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Berkeley law school dean Sujit Choudhry resigns amid sexual harassment suit

Sujit Choudhry is photographed in Toronto, Ont. Sept. 24/2010.

Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and

The Canadian dean of Berkeley law school in California has resigned, a day after beginning an indefinite leave of absence in the face of a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Although Sujit Choudhry, a former University of Toronto law professor, will take up a position as professor, he is subject to the school's tenure policy that contains provisions for dismissal, the school said in a statement Thursday. Mr. Choudhry "remains a member of the school's faculty at present."

Mr. Choudhry and University of California, Berkeley, school of law had announced Wednesday he was taking an indefinite leave after his executive assistant filed a lawsuit in a California court accusing him of sexually harassing her by hugging and kissing her multiple times daily. But after that announcement, Berkeley released an internal investigation report that found him guilty of sexually harassing Tyann Sorrell, a mother of five.

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Her lawsuit also accuses Berkeley of ignoring her complaints and retaliating against her by failing to put either her or Mr. Choudhry on paid leave during the investigation. She alleged the harassment began soon after Mr. Choudhry became dean in the summer of 2014. After Berkeley's investigation upheld her complaint, the school docked Mr. Choudhry 10 per cent of his salary for one year and obliged him to write a letter of apology to Ms. Sorrell. (Mr. Choudhry acknowledged some hugs and kisses, but said there was no sexual intent.)

At a faculty meeting on Thursday, Berkeley officials came under criticism over their handling of the situation, and said they intend to meet with faculty leaders on Friday to draft plans for a stronger approach to sexual harassment.

"We are under no illusion that a resignation could or even should bring this matter and broader, related issues to a close," Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks and Claude Steele, executive vice-chancellor and provost, said in a statement. "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."

They said Mr. Choudhry's resignation is in the best interests of the law school and the university as a whole.

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