The former law school dean of the University of California at Berkeley sued the university in federal court Sept. 15, seeking to block a disciplinary process that could result in loss of his tenure for alleged sexual harassment.
Sujit Choudhry, 46, resigned as dean in March, two days after his executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell, sued Choudhry and the university in Alameda County Superior Court.
Sorrell claims that Choudhry sexually harassed her with repeated unwanted kissing and hugging and that the university didn’t do enough about it when it investigated him and reached a settlement last year.
Choudhry’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, contends that a new round of discipline initiated this spring by UC President Janet Napolitano is unfair because he was already punished.
He also claims the process is racially discriminatory because he, as a South Asian born in India, is being treated more harshly than Caucasian faculty and administrators who were found to have committed what Choudhry calls “appalling sexual misconduct.”
Choudhry has admitted kissing and hugging Sorrell, but maintains he had no sexual intent. Sorrell contends the unwanted contact eventually occurred several times per day and made her feel “disgusted, humiliated, exposed and dirty.”
The current proceedings in UC Berkeley’s Academic Senate could result in termination of Choudhry’s tenure. Although he resigned as dean and has not been assigned classes to teach this year, he retains his tenure as a professor.
In the July 2015 settlement following the university’s initial investigation, Choudhry was allowed to remain as dean at that time and agreed to take a 10 percent pay cut, obtain counseling and write a letter of apology to Sorrell.
Choudhry’s lawsuit claims the current proceeding is a violation of his constitutional right to due process because it is a “second, duplicative disciplinary process.”
The lawsuit asks for preliminary and permanent injunctions blocking the proceeding. It also seeks a court declaration that the 2015 settlement was “a valid agreement that completely resolved the university’s disciplinary process.”
UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said, “The university was made aware of this new litigation only on Sept. 15 afternoon, and counsel has not yet had an opportunity to thoroughly review the complaint.”
“At this point what can be said is that the university intends to mount a vigorous and successful defense,” Mogulof said.