University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. (Jason Doiy / The Recorder)
SAN FRANCISCO — The woman who accused UC-Berkeley’s former law school dean of sexual harassment voiced outrage over the weekend at a settlement that left him with tenure and tens of thousands of dollars in funding.
In a statement Saturday, Tyann Sorrell, who was an assistant to Sujit Choudhry when he was dean of the law school, said the university’s deal with the professor “insults all who suffer harassment at the hands of those with power and privilege.”
The statement was released after Berkeley on late Friday afternoon announced it had resolved both the pending action against Choudhry before its Committee on Privilege & Tenure and Sorrell’s lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents.
The university’s press release, sent initially Friday and again on Monday morning, had included a joint statement with Sorrell that praised of the school’s efforts to address sexual harassment.
But in an interview, Sorrell’s lawyer, Leslie Levy of the Oakland law firm Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams, said that her client had drafted that statement before learning details of the deal it had reached with Choudhry. Sorrell did not learn the terms of that deal until it was announced publicly on Friday, Levy said.
That joint statement was “based on our understanding that [the university and Choudhry] were going to attempt a resolution between them,” Levy said. “But we did not know that it was going to entail such a generous package.”
Levy also suggested the timing of the announcement—Friday evening before Easter weekend—was intended to minimize the Berkeley student body’s reaction. The settlement between Choudhry and the university was signed at the end of March.
Berkeley’s agreement with Choudhry leaves him a tenured professor in good standing until spring 2018, at which point he will voluntarily resign. The deal also allows Choudhry $10,000 in university funds for reimbursement of travel expenses to attend events and conferences, and “full use” of research funding totaling $97,210.
Choudhry stepped down as dean of the law school in March 2016, when Sorrell sued him and the university in California state court, alleging that he had kissed her and touched her in unwanted ways, and that the school failed to intervene.
The lawsuit came after the university, following a confidential investigation, concluded that Choudhry broke school harassment policies and docked his pay. Sorrell alleged she was forced to take an indefinite leave of absence and was not given another position at the university.
Sorrell’s settlement with Choudhry entailed a $50,000 payment to her attorneys and $50,000 donated to charities focused on sexual harassment and assault, according to Levy. Sorrell also reached a separate settlement with the university, the terms of which Levy would not disclose.
Dan Mogulof, a Berkeley spokesman, declined to comment in reaction to Sorrell’s statement over the weekend.
Choudhry’s lawyer, William Taylor of Zuckerman Spaeder, rejected the notion that Sorrell had been blindsided by the deal between the professor and Berkeley, and said all parties were made aware of their respective agreements more than a month ago.
“We’re not going to respond to her statement except to say that the facts are that they’ve known about this for at least six weeks,” Taylor said Monday. “She has a right to say whatever she wants to say. But to say that she just discovered this mystifies me.”
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