His career was too important. Despite allegations of sexual harassment that were substantiated by an internal investigation, the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law allowed Dean Sujit Choudhry to stay on the job. In 2015, Tyann Sorrell, Choudhry’s assistant, described how the dean had pursued her for kisses and long hugs over a period of months. Choudhry initially held onto his professorship and benefits. Even after an uproar, the university, which boasts a “zero tolerance” policy, kept him on payroll (he was pushed to resign as dean after Sorrell sued him for sexual harassment in 2016, but he remained on the law-school faculty). Choudhry was eventually put on a two-year sabbatical, still retaining travel funding and research grants (the settlement reached between Sorrell, Choudhry, and the school ensures that he will voluntarily resign in 2018).
The legal community was riveted. This sort of harassment in academia had little history of resulting in punishment. “If you think of maybe the last person on earth who would do this, you would think it would be the dean of one of the most prestigious law schools in the country,” John D. Winer, Sorrell’s lawyer, told The New York Times last year. Unfortunately, Winer is off the mark. The open secret in academia is how many women face sexual harassment on a regular basis. A 2015 survey conducted by the Association of American Universities at 27 elite private and public research universities found that roughly one in 10 female graduate students states that she has been sexually harassed by a faculty member at her university. Although some critics questioned the study’s methodology, suggesting it may have resulted in an overestimation, the results demonstrate that academia is by no means immune to the kind of harassment people are speaking out about in entertainment and media.