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The mess at Berkeley

[ 185 ] April 17, 2017 |

Note: At Scott’s suggestion, I’ve changed the title of this post, which was misleading, in that it didn’t make sense in the context of the argument in the post, which remains unchanged.  Choudhry clearly engaged in sexual harassment as defined by his employer, and the decision to remove him as dean was amply justified.  Firing him from the faculty is much more problematic, especially given the procedural irregularity of holding a second proceeding and giving him a much harsher  enhanced punishment, not because of any new facts, but because of public outrage over the initial punishment.

The University of California at Berkeley has effectively fired law professor Sujit Choudhry, bringing to an end a two-year imbroglio over his conduct toward an administrative assistant while he was dean of the law school.

This case is troubling on a number of levels, and I have very mixed feelings about it.  I’ll give a brief summary of the facts, but anyone interested in the matter should at a minimum read the report issued by Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination in July of 2015.  (Note that this report is an investigatory document, not an official judicial or administrative finding of fact, although it reaches factual conclusions of its won).

In brief, Choudhry’s executive assistant Tyann Sorrell accused him of:

(1) Behaving in a demeaning way toward her in a fashion that was unrelated to sex or gender discrimination; and

(2) Sexually harassing her.

Point (1) is getting largely ignored in the coverage of the case, probably because the investigation concluded that the alleged demeaning behavior, assuming it occurred as described, didn’t violate the university’s sexual harassment policies.  But I suspect it’s actually quite salient to the case.

Choudhry became dean in July of 2014.  Sorrell complained that Choudhry forced her to perform various menial tasks that she didn’t think were part of her job, including picking up his dry cleaning, finding a wash and fold laundromat for him,  getting him meals, snacks, and drinks — she says he yelled at her when his tea got cold — and faxing mortgage documents.  (Choudhry’s defense to making the latter requests of his subordinate was that the mortgage documents in question related to Berkeley’s subsidized mortgage program for tenure-track faculty such as himself, and that therefore applying for the mortgage was part of his job.  Choudhry was paid $472,917 by Berkeley in 2014-2015.  Sorrell, who I bet wasn’t eligible for any special employer-subsidized mortgages, was making $66,850.)

Sorrell also claimed Choudhry got upset on the job a lot, and would sometimes refer to some of his distinguished colleagues as “assholes,” “son of a bitch” and “mother fuckers.”  (I believe in the King’s English this is actually spelt “motherfuckers,” but whatever).

The OPHD decided that none of this had anything to do with sexual harassment — an arguably dubious conclusion, given that Choudhry’s alleged behavior in this vein has a distinctly Don Draperish quality to it, and it’s safe to say that Don’s treatment of the “girls” in his office had a gendered/sexualized component.

Instead, the OPHD busted Choudhry for what the office concluded in its investigation was inappropriate touching of Sorrell.  Again, you should read the report and draw your own conclusions, but here’s the gist of her accusations:

The second part of the Complainant’s complaint is that the Respondent has touched
hugged and kissed her since September of 2014, and that this behavior constitutes sexual
harassment. The Complainant stated that this behavior started out as “bear hugs” where he
opened his arms wide and gave her a hug every few days. However, the hugging and kissing on
her cheek quickly escalated into a daily event, occurring five to six times a day. For example,
initially the Respondent blocked the entrance of her cubicle with his arms spread to give her a
“bear hug,” but over time the hugs became “tighter and he [continued to] kissed me on the
cheek.” Eventually, the Complainant began to feel “smothered” and “encroached upon” when
the hugging and kissing started to occur daily. The hugs from the Respondent became “more
lingering.” Then a kiss on the cheek would be added to the lingering hugs.

The Respondent would also come up behind the Complainant while she was at her desk
typing and rubbed her shoulders from behind, rubbed the side of her arms from her shoulders to
her elbows and kissed her on the cheek from behind. The Respondent has also squeezed the
Complainant’s arm when he passes by her desk.

The Complainant reported that the Respondent’s pattern of hugging and kissing the
Complainant on the cheek, escalated in February of March 2015 to multiple times, daily. The
Complainant reported that the Respondent would hug and kiss her when he was “happy.” For
example, he’d hug and kiss her good morning, after he had a good meeting, and to say good-bye.
He kissed her mostly on the cheek, but also kissed her on the top of the head if she was sitting
down at her desk.

In January of 2015, the Respondent took the Complainant’s hands and put them on his
waist, rubbed her hands and wrists that were on his waist, and kissed her on the cheek. After this
incident the Complainant went to the bathroom and cried. The Complainant believed that others
observed the Respondent’s behavior, and she felt that her professional reputation in the office
was compromised.

Choudhry’s response was that he didn’t intend anything sexual by this kind of thing, that the behavior wasn’t nearly as common as Sorrell claimed (he said it was “once or twice a week” as opposed to several times daily), and that he disputed a couple of specific details, such as kissing Sorrell from behind when she was at her desk. (See the report for the full details).

Anyway, the investigative report, using a preponderance of the evidence standard, believed Sorrell’s version over Choudhry’s, although it’s worth noting that there doesn’t seem to be a radical disjunction between their two versions of the relevant events.  (It’s also worth noting that the investigator’s basis for believing Sorrell in regard to the question of frequency — that she had no motive to exaggerate — is dubious.  Sorrell’s motive for exaggeration, conscious or unconscious, is identical to Choudhry’s motive for understatement).

After an administrative proceeding, Berkeley’s provost docked Choudhry’s pay by 10% for the year — this was in effect a $47,000 fine — made him apologize to Sorrell, and required him to undergo counseling while having his behavior “monitored.”  Shortly after this punishment was announced in March of last year, Sorrell filed a lawsuit, which led to much immediate public outcry.  Berkeley’s top administrators, reeling from a series of sexual harassment incidents, including one involving the law school’s former dean, reacted by forcing Choudhry to resign from the deanship.

This didn’t mollify critics inside and outside the institution though, and eventually the university decided to reopen the matter.  (Rick Hills, who is as he acknowledges a friend of Choudhry’s and not a disinterested observer, wrote a long and interesting post on the subject of this quasi-double jeopardy here).

The upshot was that Choudhry has now effectively been fired from his tenured position on the UC faculty.  (After the end of this semester he will remain on unpaid sabbatical until next spring, at which time he will voluntarily resign, with “voluntarily” here being what lawyers call “a term of art.”).

As a began this post by saying, this is a troubling situation on many levels. First, it boggles my not that easily boggled mind that a 45-year-old male academic in 2015 thought that it was OK to behave as Choudhry admits he behaved toward a female subordinate.  Choudhry was born in India, but he’s been in North America since he was a child, so I doubt this has anything to do with cultural misunderstanding in that sense.  And whileI know nothing of the no doubt various Indian sub-cultural mores in these matters, I would be surprised if any of them featured such a casual attitude toward physical contact between the genders in professional work places.  (There’s also been some talk of Choudhry perhaps inadvertently employing “European” customs in the uptight American workplace. This strikes me as absurd, given that he’s not European, and in any case highly ritualized European greeting customs between male and female acquaintances bear no resemblance to his admitted behavior).

Second, while I personally find Choudhry’s claim that he had no (conscious) sexual intentions toward Sorrell plausible, the extremely inappropriate character of his behavior — and its legal status as sexual harassment — doesn’t depend on such intentions.  Choudhry’s admitted behaviors are the sorts of things that are only appropriate between people who are genuinely intimate, whether physically or emotionally, and/or as gestures of affectionate relations between profoundly unequal people.  This kind of profound inequality is essentially that found between adults and young children.  It should go without saying that treating one’s co-workers as either involuntary intimates or as patronized pseudo-children  is completely unacceptable.

