UC Provost Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Scandals And Accusations

A UC Provost has resigned in the midst of sexual harassment scandals and accusations. Claude Steele had only served as provost at the University of California Berkeley since January 2014, before being accused of not handling a sexual harassment claim appropriately.

It is widely believed that disclosure of a civil suit made against former dean of the law school, Sujit Choudhry, is the reason for the sudden departure of Steele, as well as numerous mishandled sexual harassment claims and budgetary issues. But Steele claims his wife’s health is the reason for a hasty exit.

“Alas, my wife’s ongoing health challenges remain quite significant, and this is simply not a time in our lives where I can afford to further sacrifice our time together. The choice has thus become clear: I can no longer offer UC Berkeley the time and level of commitment it needs from its EVCP, while at the same time being a part of my family in the way I want to be.”

Choudhry has since resigned from his position but remains on the payroll of UC Berkeley because he is tenured faculty. He is being paid despite the fact that he kissed, touched, and hugged his executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell. An investigator said the advances were “unwelcome and objectively sexual in nature,” noted the New York Times.

Instead of Choudhry being fired immediately, he was given a pay cut and told to go to counseling. This advice was handed out by Steele and Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. In the past, both have been criticized for a management style that disregards the concerns of faculty, students, and alumni. Choudhry was asked to write a letter of apology to his assistant. Meanwhile, she who was told to look for work elsewhere at the university as if she — not Choudhry — were to blame.

When Sorrell later filed a civil suit, what she described as a cover up quickly became public knowledge. By Torrell, a quiet, married mother of five stepping forward, others have also found their voice, and she has received support from students. Court papers indicated that when she questioned why UC Berkeley officials did not punish Choudhry more severely, Steele told her that he had decided against termination as a means of looking out for the dean, the New York Times also reported.

” [Termination] would ruin the dean’s career, that is, destroy his future chances for higher appointment.”

In April, the university released reports showing numerous violations of sexual harassment policies by 19 employees. Most cases had not been made public. The school is also performing investigations on 16 other cases; nine involve sexual violence.

The Sorrell case isn’t the only reason Steele has been under fire. An assistant basketball coach was terminated after shutting a reporter into a parking garage and attempting “to trick her into going upstairs,” per the LA Times. Last October, astronomer Geoff Marcy, who worked for UC Berkeley was accused of buying drinks for students, dancing provocatively with one, and grabbing the crotch of another student, who was visiting from another college. Marcy was pressured into resigning by other faculty.

Despite the seriousness of sexual harassment running rampant, there are other major issues on the Berkeley campus, including a $150-million budget shortfall, which is six percent of the school’s annual operating budget. The UC campus, known as best public research school in the nation, is now looking for ways to save money. Faculty has complained that they haven’t been included in the talks.

Before the UC provost appointment, Steele served as dean of the School of Education at Stanford. He was also provost at Columbia University, and post resignation from his current position, he will remain at Berkeley as a member of the faculty in the psychology department. His field of expertise is psychology.

[Photo via UC Berkeley website]