A Broken Record: Berkeley’s Responses to Sexual Violence Over The Years

“We take this seriously.” Zero tolerance. Task forces and committees. Here’s a round-up of Berkeley’s favorite responses to allegations that it doesn’t care about sexual violence and harassment, as told through the ages:

Zero tolerance

“We have no tolerance for sexual violence or harassment of any kind,” said U.C. President Janet Napolitano in a release. “The university must, and will, hold itself to the highest standards, and I expect all of our locations to do everything possible to make everyone aware of these standards.” (March 2014)

“UC Berkeley does not tolerate sexual harassment and sexual violence, and such behavior is prohibited both by law and by University policy.” (October 2014)

“The university has imposed real consequences on Professor Geoff Marcy by establishing a zero tolerance policy regarding future behavior and by stripping him of the procedural protections that all other faculty members enjoy.” (UC Berkeley statement, 2015.)

Taking this seriously

“UC Berkeley takes sexual assault very seriously.” (October 2014)

“We take it extremely seriously,” UC Berkeley spokesperson Claire Holmes said. “Have put some resources in place to support not only our students but to educate incoming students and anybody in our community about what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t.” (April 2014)

Defending lenient actions

“I am sure that this outcome will not be acceptable to many persons who have fixed beliefs about the incident; nevertheless, based upon the information available to the university, I am satisfied that, under the circumstances, this is the best resolution of this serious and unfortunate incident.” – (Berkeley chancellor, 1979)

“There was a major scandal last year when WOASH (Women Organized Against Sexual Harrassment) documented 14 cases of sexual harassment by Professor Elbaki Hermassi in the Sociology Department. Students demanded that Hermassi be fired. Harmassi’s colleagues in Sociology refused to censure him, and a year passed before the University took any action, then requiring only a year’s leave of absence (he was already on sabbatical) and docking his pay slightly.” (1980)

But Berkeley’s provost allowed the dean to keep his prestigious position at the top-tier law school — stating that he “didn’t want to ruin the dean’s career,” according to the lawsuit — even after a university investigation concluded in July that Choudhry had sexually harassed Sorrell. The dean took a one-year, 10 percent pay cut and was ordered to undergo counseling — and to write Sorrell an apology. (2016)

Provost Claude Steele defended those and other sanctions he issued against Choudhry last year, saying he believed they would “produce the necessary changes in his behavior.” (2016)

“There was only that one formal complaint, the spokesperson added, it “severely limited disciplinary options at that time.” (2015)

Establishing a task force

“[We] established a Title IX Compliance Advisory Group in which students play a key role in our efforts to evaluate and strengthen our policies and practices.” (February 2014)

“In June 2014, President Janet Napolitano issued a call for the University of California to be a leader in prevention and response to sexual violence and sexual assault. This resulted in the formation of the President’s Task Force on Preventing and Responding toSexual Violence and Sexual Assault.” (January 2015)

“Committed”/ Always room for improvement / Policy reviews

“[It’s] obvious that the chancellor and the vice chancellor are deeply committed to doing something about the problem.” (1979)

“A Title IX Committee, headed by a Title IX Compliance Officer, has been established within the Chancellor’s office.” (1980)

“An overhaul is required – with uniform standards, mandated training, and zero tolerance for sexual assault on any UC property – said committee members who outlined seven strategies to be put in place in 2015 that they hope will become a model for campuses across the country.” – (September 2014)

U.C. Berkeley spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said the school is “committed to taking a close look at what we can do to better serve students and incorporate their concerns as we seek to address these issues. That process remains underway.” (March 2014)

“I certainly hope we can do a better job,” she says. “We’re constantly reviewing and updating our policies.” (May 2014)

UC Berkeley says it will cooperate with the investigation and that its chancellor had sent out a letter to campus saying sexual assault would not be tolerated. “Much has been done to strengthen the campus’ handling of these issues, but we understand that there is always room for improvement,” the statement says. (May 2014)

“As we progress with our academic year, we take this opportunity to reaffirm UC Berkeley’s commitment to creating and maintaining a community free of discrimination, harassment and violence.” (October 2014)

Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said University Health Services will be conducting a “top-to-bottom” review of any policy associated with patient care, protection and education. (2003)

Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California, said that the Marcy case “has highlighted the urgent need to review University policies that inadvertently made the investigation and resolution of this case more difficult.” (2014)

[Janet Napolitano] has convened an emergency committee that has until February 2016 to review how investigations are conducted and punitive measures doled out. (2014)

Lauding the alleged perpetrator

“In accepting Dwyer’s resignation, [the chancellor] “recognized the law professor’s accomplishments as dean,” according to the university statement.” (2002)

“Barnett said Dwyer has done an “excellent job” recruiting new faculty and raising money for the school.” (2002)

Lackluster training

“All the training and prevention efforts will help bring clarity to the policies,” said Nancy Chu, UC Berkeley’s Title IX compliance officer. “They will also let people know where they can go for help, either in reporting problems or in getting clarification for issues that reside in the gray area.” (2003)

“The University of California Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence, issued in March 2014, prohibits sexualharassment and sexual violence, provides support for victims and outlines training for faculty, staff and students.” (October 2014)