Choudhry’s behavior, whether in the weaker version he describes, or the stronger one described by Sorrell, was seriously inappropriate, and deserved to be sanctioned. There was, it’s fair to say, something distinctly creepy about it, whatever his intentions.  And I have no problem with the conclusion that it was bad enough, and revealed a sufficient lack of judgment, that it was ultimately appropriate to remove him from the deanship, given the discretionary nature of that job, and the sensitive situation the university now finds itself in, after decades of coddling vastly worse instances of sexual harassment.

All that said, Berkeley’s subsequent handling of this matter has been appalling.  Keep in mind that this is an institution that continues to employ on the very same faculty as Choudhry a straight-up war criminal: a man who played an absolutely central role in torturing large numbers of human beings, by supplying specious legal rationales for the commission of that particular war crime by the United States of America.  (By the way Berkeley paid John Yoo $406,385 in 2015, which is a shocking enough number all by itself, but which in addition is $116,000 more than the institution was paying him just five years earlier, when he was freshly returned from his international law crime spree).

So Berkeley has the stomach to not merely retain, but to shower massively increased compensation on, the deplorable Professor Yoo, but it’s using an administrative mulligan to toss Sujit Choudhry out of a metaphorically high window, pour encourager les autres I suppose.

None of this is to any way deny or minimize what is apparently a long-standing pervasive problem with sexual harassment at the institution.   (See, for example, the allegations in the lawsuit just filed against philosophy professor John Searle).  But destroying Choudhry’s career as a convenient gesture of expiation merely exacerbates rather than ameliorates that sordid history.


Comments (185)

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  1. yet_another_lawyer says:

    After an administrative proceeding, Berkeley’s provost docked Choudhry’s pay by 10% for the year — this was in effect a $47,000 fine — made him apologize to Sorrell, and required him to undergo counseling while having his behavior “monitored.”

    1) Dare I ask what happens to the money? Does the school just keep it? This dockage appears meritorious, of course, but talk about a conflict of interest.
    2) With the rapidly diminishing marginal value of a dollar, I seriously question how much of a message a 10% dockage in pay sends to someone making this much.

    • DocAmazing says:

      Dare I ask what happens to the money?

      They apply it toward lowering tuition.

      Just kidding! It will be eaten up in legal fees for the next sexual harassment case.

  2. PunditusMaximus says:

    While the whole John Yoo thing is beyond indefensible, I see this more as the beginning of laying down markers.

    If you want to change a cultural acceptance of rampant sexual discrimination, go after the low-status asshole who does it first, then use his firing as a precedent.

    My 2c.

    • Dilan Esper says:

      While the whole John Yoo thing is beyond indefensible, I see this more as the beginning of laying down markers.

      Absolutely, and we have a lot of markers to lay down.

      By way of coincidence, I was just reading Jia Tolentino’s piece from a couple of years ago about sexual advances by male literary “mentors” directed at up and coming female writers. (It was linked to from a piece on “Girls”, which is my favorite show.)

      The fact of the matter is, older, powerful men in academia have a ton of power with respect to their female students, graduate assistants, subordinates, and junior faculty, and there’s just a boatload of abuses of that power. Back when I was in law school, the number of relationships between (almost always male) professors and students and former students was significant. It’s going to take a long time and a lot of hard work to do something about this, but we’ll never get anywhere close to gender equality until we do. It should be seen as an abuse of trust for a powerful male to treat subordinates in this fashion, not as a perq of the job.

  3. Mark Field says:

    Berkeley Law also had no problem with Philip Johnson on its faculty.

  4. Lurker says:

    I believe that one of the reasons for Choudry’s firing is that, by all means, he was an unlikeable coworker. Sexual abuse is likely secondary to calling colleagues “motherfuckers”.

    • PunditusMaximus says:


      Who was the POS who promoted this obviously deranged human?

      • postmodulator says:

        Does that seem strange to people? Perhaps I was in an “academic support” role for too long, but this seems to be to be pretty average behavior for an academic.

      • ArchTeryx says:

        This is normal in academia. People think it’s such an enlightened, Ivory Tower workplace, but I’ve seen shit in academia that would make the worst corporate boss I’ve ever had turn white – or his HR department.

        Had it done to me, too. I had to threaten a well known university directly with a lawsuit once to keep them from firing me 2 months before my layoff. Why? Because some professor got pissed at me and wanted me gone – not my boss, mind you, or even someone my boss knew, but a *random faculty member*. It’s just that nasty.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Seriously? I mean, the use of such strong language is clearly undesirable, but is it truly so exceptional, especially if done behind closed doors with one other person, who he may think is sympathetic and/or sufficiently subordinate to him so as to serve as a confidant? Especially in the often behaviorally looser realm of academia? Well, academic administration, at least – or, rather, law school administration; I take law schools, like business schools, to be less completely in the academic milieu than many other university departments or schools.

      The (allegedly incesssant, and certainly not infrequent) unwanted and highly intrusive physical contact would be deeply skeevy even without the gender/sexual component, and deserves a serious response – certainly a more serious response than the initial one, of a negligible fine (he’ll likely have spent more than that on lawyers, and can easily afford that amount). But having a potty mouth and resenting his coworkers and peers? If you’re going to take that so very seriously we might have a wider problem.

      • elm says:

        I agree. My guess is nearly all Deans refer to at least some of their faculty colleagues as sons of bitches and assholes. May not be the best management technique but hardly worthy of a firing, let alone more worthy than sexual harassment.

        • Vance Maverick says:

          But I can see how for a subordinate, who cannot take a side in his gripes against colleagues (and is for many reasons disinclined to sympathy), it would be painful to have to put up with the offensive word.

          • elm says:

            Oh, no doubt. If you’re going to vent like that behind closed doors, it should be to someone at or near your level. Doing so in front of your assistant is incredibly innapropriate, but it’s not a firing offense, in my opinion. (Recently, I complained about the behavior of an assistant professor to a fellow tenured professor but in the hearing of a different assistant professor. Although the gap in power is much smaller than in the Chaudry case, I still immediately regretted doing so and apologized. I put that assistant professor in an awkward position that I had no business putting them in.)

      • Origami Isopod says:

        Because in many workplaces, including academic ones, violations of middle-class propriety such as using language like “motherfuckers” is considered a worse sin than preying on female students, who are there to be used anyway.

        Presumably this is what Lurker meant, without endorsing it.

        • Warren Terra says:

          I don’t want to completely devalue the profanity aspect of the complaint: it’s bad behavior, and worse when done to a subordinate who’s not in a position to object, or even sincerely to agree. But I’ve certainly seen a lot of profanity and disparagement directed at absent peers, and worse, in academic workplaces. However wrong, it’s not exceptional – unlike the regular mauling of his subordinate.

          • Origami Isopod says:

            Well, yes, calling your colleagues and especially your subordinates by such language is abusive. Generally, however, the objection is not to the abusiveness but the “crassness.”

  5. This is a deeply silly post; I hope Campos deletes it or apologizes for it.

    Nothing in the post supports the idea that this was a “witch hunt,” as the title suggests. Chaudry behaved inexcusably, not just inappropriately. You don’t touch people like that at work, let alone repeatedly.

