demanding that Choudry be barred from campus for the remainder of the academic term and that the UC Berkeley Academic Senate to consider the revocation of his tenure.
The UC Board of Regents, who are the final say when it comes to revoking tenure, have exercised that power on two UC Berkeley professors in the past 25 years.
Controversy around this case was further inflamed in September 2016, when Choudhry filed a lawsuit against the UC Berkeley, accusing the Academic Senate for operating on a bias against him, pointing out that after Sorrell filed a suit against Choudhry she received an award from the Senate for outstanding service.
Choudhry also claimed that he was being singled out by his race and country of origin. As a Canadian citizen of Indian descent, his lawsuit claims that his treatment was more severe in comparison to two other UC Berkeley employees, both white, accused of sexual harassment allegations.
The first Cal faculty member mentioned was Graham Fleming, who was accused by ex-Assistant Vice Chancellor Diane Leite of sexually assaulting her. In 2016, Fleming stepped down from his post for “personal reasons,” but was able to maintain his position as a chemistry professor. But, like Choudhry, Fleming was given no classes to teach.
When Geoffrey Marcy, a well-known astronomy professor and potential Nobel Prize contender in 2015, was caught under scrutiny after his record of sexually assaulting his students for over a decade was revealed to the public. The outraged scientific community rallied for Marcy to quit, which he did so later that year, losing his tenure as a professor.
According to this new legal settlement, Choudhry dropped his lawsuit against the UC. “All related litigation has now been dismissed,” the university said in a statement.
The UCSB Title IX & Sexual Harassment Prevention Office was contacted for a comment on the issue of Sorrel’s accusations against Choudhry allegations and eventual legal settlement between them, but were unavailable for comment.