Showing posts with label Sujit Choudhry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sujit Choudhry. Show all posts

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nicholas Dirks, UC Berkeley Chancellor, under investigation for "alleged misuse of public funds, personal use of campus fitness trainer"

The University of California rolls through scandals like a great battleship being assaulted by BB guns. Nothing seems to scathe it.

The University of California: The Teflon University System

Or--to switch my metaphor--the University of California might be called the ultimate teflon university system. Scandal slides right off it like a burned fried egg in a teflon-coated pan. Remember the UC Davis pepper-spray incident when campus police officers assaulted passive students with pepper spray--a weapon the officers weren't even authorized to use?

No big deal. UC simply got out its checkbook as if it were a middle-class householder paying the monthly bills. Around 20 or so assaulted students sued, but UC settled with them for a million bucks-mere pocket change. It even paid off one of the assaulting police officers who filed a disability claim, based on the stress he said he experienced from pepper spraying students.

Hey, that's only fair. If UC is going to pay off the victims of violence, it should compensate the perpetrators as well.

Then the Sacramento Bee reported that no fewer than nine UC campus chancellors were getting outside money from sitting on various corporate boards. Did anyone get fired for that embarrassment? Naah.

And then Sujit Choudhry, the Dean of the Berkeley Law School, was accused of sexually harassing a subordinate.  He stepped down from his deanship but retained his tenured professor's salary--more than a quarter of a million dollars a year.

Space doesn't permit a review of UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi's various scandals. She is apparently on paid leave as the University sorts out nepotism allegations. But she's still getting paid, God bless her.

Allegations Against UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks: A Nonstarter

And now Nicholas Dirks, Chancellor of UC's flagship Berkeley campus, is being investigated for allegedly misusing public funds. As the Los Angeles Times reported it, a whistleblower accused Chancellor Dirks of getting free services from a campus fitness trainer. In addition, Dirks's wife, a tenured history professor, took the trainer with her on a trip to India. There are also questions about a $700,000 fence constructed around Dirks's residence--installed to protect him from student protesters.

In my view, the allegations against Dirks are a tempest in a teapot. Getting free use of a campus fitness trainer is no big deal. The director of the UC Berkeley recreational center approved the arrangement, which the director compared to getting free tickets to a varsity football game.

The same trainer accompanied Dirks's wife on a trip to India, but apparently the Berkeley Alumni Association paid for this perk, so no public funds were involved.

As for spending 700 grand to build a fence around Chancellor Dirks's house, I say what the hell. If the project complied with University spending regulations--and it probably did--no wrongdoing occurred. I doubt any of the allegations against Chancellor Dirks are serious enough to get him fired.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks: University President as Potentate

On the other hand, Chancellor Dirks is very well paid. He makes a half million a year, gets free housing and a generous car allowance. Can't the guy pay the cost of a personal fitness trainer?

Likewise, why is someone picking up the tab for Janaki Bakhle, Dirks's wife, to take Dirks's personal trainer with her on a trip to India? After all, Bakhle is a humble history professor. Where does she get off traveling the globe with a personal trainer paid for by the alumni association?

And let's face it; $700,000 is a lot of money to put a security fence around Dirks's personal residence. Berkeley's campus police defended the expense as a money saver. According to the UC cops, having a fence around the chancellor's house saves the university $360,000 a year in security costs.

But that defense is laughable. Was UC Berkeley really spending more than a third of a million dollars a year to protect Dirks's house?

The allegations against Dirks are a window into the world of a mega university president. These people no longer serve primarily as academic leaders. In their new role, they are more like a viceroy overseeing a British colony.  They get paid extravagant salaries, which are often padded with outside income and special perks like life insurance, car allowances, and palatial housing. They travel the world in private jets, hobnobbing with the global elites.

Meanwhile, if recent news reports are to be believed, a large number of college students aren't getting enough to eat.  Students borrow more and more every year to attend college and then graduate into a job market that puts nearly half of new graduates into jobs that do not even require a college degree. No wonder a large percentage of them regret ever going to college.

But Chancellor Dirks and his tenured wife are doing fine, thank you very much. And if the students get restless and protest escalating college costs, Dirks knows he can rest secure behind his $700,000 security fence.

