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Former Law Dean Accused of Harassment Sues Berkeley

[Updated (9/15/2016, 8:44 p.m.) with comment from the university.]

A former dean of the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Law, Sujit Choudhry, has accused the university system of violating his right to due process of law and equal protection, according to a lawsuit filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The suit, which follows a grievance filed in April, states that the university tried to deprive him of his salary, employment, and reputation after a former executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell, accused him in a lawsuit of repeatedly sexually harassing her. After a university investigation confirmed her allegations, Mr. Choudhry’s pay was docked by 10 percent, he attended counseling, and he wrote a letter of apology.

But when Ms. Sorrell filed a civil suit against the university and Mr. Choudhry, saying that his punishment had been too lenient, the university then began another investigation, his lawsuit states. Mr. Choudhry resigned in March, amid a storm of criticism of how Berkeley had responded to reports of sexual misconduct by senior faculty members.

“By targeting Professor Choudhry, who is of South Asian descent and a non-U.S. citizen, the university hopes to deflect attention from its failure to meaningfully punish Caucasian faculty and administrators who were found to have committed appalling sexual misconduct, and from the fact that it deserted Ms. Sorrell,” the lawsuit states.

The university did not immediately respond to The Chronicle’s request for comment on the lawsuit, but a spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle that university officials had not yet had time to review the suit. “At this point,” said the spokesman, Dan Mogulof, “what can be said is that the university intends to mount a vigorous and successful defense.”

In the wake of criticism of how accusations by Ms. Sorrell and others had been handled, Berkeley announced in March several new initiatives to combat sexual misconduct on its campus.

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