    The only thing Campos has to hang onto is “but John Yoo!” Well yeah, Yoo is a war criminal and should’ve been prosecuted. But he wasn’t, and Berkeley doesn’t care, obviously. That is no kind of excuse for anyone else’s misconduct.

    Instead we get “None of this is to any way deny or minimize what is apparently a long-standing pervasive problem with sexual harassment at the institution,” followed by “destroying Choudhry’s career as a convenient gesture of expiation.”

    Berkeley didn’t destroy the guy’s career. He destroyed it himself, by behaving inexcusably and egregiously.

    • Orphos says:

      No joke! Why would -not- firing and instead retaining someone who agreed that he did in fact commit actions that are in fact sexual harassment be better?

      • Gregor Sansa says:

        I think the argument (which I’m not endorsing)- is they could have fired him initially but not in retaliation for vigorously defending himself.

        • elm says:

          Yes, I think a reasonable case can be made that Berkeley handled this situation very poorly both initially and in the second round. Clearly, Berkeley should not be applauded for this action, athough I might have done so if they fired him after the first investigation.

    • Origami Isopod says:

      Agreed. The fact that Berkeley employs other terrible human beings is an entirely separate issue. If Bill O’Loofah got fired from FOX News, would that be a “witch hunt” because they’d still be employing a studio full of scumbags?

    • Robespierre says:

      Pretty much.

    • Mark Field says:

      Berkeley Law has a long history of bad hiring decisions, as my link to Philip Johnson shows. Past mistakes hardly seem like a good justification for making more.

    • persephone_the_wanderer says:

      See also “it boggles my not that easily boggled mind that a 45-year-old male academic in 2015 thought that it was OK to behave as Choudhry admits he behaved toward a female subordinate.”

      What alternate timeline did this sentence come from? Anyone living in academia and not blinded by misogyny should be aware of a long string of incidents involving powerful men and powerless women that look *exactly* like this. And of course in addition to the countless stories that circulate through informal means, there are numerous widely-publicized and discussed such scandals (cf. John Searle, to take one of the more recent ones).

      What is even?

      • Origami Isopod says:

        Seriously. How is this a surprise to any progressive?

        • Karen24 says:

          I used to do greviance reviews for the agency where I worked. That is, I was one of the two or three attorneys who spent a significant amount of time investigating harassment claims of one sort or another, almost all of which ended up with one of the parties getting fired. We knew better than anyone the consequences of behaving like the dean in the original post. Despite that experience, one of the other lawyers who got these assignments got fired for propositioning his admin. That did surprise me.

          I believe Campos has a similar reaction. Choudry was the head of an institution that exists to teach, among other things, the mechanics of sexual harassment cases. He supervised a couple dozen experts in this area. Even with that level of knowledge, he continued to harass his subordinate.

          • DAS says:

            Mrs. DAS used to work in an investigatory (conducting internal investigations of various workplace complaints) capacity at a quasi-government authority. The investigatory unit in which she worked was sorely in need of investigation itself with some of the shady stuff it did to employees in its unit (including Mrs. DAS who was conveniently laid off just before she became vested in her pension). There is always, with watch-dog departments, an issue of “qui custodiet ipsos custodes?”

    • rm says:

      Exactly. This guy dug his own professional grave and deserved to be fired. I don’t see the slowness of the byzantine process as a reason he should not at long last have been let go. Tenure doesn’t cover this, and I don’t see double jeapardy, not that this was criminal court anyway.

      And “but they hired other monsters” is a logical fallacy of some kind that I am too lazy to look up.

    • brad says:

      Indeed. Taken another way this would amount to a kind of concern trolling. If being a war criminal is the standard someone has to meet for termination so long as Woo is employed there then he’s acting as a shield for all sorts of lesser but still horrendous actions.

    • JohnT says:

      The other key point that we are talking about the Dean of the school. Leaders get paid more money partly because they take on greater responsibility. Part of that is to set the tone. If an institution has a a workplace harassment problem, then one should consider firing the boss. If the boss gets caught harassing, it should be a no-brainer. You can him.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        The other key point that we are talking about the Dean of the school.

        I don’t think it’s too much to expect that people read the posts before commenting.

        I wish Paul would change the title of the post, but he very clearly said that he should have been fired from his administrative position. The question is his tenured faculty position, which is a much more complicated issue, particularly given the double jeopardy issues.

        • twbb says:

          Yep, beat me to it.

        • ColBatGuano says:

          Can tenure really be cover for sexual harassment though?

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            Obviously, nobody thinks that.

            • Pseudonym says:

              Does anyone think that the line for (being fired for) sexual harassment should be drawn differently for tenured than for untenured positions?

              • elm says:

                Hopefully not, but tenure does mean that procedures must be followed before the employee can be fired. It is unclear whether Berkeley was properly following those procedures.

                • TopsyJane says:

                  It is unclear whether Berkeley was properly following those procedures.

                  There’s a big difference between “procedures may not have been followed properly” and “witch hunt” or even “mess at Berkeley.” The university did make a mess, but as far as I can see, only because it didn’t act decisively and appropriately in the first place.

                  If anything, he seems to have got off fairly easy:

                  Under the settlement, UC agreed to drop a disciplinary action against Choudhry, withdraw all charges and allow him to remain a tenured faculty member until his voluntary resignation “in good standing” at the end of the next academic year. Until then, UC agreed to provide him up to $10,000 for travel each school year and $97,210 in research funds.

                  Choudhry agreed to pay $50,000 to a charity of Sorrell’s choosing and $50,000 to her attorneys.

        • JohnT says:

          Did read, but not well enough. Apologies. I would still disagree that it was ‘ultimately ‘ necessary- it was immediately necessary.

          Also I still think that not wanting to employ someone that you’ve dismissed from a senior position for misbehaviour is pretty natural. The element I agree with is that trying to revoke his tenure at the school should have been done immediately rather than much later after a campaign. Ideally he would have resigned voluntarily, and been allowed time to find another position (which formally is what has happened now anyway).

    • Warren Terra says:

      “Witch hunt” is a very inaccurate characterization. For one thing, there’s no such thing as a witch, but there is such a thing as sexual harassment, and clearly this guy is at best wildly inappropriate in the workplace.

      I do think there are double-jeopardy, due-process, and simple administrative competence issues given what I take – from the post, without following the links – to be the facts:

      1) Choudry was a terrible and obnoxious boss. He demanded petty personal services of his admin assistant that weren’t in her duties, he treated her abysmally (the cold tea whining, for example, when I’m not sure tea is in her duties at all), and he also had a pottymouth and inappropriately discussed and disparaged his colleagues with her.

      2) Depending on whom you believe, Choudry either frequently or incessantly engaged in wildly inappropriate and demeaning unwanted physical contact with his subordinate, of a sort that’s not allowed even before we get to the question of its sexual content. Very bad stuff.

      3) The initial response to Choudry was fairly laughable: a fine amounting to 10% of his base pay for one year, and given benefits and opportunities a much smaller part of his total pay for the year.

      4) On the other hand, the issue had been dealt with, and then the university essentially fired him from a tenured job, rather than teach him a lesson, install safeguards, attempt behavior modification, and move on. This seems like a possibly extreme response (he was a terrible boss, but per the allegations likely not the worst sexual harasser in his department), and moreso given the double-jeopardy question.

      • Ronan says:

        Right, the only way the witch hunt analogy makes sense is if campos thinks the witches were actually real, but were being scapegoated to take attention away from the vampires.