Image result for "nicholas dirks images
Nicholas Dirks: Potentate of UC Berkeley

Nanette Aimov. UC Berkely law dean Choudhry resigns amid harassment scandal. San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2016. Accessible at

Jessica Dickler. College costs are out of control. CNBC, July 13, 2016. Accessible at

Conor Friedersdorf. A costly suspension for UC Dav's embatled chancellor. Atlantic, April 28, 2016.

Larry Gordon (2012, September 13). UC to pay settlement in Davis pepper spray caseLos Angeles Times (online edition).

Steve Gorman. University of California cop who pepper sprayed student protesters awarded $38,000. Reuters, October 23. Accessible at:

Diana Lambert and Alexei Koseff. UC Davis chancellor apologizes, will donate textbook stock to student scholarshipsSacramento Bee, March 4, 2016. Accessible at

Teresa Watanabe. UC Berkeley chancellor under investigation for alleged misuse of public funds, personal use of campus fitness trainer. Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2016. Accessible at

Friday, March 18, 2016

Sujit Choudhry, Dean of UC Berkeley Law School, resigns deanship in wake of sexual harassment charge but stays on faculty as tenured professor. Shouldn't he be fired?

Everyone in higher education is a progressive--the new word for liberal. Academics deplore all forms of discrimination: ageism, racism, homophobia, abilityism, etc. But the scholarly community particularly despises sexism in all its forms: sexual harassment, groping, sexist jokes, and the denigration of women in the workplace.  Several universities have harshly disciplined male students for behaving boorishly to their female classmates--sometimes without due process.

But higher education's intolerance toward sexual harassment only extends to students--not college administrators. When administrators misbehave, universities frequently try to cover up the scandal; and often the offender is asked to do no more than step down from an administrative post and return to the faculty.

And this brings me to the story of Sujit Choudhry, who stepped down as Dean of UC Berkeley Law School after he was sued for sexual harassment by a female subordinate, Tyann Sorrell. The University investigated Sorrell's complaint before she filed her lawsuit and concluded that Choudhry had indeed been guilty of sexual misconduct.

But the University just gave Choudhry a slap on the wrist. He received a 10 percent pay cut for one year--reducing his half-million dollar salary by about $50,000. Meanwhile, Sorrell, the victim in the case, was put on paid leave.

This sorry episode came to public light when Sorrell sued, arguing that the penalty against Choudhry was too light. Choudry stepped down and is now a tenured law professor at Berkeley, making a paltry $284,000 a year.

This is how the modern American university works these days. College administrators howl like Puritans at the Salem witch trials when a student behaves too aggressively toward a date at a frat party. But when an insider gets caught with his hands in the wrong places, he gets treated with kid gloves.

But let's ask this question. How did Sujit Choudhry become Dean of a prestigious law school in the first place? He is a Canadian (born in India) who doesn't even have an American law degree, although he did acquire a master's degree in law (a nine-month program) from Harvard Law School.

Choudhry is described as a renowned expert in comparative international law, and he does have a modest record of publishing law review articles.  His article entitled "Method In Comparative Constitutional Law: A Comment On Law and Versteeg," published in the New York  University Law Review, is a page-turner. And I'm sure you've read his groundbreaking essay entitled "Living Originalism in India," which was published in the Yale Journal of Law and Humanities. It's been on Best Seller lists for months.

But should an American law school pay this guy a half million dollars a year to be a dean or even a quarter million dollars a year to be a professor? And when the university concluded that he harassed a female subordinate, shouldn't he have been fired?

Among those who borrow to pay for their studies, Berkeley law students now graduate with more than $140,000 in student-loan debt. Berkeley law students now know where their money is going--to guys like Sujit Choudhry.


Nanette Aimov. UC Berkely law dean Choudhry resigns amid harassment scandal. San Francisco Chronicle, March 20, 2016. Accessible at

Sujit Choudhry. Method In Comparative Constitutional Law: A Comment On Law and Versteeg. 87 New York University Law Review 2078 (2012). Accessible at

Sujit Choudhry, Living Originalism in India? "Our Law" and Comparative Constitutional Law. 25 Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities (2013).

Jacob Gershman. UC Berkeley Law School Dean resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Complaint. Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2016. Accessible at

Jeff Schmitt. The Leaders in Student Debt. Tipping The Scales, March 31, 2014.