Law School Events and Sexual Misconduct on Campus

The following message has been sent to members of the Berkeley Unit of UAW 2865:

Dear members,

We write to you with outrage at the recent news that Sujit Choudhry, the (now former) dean of Berkeley Law School, sexually harassed multiple workers at the law school and was permitted to remain in his position with appallingly minor sanctions after an internal investigation concluded that he was guilty of sexual harassment. Top university administrators covered up his actions, and members of the law school community only learned of his behavior from a news outlet, six months after the judgment of the internal investigation. Even after Choudhry admitted to sexually harassing a staff member, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele used his authority to unilaterally “resolve” the complaint by seeking minimal sanctions: a 10% pay cut to his $472,917 salary for one year, a letter of apology, some counseling, and the sexual harassment prevention training that the dean had, until this moment, successfully avoided. According to the survivor, a campus official told her that the Executive Vice Chancellor chose not to dismiss the dean despite his conduct “because it would ruin the dean’s career, that is, destroy his future chances for higher appointment.”

We stand in solidarity with the organized students at Berkeley Law, and call on the administration to accede to their statement of demands. We stand in solidarity with the staff member whose well-being and livelihood were deemed less important than the career of an abuser.

And we are angered, but not shocked, by the way this case conforms to UC Berkeley’s pattern of turning a blind eye to sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus. From ignoring Geoff Marcy’s serial sexual harassment of graduate and undergraduate students in Astronomy, to insisting on hiring subcontracted workers through a company that has exposed its workers to the risk of sexual assault, the Berkeley administration has consistently demonstrated that it values its public image and bottom line over the health and well-being of its staff, faculty, and students. We have no confidence in the university’s policies or leadership when it comes to addressing the serious wrongs that have been done to its community.

For months, UAW 2865 has been requesting that the university do a major overhaul of its policies surrounding sexual violence, including sexual harassment. We offered extensive feedback to the Task Force that President Napolitano appointed to redraft the system-wide policy, and our feedback was roundly ignored in the final, deeply problematic policy.

We will continue to pressure the Berkeley campus administration and the office of the president, working with other campuses and other Berkeley campus groups, including the Graduate Assembly, student leaders in the Law School, post-docs, other unions, and faculty allies, to advocate for the safety of our members, our students, and our fellow workers. The current climate, in which all too often the consequences of sexual misconduct are deemed less significant than the reputation of the offender, must cease, and we demand to be a part of the process of ensuring meaningful change.

If you wish to become more directly involved in the union organizing around these issues on our campus, or wish to be connected to resources for survivors of sexual violence and sexual harassment, please feel free to contact Erin Greer (egreer3@gmail.com) or Clare Stinchcombe (clare.stinchcombe@gmail.com). You can also sign our petition to President Napolitano, and keep your eyes out for developments and ways you can support this ongoing campaign.

Yours in solidarity,

Berkeley Unit Leadership, UAW 2865

 

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