      • There’s a popular view that the Salem witch hunt in particular was the fault of hysterical women, the gender of the victims being irrelevant (or even, as in The Crucible, directed primarily and ahistorically at men, particularly male authority figures, due to Freudian stuff and such). It’s not unheard of for men to claim they’re victims of a witch hunt when accused of things that might be perceived as something like PC, and not only when the specter of “Internet shaming” rears its ugly head.

    • GFW says:

      Seconded, or thirty-thirded …

      And as other people have pointed out, referencing John Yoo is the logical fallacy that has become colloquially known as “Whataboutism”. He’s deplorable, shouldn’t have his job, and he’s completely irrelevant to the merits of the case in question.

    • elm says:

      I mostly agree here, although I don’t think this post is even in Campos’s top ten of posts to apologize for.

      That Berkeley employ someone even worse than Chaudry does not make them wrong to punish Chaudry. (It makes them wrong for hiring Yoo in the first place.)

      I can see a claim being made that Chaudry’s behavior, while wrong and deserving of punishment, was not so egregious as to be worthy of being fired (I don’t think I agree with that, but it’s not unreasonable, especially if this was Chaudry’s first offense.) And certainly the process by which this happened appears dubious.

      But by Chaudry’s own admissions, he sexually harassed his assistant. (And I agree with Paul that asking his assistant to do menial jobs for him sure seems like harrassment or discrimination as well.) He deserved to be punished in some severe way and that Berkeley also employs Yoo in no way excuses that. Seriously, it doesn’t even make sense on its own terms. What Yoo did was before he was employed and had nothing to do with his conduct as a law professor. It doesn’t make hiring him right, but it does mean it is unrelated to how Berkeley treats workplace harassment. Now if Berkeley fails to fire other faculty who were even worse harassers, one might be able to claim that CHaudry was made a scapegoat or level some charge of racism or cultural insensitivity (as Chaudry himself apparently had). But Yoo has literally nothing to do with this.

      And regardless, this wasn’t a witch hunt in any way, shape, or form.

      • Hogan says:

        It makes them wrong for hiring Yoo in the first place.

        In 1993?

        • elm says:

          Oh. I didn’t realize he was already on faculty. I though he was hired after he left the Bush administration. I retract that part of the claim. If he was only on leave, then the normal course of action is to allow him to come back. They were probably still wrong for not terminating their relationship with him before he returned.

          (I think I’m confusing his case with Alberto Gonalez’s, who was newly hired by Texas Tech after leaving the Bush administration.)

          • Warren Terra says:

            They chose to employ Yoo after he left the administration; even if they were unable to fire him, they chose to employ him in the teaching of law students, and in Constitutional Law to boot. They chose to employ him that way. If for some reason they couldn’t stop paying him, no-one was forcing them to commit that appalling act of misjudgment. They could have paid him to sit in an empty room, or to “work from home”, and not let him teach, or if it’s necessary as part of his academic freedom only let him teach obscure electives of his own devising.

            • elm says:

              That’s completely true. I only retracted that they were wrong to hire him. They were still probably wrong to continue employing him and certainly wrong to allow him to teach con law.

            • Dennis Orphen says:

              How about an obscure elective of my devising:

              Waterboarding 101 (where the instructor allows the students to waterboard them, proving beyond all reasonable doubt the safety and efficacy of the torture interrogation method.

    • bender says:

      I agree that nothing in the post supports the idea that this was a witch hunt. A witch hunt in the modern political sense of the term is not persecution of one individual. It is going after numbers of people for alleged crimes for which there is little or no real evidence and pressuring people to denounce each other. The prosecution of the McMartins for running an imaginary child abuse ring was a witch hunt; Senator McCarthy’s anticommunist campaign was a witch hunt. The UCB administration is attempting to enforce policies against sexual harassment in a situation where there is no question that sexual harassment is widespread.

      Use of the term “witch hunt” in this context is egregious. The historical European witch hunts accused, imprisoned, tried and executed many more women than men in most of the countries where the early modern witch trials occurred. Witch hunters’ manuals cast more suspicion on women than on men, and displayed a great deal of male anxiety about women’s sexuality. Whether Dr. Campos has forgotten this or never thought about it, I hope he will keep it in mind in the future.

    • Nick056 says:

      Motherfucking right. The investigation resulted in a finding that he engaged in all sorts of unwelcome behavior toward his assistant, obviously because she was a woman, in a way that altered her conditions of employment. Unless there’s a question about the integrity of the investigation, this guy practically fired himself. This is quite simply the way shit is supposed to work when someone complains.

      And I’d add that “no motive to exaggerate” means exactly that. There is no reason to disbelieve an accuser about the frequency of misconduct if their story is solid and square.

      ETA: There is some discussion about a “double jeopardy” issue, but unless he’s got some disciplinary rights covering that, who cares?

      • veleda_k says:

        And I’d add that “no motive to exaggerate” means exactly that. There is no reason to disbelieve an accuser about the frequency of misconduct if their story is solid and square.

        Campos’s insistence that Choudhry and Sorrell are equally likely to be lying, as well as as his harping on the “factual disputes” of the case are really troubling to me. I’m not saying Campos is being consciously guided by “bitches be lying,” but it’s just that mentality that leads us to empty assertions of “it’s just he-said-she-said”, even when the “he-said” is him admitting to long term, frequent harassment.

  6. brad says:

    Holy shit that Searle suit sounds awful to have experienced. And I can understand how he felt empowered to get away with it, he’s a superstar in certain circles. (Who, frankly, would let himself get away with shit in his work, too, and be enabled in that as well.)
    I hope a lot comes out, there’s a lot of sunlight and disinfectant needed, and criminally creepy men still holding power over women’s careers. I’m sure Leiter has already written to minimize it all to defend his own entrenchments, even if he’s worlds away, philosophically.

  7. Ronan says:

    I don’t understand how it was a witch burning?

    Eta: just noticed andersons just said the same.

  8. NewishLawyer says:

    The law generally does not and cannot protect someone from having an asshole boss but the question in this case becomes would the Dean make a male employee pick up his dry cleaning and/or get him meals.

    When I was in my 20s, I worked as the third employee of a three person publishing company. The other employees were the owners and a husband and wife. They ran the business from their home and every now and then I needed to walk their dog. They would have asked this of any employee.

    But this seems more Don Draper as you note.

    • brettvk says:

      I’m a peon myself, but in an academic setting I would think there would be a professional norm that would discourage treating administrative assistants as domestic servants or substitute spouses. His laundry and meals are his own damn business.

      • rm says:

        Exactly. No one here at Podunk U would think they could ask this of anyone in their office (though I can imagine some administrators back in the Don Draper era doing this shit routinely). But we don’t have a law school, where apparently cognizance of the law is lower than average.

      • yet_another_lawyer says:

        In semi-counterpoint: Rather than everybody guessing, there really should be a very specific policy on what you can and cannot ask your admin to do.

        I have worked in settings where it’s effectively impossible to handle your own dry cleaning because you work every hour the dry cleaner is open and then some. If those are the hour expectations and the admin isn’t there to help with dry cleaning, then something as simple as, “We suggest (insert name of delivery dry cleaning service that serves campus)” can go a long way.

        The same dynamic crops up in all sorts of ways– e.g., my car needs an oil change, but I am working every minute the oil change place is open and can’t leave my desk for that long, what to do?

