- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - The president of the University of California system ordered a new process for reviewing sexual harassment claims against administrators after UC Berkeley faced a backlash over how it handled allegations against the dean of its law school.

Sujit Choudhry resigned Thursday after his former executive assistant alleged in a lawsuit that her boss received only a temporary pay cut and orders to undergo counseling as punishment following a campus investigation that substantiated her claims that he repeatedly kissed and touched her.

University leaders must make sure that substantiated cases of sexual misconduct be dealt with “firmly, fairly and expeditiously and that appropriate sanctions are imposed that recognize the serious nature of these claims,” University of California President Janet Napolitano said Friday in a letter to the system’s 10 chancellors.

She announced that a new systemwide committee would review and approve all proposed penalties for high-level administrators who violate sexual assault and harassment policies. She also ordered all chancellors, provosts, vice chancellors, vice provosts and deans to complete sexual assault and harassment training by March 25.

“This issue is critically important to the University of California, and to me personally,” the former Homeland Security secretary and Arizona governor wrote in the letter. “At a minimum, our employees are entitled to come to work without fear of sexual harassment or sexual violence.”

In a separate letter, Napolitano told Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to ban Choudhry, the law school dean, from campus and start disciplinary proceedings against him through the Academic Senate, which could result in suspension or dismissal. Under the terms of the university’s tenure rules, professors only can be fired by that panel.

Napolitano also told Dirks that the university system does not intend to defend Choudhry in court against his former assistant’s claims.

Dirks met with angry law school faculty members Thursday along with Provost Claude Steele, who had said a day earlier that the disciplinary measures he had imposed on the dean in July were appropriate.

After the meeting, the two said in a letter to law school professors, alumni and students that they welcomed the dean’s resignation as being in the university’s best interests.

In a statement provided by Berkeley, Choudhry said he disagreed with the allegations but could not comment further.

The Los Angeles Time first reported on Napolitano’s actions Saturday.

The revelations involving Choudhry came nearly five months after a prominent astronomer at Berkeley, Geoffrey Marcy, resigned amid a national outcry over revelations that the school had substantiated sexual harassment complaints from former female students without demoting or suspending him from his job.

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