Cal provost’s bittersweet step-down

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Cal provost’s bittersweet step-down

Photo Courtesy of Asian Mirror

Photo Courtesy of Asian Mirror

Photo Courtesy of Asian Mirror

Kali Persall,
Managing Editor

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UC Berkeley’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, Claude Steele, took the Berkeley community by surprise when he announced his resignation last Friday, citing his wife’s health issues as his reason for leaving.

“It has been a privilege to devote my time and energy to growing and supporting the university, and in particular to building a more inclusive community,” said Steele in a statement issued to the campus community by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks on April 15. “Alas, my wife’s ongoing health challenges remain quite significant, and this is simply not a time in our lives where I can afford to further sacrifice our time together. The choice has thus become clear: I can no longer offer UC Berkeley the time and level of commitment it needs from its EVCP, while at the same time being a part of my family in the way I want to be.”

Steele’s announcement arrived in the midst of a firestorm of ongoing criticism about a slew of sexual harassment cases at UC Berkeley that sparked questions about the discipline of staff and faculty members found guilty of sexual misconduct. Earlier this month, an investigation into 17 cases involving Berkeley faculty and staff was released, revealing that a third of the staff members investigated were let go, but accused faculty either resigned or remain employed at Berkeley, according to The Daily Californian.

Students and residents of nearby communities have expressed outrage at the university’s apparent lenient punishments of tenured faculty.

Steele has been the target of scrutiny for his assuaged discipline of former Berkeley Law School Dean Sujit Choudhry, who was found guilty of the sexual harassment of his former executive assistant Tyann Sorrell last year. Rather than firing Choudhry, Steele ordered a 10 percent dock in Choudhry’s pay for one year, required he see a counselor, as well as write Sorrell an apology letter, according to The Daily Californian. In response, Sorrell sued Choudhry and the UC Board of Regents for sexual harassment last month.

Steele will remain employed at Berkeley and will join the psychology department as a full-time faculty member next year, according to Chancellor Dirks’ statement. The EVCP position will be filled on an interim basis. Specific information about who will assume this role has not yet been released.