        Of course none of that helps with this specific situation, but an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure (at least as to the “menial labor” part– it obviously doesn’t help with sexual harassment).

        • rm says:

          Academic settings have nicely flexible hours, although less so for administrators. But, as I think you say, there is not an excuse. I think the rule is you can only ask people to do their friggin’ jobs, not anything else. People paid that much can solve their own damn logistical problems.

          • Warren Terra says:

            Laboratories have potentially completely flexible hours. Other academic settings have fairly flexible hours, but less so (libraries close, office hours can’t be at absurd times or on the weekend, etcetera). Academic administration is administration, much more than academia, and has utterly inflexible hours. There’s no way his assistant could be required – or, in many cases, even asked – to be there on the weekend or outside the hours of, say, 8 to 6, or to work overtime.

          • yet_another_lawyer says:

            That’s fine, but then it make it super clear exactly what the “friggin’ job” is and is not so everybody knows exactly where the line is.

        • Lost Left Coaster says:

          Oh my lord is it too much to expect these rock star, high-paid employees to sort out their own dry cleaning and oil changes? They can pay for a personal assistant — no one is stopping them.

      • Dennis Orphen says:

        That's why you're a peon and probably always will be, numbnuts.

        (boy I hope the sarcasm font deployed properly).

    • elm says:

      The getting meals thing is the only part I find defensible, assuming it was lunch. Having an assistant get you lunch if you’re staying in the office through the lunch hour seems unremarkable and, indeed, is assisting you to do your job. All the rest is clearly the realm of personal assistants and not administrative assistants.

      • Vance Maverick says:

        Not saying you’re wrong, but the line between helping you with lunch and helping you with your dry cleaning doesn’t seem intrinsically bright to me. (Either way, the assistant is handling your stuff to save you time during office hours.) Something that should be spelled out in the job description.

        • Hogan says:

          “Other duties as assigned.”

        • elm says:

          I agree that the line isn’t so bright. “Things done while in the office” vs. “Things done at home or while commuting” is the closest I can come up with to a dividing line. As a more specific case, a working lunch seems such an intrinsic part of an administrator’s job that it doesn’t strike me as unreasonable to expect your administrative assistant to assist with that. I’ve never had or been an administrative assistant, so maybe I’m wrong about that.

      • Dennis Orphen says:

        The getting meals thing is the only part I find defensible, assuming it was lunch

        And even then, he better have said “I buy; you fly”, amirite? Respect for norms, etiquette and traditions are all that separates us from social apocalypse. And Sushi. Regardless of if you’re the buyer or the flyer, always hold out for Sushi, amirite?

    • Pseudonym says:

      I don’t see a particular reason why the law cannot protect someone from having [certain forms of] an asshole boss, whether or not it does not or should not.

  9. Gregor Sansa says:

    Can we talk about cheek kissing? When I moved back to the US it took me months to get used to not doing it. But frankly even when it was totally normal for me there was always a tiny part of me that was ready to think creepy thoughts about it if I was attracted to the person. Basically, there’s no way to have an institution like that and keep it totally free from creepy exploitation.

  10. AMK says:

    It’s Berkeley and he’s got tens of thousands of dollars to burn. It would not take an advanced degree to find a 20-something female companion who happens to not be his assistant.

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      Perhaps it’s more about finding pleasure through power dynamics than via eye candy and friction? Although, as we must continue to remind ourselves, probably because the world at large usually cannot grasp the concept, events can have multiple causes.

  11. Just_Dropping_By says:

    (1) The Rick Hills link at the word “here” doesn’t work (it goes to a blank page).

    (2) Given that Choudhry seems to have admitted hugging and kissing Sorrell (even if he disagrees about the exact frequency of that behavior), I don’t see how this can possibly constitute a witch hunt. Also, while I’m not an expert on Indian workplace behavior, my impression is certainly that physical contact between unrelated men and women in most cultures of the Indian subcontinent is even more frowned on than it is in the modern United States, so I’m very skeptical about claims of different cultural standards in this specific instance with regard to the sexual harassment. (Cultural confusion maybe could more plausibly explain the demands that Sorrell perform various errands and chores though.)

    • bender says:

      Pure speculation on my part, but some traditional patriarchal cultures which have norms of modesty and separation of the sexes also have an attitude that Western women are whores and you can do anything to them.

  12. C.V. Danes says:

    Choudhry’s response was that he didn’t intend anything sexual by this kind of thing, that the behavior wasn’t nearly as common as Sorrell claimed (he said it was “once or twice a week” as opposed to several times daily)…

    HR 101: if it made Sorrell uncomfortable, then it was “once or twice a week” too much. Even worse coming from her supervisor.

    • Warren Terra says:

      I completely agree with this, but am somewhat troubled by questions of due process, proportionate response, and double-jeopardy.

      Choudry sounds like an unpleasant and unsympathetic so-and-so, so this is hardly a hill I want to die on. But: while his behavior was very inappropriate but we’ve all seen worse, and cruder, and more explicit harassment. I wonder whether some middle ground could have been found and correction attempted, instead of an initial penalty that was a joke and a second penalty that was total.

      • Paul Campos says:

        I think the appropriate middle ground here was when he was fired as dean, after the initial punishment became public.

        Being fired from his faculty position — in all but name the revocation of his tenure — seems to me an excessive punishment for his admitted behavior. The behavior that he was accused of was somewhat worse, but are people OK with firing a tenured professor on the basis of:

        (a) A preponderance of the evidence standard; and
        (b) After a subsequent proceeding, which is a product of public outcry, and which relies on admissions and agreements made in the context of an initial proceeding that the faculty member had every reason to believe was the final disposition of the matter?

        • It’s (b) that is troubling. The evidentiary standard isn’t really an issue, since the conduct in question was admitted.

          • Paul Campos says:

            No he disputes various aspects of her claims, although what he admitted in the context of the administrative equivalent of a plea deal was pretty bad. I realize this isn’t a criminal proceeding, but it’s somewhat analogous to using a defendant’s initial proffer as evidence to re-litigate a case after the initial sentencing.

            • Warren Terra says:

              The impression I got from reading the post – and I’ll defend my laziness in not double-checking because I’m talking about my impression here – is that they basically agreed about the nature of the unwanted, inappropriate physical contact (which was to me the most troubling charge), but disagreed as to frequency: she said it was thousands of times a year, he said as little as a hundred. Normally an order of magnitude would be an important distinction, but as he’s at least one-and-a-half orders of magnitude above any easily dismissed threshold I don’t think it makes much difference in this case.

        • sibusisodan says:

          Could you elaborate on b) a little? Is the problem that the faculty member had reason to believe his statements would not be used against him in future?

          If so, is that usual in the workplace? Obviously from a process PoV it’s sub-optimal – the final disposition turning out not to be final – but I’m much more hazy about whether its a problem beyond that.

        • No Longer Middle Aged Man says:

          As a professor who has seen a work colleague (someone I was friendly with, but not a real friend) fired for sexual harassment, Yes I am completely OK with firing a tenured professor for this. The process here was awful and he has a legitimate gripe about that, but he should have been given a hearing at the start and, if the allegations were substantiated, have been removed as dean and had his tenure revoked at the first offing.

          Most of us would be baying for his head if a CEO, high ranking government official, or senior military officer did this, and I see no reason why academics get a pass.

          • ColBatGuano says:

            he should have been given a hearing at the start and, if the allegations were substantiated, have been removed as dean and had his tenure revoked at the first offing.

