UC Berkeley Law School dean resigns after executive assistant accuses him of 'unwelcome touching and kissing'


UC Berkeley School of Law said Thursday that its dean, Sujit Choudhry, had resigned from his post following sexual harassment claims brought by his former executive assistant. 

A university spokesman said Choudhry will remain a member of the school's faculty "at present" under the University of California's tenure policy. Choudhry is a law professor and faculty director of the Miller Institute for Global Challenges and the Law, according to his bio on the school's website.

The resignation comes two days after Choudhry was named in a lawsuit filed by his former executive assistant. The assistant, Tyann Sorrell, said Choudhry hugged, kissed, and massaged her regularly before she took a leave of absence as the school investigated her allegations. 

The allegations were investigated by the school's Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD). The OPHD's report concluded that Choudhry's "kissing, hugging, and touching" was "unwelcome and of a sexual nature" and that the behavior "explicitly affected" Sorrell's employment.

The report noted that Choudrhy did not dispute the conduct he was accused of, but disagreed with how frequently it occurred. Sorrell said the behavior occurred multiple times daily, while, in the course of the investigation, Choudhry stated that the behavior occurred "no more than once or twice a week." 


sujit choudhry


Sujit Choudhry's LinkedIn Profile, as of March 9th, 2015.

On Wednesday, Choudhry and the school had announced that the dean would be taking an "indefinite leave of absence" from his position, stepping down to a faculty role and salary. 

The resignation came as Berkeley law school alumni were preparing to send a letter calling for his termination that had gathered over 450 signatures on Thursday afternoon, according to alumna Olga Tomchin.

"I think how quickly it came together speaks to how betrayed and outraged the [alumni] community felt at the head of our law school sexually harassing staff," Tomchin told Business Insider. "It was a slap in the face to have that behavior exist at the very top of our institution."

Tomchin said the letter included signatures of alumni from nearly ever year since the class of 1984. The group of alumni is likely to still send the letter, which is addressed to UC president Janet Napolitano and Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, among others. The letter calls for Choudhry's full termination.


Students representing the Boalt Hall Student Association and the school's Coalition for Diversity also published a list of demands, including Choudhry's resignation from both his dean and faculty positions.

Choudhry's resignation is not the school's first. A similar incident played out in 2002, when then-dean John P. Dwyer resigned amid his own sexual harassment investigation. Dwyer admitted at the time to having a consensual sexual encounter with a student at the school.

On Thursday evening, a spokesman for the university released a statement, which included a message from Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele:

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has accepted the resignation of Sujit Choudhry, as dean of the university's School of Law, effective immediately.

Under the University of California's tenure policy, Choudhry remains a member of the school's faculty at present.

In a message that will be sent to the Berkeley Law community, Dirks and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, Claude Steele, state:

"We believe the dean's resignation is an outcome in the best interests of Berkeley Law and the university as a whole. At the same time we are under no illusion that a resignation could or even should bring this matter and broader, related issues to a close. It is clear, as we heard during our meeting with law school faculty this morning, that the initial decision not to remove the dean from his position is the subject of legitimate criticism.

We can and must do better as a campus administration. We must move in the direction of stronger sanctions, and in doing this we want and need the broad input of the campus community.

We are sharply focused on this issue and committed to ensuring a supportive and safe environment for every single person on this campus. We will act quickly to generate action that will produce lasting change in our culture and practices.

Tomorrow we will be reaching out to faculty leaders for their help in quickly putting all of these commitments into motion."

This post was edited at 5:55 p.m. on Thursday, March 10th, to include a statement provided by the university.