Saturday, April 9, 2016

"The faculty are very much untouchable," said Jenna Kingkade, a UC Berkeley law student and president of the Graduate Assembly. "It's a function of the hierarchy on this campus."

"UC Berkeley sex harassment scandal exposes 'double standard' over professor protections"


In recent months, furious and increasingly doubtful of their administration's commitment to protect them, graduate students -- especially vulnerable to harassment because they work so closely with professors holding great influence over their careers -- have been trying to get answers.

Instead, Kingkade said, "We have gotten the runaround."

They want to know what standards are used to apply sanctions outlined by campus policy, from censure to dismissal; how the process works; and what victims should expect if they make a complaint about a faculty member.

Designed to protect academic freedom, the decades-old conduct process required for a professor's firing can take up to a year, culminating in a triallike hearing before the tenure committee -- with attorneys, evidence and witnesses -- according to the university. The cases cover the gamut, from research fraud to plagiarism to not showing up to teach.

Tenure protections are standard at most universities. But if the faculty conduct process at UC is poorly understood, especially as it applies to sexual harassment cases, that could be because it is so seldom used. For all of the cases resolved in the past five years, according to new data from the university, the Academic Senate's Privilege and Tenure Committee has held just one hearing -- and not for a sexual misconduct case. The university does not comment on pending cases.

Instead, discipline for sexual misconduct cases involving faculty has been negotiated in an agreement between a professor and top academic administrators: usually, the provost or vice provost.

One expert who has been following the developments at UC Berkeley says the problem doesn't appear to be the disciplinary process itself but rather the school's failure to use it.

"I do hope that they begin to adjudicate these cases consistently, regardless of how elite or influential the academic involved," said Anita Levy, associate secretary in the American Association of University Professors' Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance.

-- in this SJ Merc article

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