            Exactly. The harassment he admitted to was plenty enough reason to remove him. The procedure might have been flawed, but not the outcome.

        • Pseudonym says:

          It admittedly may make some kind of intuitive sense, but I have trouble articulating a clear principle that delineates sexual harassment as a fireable offense for an administrator but not for a tenured faculty member. Is there any argument that sexual harassment is the kind of thing that tenure is supposed to protect? If he were only an administrator, or only a faculty member, rather than both, should the punishment be different in those cases?

      • Quaino says:

        What godawful workplace do you go to every day that you’ve seen worse and cruder harassment? Perhaps I’ve seen worse out in the world, but I generally don’t wander my office building on a daily basis and say, “Yep, there’s Neal walking his analyst through a presentation with his dick again… gosh, boys will be boys!” I’m sorry that you do, I guess?

        I don’t know what the revocation of tenure entails… does he lose all his benefits and pension? I’d feel that’s a bit much then. But I have a hard time understanding why sticking his ass out on the curb with a box containing his stapler and potted plant isn’t a just outcome, even if it required two goes.

        • Warren Terra says:

          I didn’t say “every day”.

          But haven’t we all, at some point, seen and heard worse than what’s here: frequent but sexually ambiguous unwanted and inappropriate physical contact?

  13. veleda_k says:

    A witch hunt? Are you kidding me? When Choudhry admits to touching Sorrell inappropriately multiple times weekly?

    But I guess women should just put up with being sexually harassed at Berkeley, because the university employees other bad people.

  14. Anna in PDX says:

    I know that Paul never comments on his more controversial posts, and I usually refrain from dumping on someone if the point has already been made, but this post is really confusing to me. All I can maybe assume is that Paul thinks that the process was at fault and they should have fired him earlier in the process, or that it is a sort of double jeopardy issue because they’d already fined him prior to her civil suit? I mean, the administrative sanction was not a criminal proceeding so I don’t see why it’s unfair to later let him go over this egregious behavior.

    So yeah, he should have been fired instead of fined, but better late than never. This is not a miscarriage of justice, for him. It’s merely justice delayed, for her and for the institution he works for (whether or not they employ other horrible people is completely irrelevant to this case and I am confused about that argument as well).

    • Gregor Sansa says:

      What you say seems right to me.

    • Vance Maverick says:

      +1. The body of the post has a telling mix of emphasis — lots of space given to the horrible details of harassment, and expressions of disgust over them, but then a comparatively short windup in the direction of the post title, decrying instead the university’s process. This confusion seems to reflect what’s going on in the institution — Berkeley in particular and maybe higher ed in general — which is starting to do the right thing, if not yet consistently or efficiently.

    • brad says:

      I agree with one caveat; I think it is relevant that they employ other horrible people. Just not Yoo, who while we all agree is a monster is not an applicable standard. It seems relatively clear that trying to minimize the cost of harassment complaints against Deans and other powerful profs has been an institution-wide policy that is all too similar to the Catholic Church’s treatment of pedophile priests.
      If Choudhry faced a delayed justice then yeah, better late than never, but I think Campos is missing the point, and the real story.

    • cs says:

      I think the point of the post has to be that completely losing his job was too harsh a punishment. If it was just a complaint about the process, double jeopardy etc, then the bit about John Yoo etc makes no sense at all. (As it is it is a bit of a stretch as others have said.)


      And I have no problem with the conclusion that it was bad enough, and revealed a sufficient lack of judgment, that it was ultimately appropriate to remove him from the deanship

      Notice Campos doesn’t agree that the behavior was bad enough to remove him from the professorship.

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      Wrong/Right isn’t always either/or. If, when you’re driving home tonight someone jaywalks across 4th while you’re rolling towards the river, to you have a right to hit them if you could have avoided them? What if you were on the phone and hit the jaywalker because you were inappropriately distracted yourself?

      Also, Paul isn’t claiming he knows what’s the best outcome in this situation, he’s giving us a platform to discuss it, as a good educator should.

      • Anna in PDX says:

        You obviously miss Portland Dennis. I actually take the bus home although my partner has offered to come get me because the commute home is a nightmare and I want to leave it to the professionals (and have felt this way ever since a biker clipped our mirror and fell on his back – thank heavens we’ve never actually hit a biker, and I hope we never do, seems the best thing to do is for us to keep our road time to a minimum).

        Re Paul’s post it’s true he is not saying he knows best, but he seems to have the view that for some reason the firing was not OK, and I don’t think he clarified very well the reason why he thinks that. The sexual harassment was of long standing and is a firing offense. At my work we have to take a course on harassment every 2 years and supervisors have to take it every year, so that everybody’s clear on it. I find it hard to believe this guy didn’t understand what he was doing, thus I don’t feel that firing him is over the top. It would not be controversial if he were a manager at Denny’s so why would it be since he is a dean at a college?

        • Dennis Orphen says:

          Yes, I miss Portland. I thought about throwing in (unless you roll Tri-Met) to the original comment.

          (what do I miss the most about Portland? The people! In fact, that’s all I miss, and people are all that matters, anytime and anyplace. Portland is Portland because people chose to work at making their lives and community a better place, not because of any unique qualities of it’s latitude and longitude coordinates. But I digress.)

  15. sibusisodan says:

    But destroying Choudhry’s career as a convenient gesture of expiation merely exacerbates rather than ameliorates that sordid history.

    It does no such thing. Doing not-X cannot exacerbate a problem of X.

    Perhaps this will be used as a sop to prevent sufficient structural change. But how an issue is deployed afterwards politically is not the same as what the actions say at the time.

    If this case is merely a gesture, why wouldn’t treating Yoo similarly also be a gesture rather than something concrete?

  16. Hondo says:

    Y’all be nice to John Yoo, now. He may be on the Supreme Court by 2020.

    • Warren Terra says:


      You mis-spelled “a week next Thursday”.

      But, seriously: no-one on the political right is going to stick their neck out for Yoo in this way. He served his purpose, but he’s not clubbable, you know? I’m sure the Federalist Society has got an entire room full of vat-grown Conservabot, all of them ten years younger than Yoo, slavishly devoted to every whim of the Koch brothers and indeed under their direct telepathic control, dedicated to physical fitness, and carefully insulated from controversy. An infamous 50-year-old slightly overweight Chinese-American ideologue who may not care about corporate power is not their first or even fiftieth choice.

  17. Captain Oblivious says:

    I might be the only person here who doesn’t have a problem with Yoo teaching at Berkeley. Yes, he’s a deplorable RWNJ but academic freedom etc etc etc. Those of you who want ideology purity tests for academics need to remember that (a) this knife can cut both ways, and (b) progressives do not control the funding and governing bodies of most universities. And just because he holds horrible views on things like torture doesn’t mean he’s a shitty teacher.

    • Warren Terra says:

      For a while – I haven’t looked in a decade – Yoo taught the only Constitutional Law course at the school. That doesn’t seem right.

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      And just because he holds horrible views on things like torture doesn’t mean he’s a shitty teacher.

      And just because you fail a piss test doesn’t mean you can’t perform your job well, or deserve to not be hired in favor of someone who won’t or can’t perform it as well as you could. But it could happen.

    • Lost Left Coaster says:

      It’s not just “horrible views.” By his direct work in the Bush Administration, he helped to make torture happen.

      In a more just world, Yoo would have faced war crimes charges. Nothing to do with his own views; everything to do with his actions.

