Sujit Choudhry. (Photo: Jason Doiy/The Recorder)
SAN FRANCISCO — UC Berkeley has reached a settlement with ousted law school dean Sujit Choudhry, ending a tumultuous saga that erupted last year after his former executive assistant sued him for sexual harassment.
The settlement terminates the university’s ongoing disciplinary action against Choudhry, and resolves the civil lawsuit brought by his former assistant, Tyann Sorrell.
The former law dean will pay $50,000 to Sorrell’s attorneys and another $50,000 to a charity of Sorrell’s choice under the terms of the deal. He will also be allowed to remain a tenured professor while on sabbatical until spring 2018, at which point he will resign.
”It was important that the world understand that he [is] a tenured professor in good standing,” Choudhry’s lawyer, William Taylor of Zuckerman Spaeder, told The Recorder Friday evening.
Sorrell sued Choudhry and the Regents of the University of California in March 2016, alleging that Choudhry had kissed and touched her in unwanted ways and that the school had failed to intervene. The parties requested the entire suit be dismissed with prejudice on Friday.
Sorrell’s lawyer, Leslie Levy of Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Friday evening, and it was not clear whether the university paid anything to Sorrell as part of the overall deal.
On Saturday, Sorrell put out a statement blasting the university’s settlement with Choudhry, which provides that the former law dean will remain a faculty member “in good standing” until his 2018 departure.
“This deal insults all who suffer harassment at the hands of those with power and privilege,” Sorrell said in a prepared statement.
“This deal was made between the University and Choudhry,” Levy said. “Ms. Sorrell finds the package of benefits provided to Choudhry in this settlement to be outrageous.”
On Friday, the university and Sorrell had released a joint statement, saying: “Ms. Sorrell recognizes and appreciates the steps that the university has recently taken to increase its training and prevention activities regarding sexual harassment.”
UC Berkeley had investigated Sorrell’s claims against Choudhry in 2015 in a confidential disciplinary process prior to Sorrell’s civil lawsuit, and concluded then that he broke the school’s code of conduct. Under an agreement at the time, Choudhry apologized to Sorrell and the school allowed him to remain as dean of the law school.
But the university reopened the disciplinary proceedings against Choudhry after the civil suit was launched, drawing attention and some criticism for its handling of the matter in a way that protected Choudhry’s reputation and career. He subsequently stepped down from the dean post.
Choudhry, who is from India, later sued the school for racial discrimination, alleging that he was treated more harshly than white professors who had faced more egregious sexual harassment claims. But Choudhry ultimately dropped that suit.
The terms of the settlement announced Friday also allow Choudhry $10,000 in university funds for reimbursement of travel expenses to attend events and conferences. He will also have “full use” of research funding totaling $97,210, the deal says.
“The Regents and Professor Choudhry are satisfied that this is an appropriate resolution, and they look forward to putting this matter behind them,” Choudhry and the university said in a joint statement regarding the settlement.
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