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UC Berkeley Comes Under Fire for Handling of Sexual Harassment Claims

The statistics are troubling; with an estimated one-fifth of all female college students reporting being the victims of sexual assault during their college careers. As these startling numbers have come to light, there's been an outcry on campuses across the country as students demand that college administrators do more to both prevent sexual assaults and punish those who are accused of committing such acts.

At the same time that university and college presidents, vice presidents, chancellors, provosts and professors across the country are pledging to take action to stop sexual assaults on campus, reports indicate that some of the individuals who hold such positions are guilty of committing similar acts against colleagues, employees and even students.

Among those schools facing allegations of rampant sexual harassment is the University of California, Berkeley. A world-renowned higher education institution, UC Berkeley has long been considered a bastion for those academics and students seeking a progressive and liberal environment. That image, however, has been tarnished as the college openly admits its failures in the handling of several sexual harassment claims against high-ranking faculty members and administrators.

Among those accused of violating the university's sexual harassment policies are a law school dean, a prominent astronomy professor and an assistant vice chancellor. While the allegations of wrongdoing purported against these individuals are shocking, perhaps even more shocking is how the university chose to discipline them.

In all of these cases, none of the accused administrators or faculty members were initially fired. Rather, critics argue that their punishment equated to slaps on the wrists and included verbal reprehends, minor pay cuts and forced apologies. In all three cases, it wasn't until news reporters got wind of the incidents or legal action was taken that these individuals were either fired or forced to resign.

While the university's chancellor and provost have both acknowledged the school's failures in handling these and other claims of sexual harassment against administrators and faculty, they have "promised to act quickly to change the campus culture and practices."

Whether a two-person company, a higher educational institution or a giant corporation; acts of sexual harassment should never be sanctioned or tolerated. Individuals who have been the victims of sexual assault, unwanted advances, inappropriate touching or vulgar comments should come forward and speak to an attorney who handles employment law matters about their case.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "UC Berkeley has history of tolerating sexual harassment," Nanette Asimov, March 12, 2016

The Washington Post, "One in five women in college sexually assaulted: the source of this statistic," Glenn Kessler, May 1, 2014

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