      If a left-wing academic had enabled torture in his/her job, I absolutely would favour that person being denied a job at a prestigious law school. So I have no problem with this cutting both ways.

    • Hondo says:

      I long for the days when we used to hang war criminals, not set them up with fucking tenure.
      The objection has nothing to do with ideological fucking purity you dipshit troll.

    • cpinva says:

      “Those of you who want ideology purity”

      I wouldn’t have thought being against torture to be a sign of “ideological purity”. rather, it would be a sign of basic human decency. so much so, there are both domestic & international laws against it. had the waterboarding happened in the US, it would have been a criminal act under US law. and there’s precedent.

  18. Quaino says:

    I’ve never fully ascertained if Paul just gets bored and decides to troll with his writing every half year or if he actually is trying to communicate what those semi-annual posts communicate.

    I have a hard time squaring a person dedicating a lot of their time and energy to detailing the injustices brought upon the populace through snake oil lawyers being allowed to charge not quite smart enough a lot of money to never become lawyers with a person who thinks an overpaid administrator should be left alone to kiss his employees against their will because John Yoo is also employed somewhere nearby.

    • Paul Campos says:


      erson who thinks an overpaid administrator should be left alone to kiss his employees against their will

      Speaking of trolling. . . .

      Choudhry’s admitted behavior was reprehensible (People are overlooking that there’s a factual dispute about exactly what that behavior was).

      I agree it was the right thing to do to fire him from his position as dean less than a year into his tenure in the office. This was a massive public humiliation (which again, he deserved). Kicking him off the faculty is another matter.

      • Anna in PDX says:

        I wonder why such behavior is not a firing offense in your view. If he didn’t have such a public job would it be OK to fire him, since public humiliation would not be on the cards? Like if he were the supervisor of the printing department or something?

        Put another way: Since public humiliation would only apply to public figures (who are highly paid elites), are you arguing that public figures should not lose their jobs for offenses that non-public figures would definitely lose their jobs for, because the humiliation is enough punishment for them?

      • veleda_k says:

        People are overlooking that there’s a factual dispute about exactly what that behavior was

        The disagreement is to exactly how much sexual harassment occurred, not whether or not it occurred at all. Choudhry admitted to placing Sorrell’s hands around his waist. He admitted to hugging and kissing her once or twice a week. That’s a continuing pattern of inappropriate contact that he readily admits to.

        If you accuse me of killing ten people, and I insist I only killed five people, would sentencing me to jail time be a witch hunt?

        • Warren Terra says:

          Be fair. There’s at least an order of magnitude difference in the frequency being alleged. So it’s not like accused of killing ten / claims to have killed only five. More like accused of killing thirty / claims to have killed only two. And really, who hasn’t?

          • Orphos says:

            And really, how much bodily autonomy are female subordinates actually entitled to, anyway? Like, if I only violate her bodily autonomy a handful of times, that's just a gimme. It's what you get for working in an office!

        • Solar System Wolf says:

          The very first time my boss kisses me on the head would be one time too many, personally.

          • Aimai says:

            Its not like there are any female students at Berkeley, or female faculty members, who might be at risk for more of this kissing, hugging, and groping behavior. Surely Dean Choudhry’s behavior is, and always would be, confined to merely groping his own administrative assistant. Female students in his classes have nothing to worry about.

      • SIWOTI says:

        In any other line of business, Choudhry’s admitted behavior constitutes grounds for firing, and possibly for gross misconduct.

        Kein mitleid für den Mann.

      • Snuff curry says:

        (People are overlooking that there’s a factual dispute about exactly what that behavior was).

        You keep saying that, but I see no evidence of anyone doing so (in a world such as ours, there is no danger of it, of course, because of a large and vocal segment of pro-harassers amongst us) nor have you explained why it matters when, as you say, what he has admitted is more than enough to fulfill the comparatively high bar we set for what constitutes unwanted and coercive physical contact. Every sexual harasser, when harassing and groping openly and with witnesses, will mount a defense that seeks to characterize what has been witnessed as innocent and to pedantically offer “corrections,” usually less about the substance than the timeline and frequency of the abuse.

        Where there is an abuser, there are several devils that lie in wait to advocate on his behalf. Is there a compelling reason you need to keep reminding us of something that is self-evident?

      • Snuff curry says:

        This was a massive public humiliation

        So what? Is that meant to offset the official discipline? How would that work, exactly? Who is responsible for that humiliation?

      • Pseudonym says:

        Kicking him off the faculty is another matter.

        Why is this sexual harassment a firing offense for a dean but not for a faculty member? Are you suggesting that this sexual harassment is just a matter of poor job performance, for which firing from a discretionary position as a dean would be justified, but which response tenure is supposed to protect against in the case of faculty?

        • sibusisodan says:

          Or that his position as Dean calls the university’s reputation into repute, but not his position as faculty since there are worse offenders.

          That makes sense until you start enquiring as to the similarities with those other offenders, which don’t seem that great (what would Yoo be fired for, moral turpitude? Has he admitted to that?).

          It also leads to one defending a position where tenure can only be revoked in descending order of ghastliness, which is unworkable.

          • Pseudonym says:

            I’m trying to figure out why tenure status should matter when it comes to sexual harassment claims. Should workers in administrative positions have fewer or less robust procedural protections than tenured faculty when it comes to adjudicating these claims? Is the issue that tenured professors deserve more protection, or that they’ve collectively bargained for more protection, and in LGM’s ideal world would all workers enjoy similar protections as tenured faculty, including with regards to procedure in sexual harassment complaints?

  19. Crusty says:

    How do I use the sarcasm font?

    Totally hilarious comment to follow.

  20. Crusty says:

    “But destroying Choudhry’s career…”

    I'm not worried. As a legal academic and administrator, he's got skills that would be valuable to any top law firm and their high paying clients.

    • Vance Maverick says:

      cout << "Nice use of the font!\n";

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      Perfect. And If one expects me to have any sympathy for however much hard cash Choudhry paid for his education (yes, I’m aware becoming a lawyer takes more than just that), how much of Choudhry’s financial investment paid for having faculty and administrative staff’s dry cleaning picked up among other pointless irrelevancies to the actual education.

  21. Crusty says:

    Yeah, this was a strange post, kind of hey, look at what a rotten jerk this guy was, hey, why’d they have to go and fire this rotten jerk, what’s wrong with being a rotten jerk.

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      The pun-ishment should fit the crime and the Gaol-posts shouldn’t be moved. Which may or may not have happened in this case, making it a worthy topic of discussion and argument for both the specifics of the case and the underlying general principles. I like Paul’s OP because it asks questions instead of giving answers.

    • cpinva says:

      “Yeah, this was a strange post, kind of hey, look at what a rotten jerk this guy was, hey, why’d they have to go and fire this rotten jerk, what’s wrong with being a rotten jerk.”

      if institutes of higher learning were prohibited from hiring jerks, I’m not certain how many of them would be able to field an entire administrative & faculty staff. half of them would probably have to fold up shop. this goes for both private industry and gov’t as well. let’s face it, there are an awful lot of assholes out there.

  22. Downpuppy says:

    I check on the Dean Bard/ Cincinnati story every few weeks to see if something more will come out.

    Still nada. It really looks like she was canned for trying to put some basic limits on expenses.

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      I thought I saw her having lunch with Joycelyn Elders last week. But before I got close enough to confirm it I noticed my tailor sharing a cozy, intimate table towards the back, but far from the kitchen door. You know, the one Mario only seats you at if he really likes you or owes you a favor, like that time I bailed him out of jail at 4am. Anyways, the only thing they had in common was yours truly, and once they start comparing notes I’m in deep kim chee, so I slowly back-walked out of there before they noticed, grabbed a sammy to go from down the block and ate at my desk.

    • twbb says:

      Any Dean hired to control expenses who doesn’t make faculty angry is not doing their job. It’s a shame that Cincinnati threw her under the bus.

  23. Hallen says:

    The modifier “quasi” is doing an awful, awful lot of work in “quasi-double jeopardy” there, isn’t it?

    That said, while agreeing more-or-less completely with what Berkeley did, at least upon the basis of the other facts presented in Campos’ post, does anyone have any serious problem with someone with a job (that, in itself, probably is only marginally necessary to the functioning of the law school) making almost $70k sometimes having to pick up their boss’ dry cleaning? Maybe I lack empathy.

    • Dennis Orphen says:

      Look at it this way: If you pick up your own dry cleaning, lunch, whatever, you’re generating 10’s of thousands of dollars of value. And, it can’t be taxed!

      That’s Orphenomics in a nutshell. Be your own poor person and you can live a guilt-free 1st world life for ~12 hours a day. Bicycling/Walking/Mass Transit is another good example.

    • No Longer Middle Aged Man says:

      If the boss is paying her and that is part of her official duties, then no.

      If she is a state employee, then most definitely yes.

    • Feathers says:

      Having held a similar position at a private, even more highly regarded, institution, I’m guessing that she was explicitly NOT supposed to do those sorts of things for her faculty. Administrative support for faculty at universities is this really weird job, where you are hired by the university, to do a job with a certain set of duties for the university, and your official supervisors are either in HR or in the Department of Faculty Support or some such place, usually located far away from where you are and with infrequent interaction. However, your boss, the person you interact with in and out every day and must keep happy to keep your job is the faculty member, who could give a flying fuck about HR, basically can’t be fired, and may have an entirely different idea of what your job should be. Don’t know more than this post about the Berkeley situation, but I’m guessing that much of this could have come up in meetings with “administration,” and Sorrell was told that she needed to work this out with her faculty.

      At my previous place of employment, you were not supposed to do personal tasks, or any work for any of the faculty’s business or consulting side gigs. You could, however, do them on your own time, at wages to be negotiated between you and your faculty member. But the problem is, HR is there for management, not you, so never stepped in to enforce the rules. So the faculty never got in trouble for asking, but the admins could get in trouble for saying yes to these sorts of requests. Case in point. I was really good about saying no to these sorts of things. But, emergencies do come up. One of my faculty was waiting on a fairly large check. She was about to head overseas for the summer on a research trip. It didn’t show up before she left, so she left a deposit slip, I endorsed the check and deposited on my lunch hour. Somebody from HR saw me, was hopelessly nosey and discovered I was doing a personal errand for faculty. So I get called in for a meeting, put on the “needs supervision” roster and ended up having monthly review meetings for the next six months. Not a word was ever said to the faculty member.

      I blame the movies where Hollywood people have personal assistants who do all sorts of outrageous stuff for their boss. But that person is their employer! Companies that interact with people with personal assistants may hire employees who have personal assistant-type duties, but normal companies don’t. Universities definitely don’t. However, faculty who’ve seen all the movies and TV shows where assistants do all this personal stuff get the idea that it is normal behavior.

  24. Gwen says:

    I had to re-read this a few times to figure out exactly what Paul’s point was. This post is kind of meandering, and I suppose that makes sense given that he did say that he had “mixed feelings” about the situation.

    I think the bottom line is that Berkeley seems to have initially undershot the mark, and then changed their tune markedly when this became a public political issue rather than an internal one.

    Obviously, I would like to think our public institutions are committed to some concrete sense of justice rather than just “swinging with the wind.”

    Still, it seems like Choudhry was definitely behaving inappropriately, and definitely should have been punished harder than he was.

    The redeeming point that Paul hints at, but never quite states directly, is the belief that (to paraphrase, I think) “Tenure Ought To Mean Something,” and in this case the real sin — the spark that set the witch ablaze, so to speak — was the violation of that most holy and sacrosanct concept of tenure.

    Removing a tenured career academic is not as simple as firing your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, non-union at-will-employed schmuck.

    (Or at least, that is what tenured career academics want you to think).

  25. Mike G says:

    Berkeley paid John Yoo $406,385 in 2015

    I’ll take “News that makes me want to punch a wall” for $100, Alex.

    As the UC continues ratcheting up tuition fees, I’m sure the students are thrilled that the overpaid recipients of their family’s life savings are criminal trash.

  26. Vance Maverick says:

    When I saw the new title, I briefly wondered if someone was covering antifa/alt-right fisticuffs.

  27. Well, my policy of taking a deep breath and bracing myself every time I see a Campos byline has proven itself yet again. The Yoo straw man has been dealt with sufficiently in the comments, but seriously, in the year 2017, how do you use the phrase “ruin his career” to describe a man losing their job over committing sexual harassment, and not realize how you come off? Assuming that you care how you come off, that is.

  28. LastUniversalCommonAncestor says:

    Color me cynical, but based on my experience with academia I have a feeling that Choudhry’s defenestration may have as much to do with him undeniably harassing his assistant, as with this throwaway sentence:

    Choudhry got upset on the job a lot, and would sometimes refer to some of his distinguished colleagues as “assholes,” “son of a bitch” and “mother fuckers.”

    Let’s just say that people at BLS may not have paid that much attention during the first disciplinary proceeding, but that that finding and (I suspect) other nuggets about Choudhry’s assessment of his faculty which may have come to light, did not buy him any good will.
    Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person, apparently.

    • Aimai says:

      I don’t know why people are surprised at all that the second set of proceedings, when Choudry was no longer in the Dean position, caused people to re-evaluate just how much crap they had to put up with from him. I mean–that is what you would expect to have happen. Other women will have come out of the woodwork to complain, privately, about their experiences with him. Other shit that he has done, or was in the process of doing, with his Deanship that pissed people off will be coming out. Faculty meetings with him will have become fraught. And people will simply start realizing that h’s no longer in a protected position. This isn’t rocket surgery.

  29. Lizzy L says:

    It’s unfortunate (by which I mean, it completely infuriates me) that Sorrell felt she had to endure this behavior for months. I wonder what would have happened had she responded as follows after the first three times Choudhry put his hands on her:

    1) Kneed him in the nuts
    2) Punched him in the belly
    3) Screamed at the top of her lungs, and kept screaming until someone entered the room
    4) Informed him that if he touched her again without her explicit permission that she would break his fingers
    5) Set up a miniature camera in the office, and let it run for a week

    I am NOT NOT NOT victim blaming. I know why she didn’t do any of these things; there are multiple reasons, including that if she had, she almost certainly would have lost her job.

    I don’t quite see how OPHD decided that “inappropriate touching” was not sexual harassment. Presumably they based it on Choudhry’s claim that he had no “conscious” sexual intent in his behavior toward Sorrell, which means, I suppose, that he would have behaved exactly the same had his subordinate been male. Hmmm. I still prefer my methods, and yes, I do occasionally have anger management issues when I observe/hear about/experience people putting hands on other people without consent, why do you ask?

  30. Roger Ailes says:

    Is this time farce, or have we blasted past that already?

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