March 25, 2016

How could Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California system, lead by example?

The NYT reports on the incident at the University of California, Berkeley, in which the dean of the law school, Sujit Choudhry, received a confidential and mild punishment after his executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell, complained that he had sexually harassed her. Sorrell was told to look for another job, while Choudhry kept his. The dispute became public when Sorrell filed a lawsuit. 400+ alumni signed a letter calling the punishment "feeble" and "threaten[ing] to withhold future donations until he was fired."

Janet Napolitano — who was President Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013 — is the president of the University of California system. She "said she was upset that she had learned of his case from the news media barred Choudhry from campus for the rest of the term and ordered disciplinary proceedings that could ultimately result in stripping him of tenure."

Choudhry's lawyer sent a letter to Napolitano charging that he'd been deprived of due process and that the school had "lumped" his case in with other sexual harassment problems at Berkeley, making him "a scapegoat for any shortcomings, real or perceived, in the university’s handling of sexual harassment claims and related policies and procedures."

Napolitano gave an interview to the NYT, which gives us scant information about what was said. We're told "she stood by her order to keep Mr. Choudhry off campus." And we get this distanced quote: "I think our society at large has undervalued sexual harassment in the workplace...It’s gone on in many professions for decades. We are a public university, and we ought to be leading by example, not by mistake."

You want to set examples? You are the president of the system. Why hadn't you already figured out how to handle accusations of sexual harassment adequately? Why did you only hear of the case through the news reports? If you're upset about how little you yourself knew, and if the system over which you preside has been inadequate to handle complaints, what "example" should be set against yourself?

Napolitano is both too general and too specific. She says: "our society at large has undervalued sexual harassment in the workplace" when it should be "The University of California has undervalued sexual harassment." And she takes a severe action against Choudhry, but only after his case became an embarrassment to her. She says she's "leading by example," but what's the example? Undervaluing due process to deflect attention away from systemic failure?


Hagar said...

Janet Napolitano is not too terribly bright.
She is typical of the people Obama has set to preside over his government agencies and take the flak, while other people actually run the place through the back door.

Bruce Hayden said...

But, then you could ask why Bill Clinton wasn't in jail for his sexual assaults, esp. when they went as far as forcible rape. Or why his buddy, Jeffrey Epstein only served 13 months for his sexual offenses. Or, indeed, why the Secret Service agents who were along when Clinton accompanied Epstein on his private 727 Lolita Express to his private island never said a thing, despite several of Epstein's 15 year old routine sex partners apparently servicing the former First Penis. There is a double standard, and we aren't supposed to ask about it.

Laslo Spatula said...

"I think our society at large has undervalued sexual harassment in the workplace..."

I find this sentence odd. Undervalued?

So we should place MORE value on sexual harassment?

Like: better and more efficient sexual harassment?

I am Laslo.

Michael K said...

Napolitano is a hack. She was a hack when she was governor of Arizona. She was worse at Homeland "Security"

The entire university system is rotten to the core. We see this over and over with uneducated fools graduating with worthless degrees.

We see it with staggering student debt and the ridiculous expansion of non-teaching staff.

We see it with luxurious student housing and recreation facilities.

My university was second tier and cost about $250 a semester in tuition in 1956. That was $500 a year. You could work and save enough over a summer to pay the tuition the next year. I did so.

Multiply that by 20 and you get $10,000/year. The present tuition is $52,000 a year. Sixty percent of the students are on financial aid.

This will collapse. Law schools are already in deep trouble.

The false rape hysteria is only the last act in the drama that is about to end.

James Pawlak said...

Her being a "graduate" of the Obama "Administration" certainly prepared her to ignore "Due Process Of Law".

Are her actions "Deprivation Of Civil Rights Under Color Of Law"?

Bruce Hayden said...

Janet Napolitano is not too terribly bright.

She was very well regarded in the law firm that she was with between the time that she graduated from law school and when she was elected to public office. It is one of the top firms in AZ and regionally, and the attorneys I know there tend to be top notch. I do know a number of the attorneys in that firm, and overall trust their judgment.

But, the flip side of this is that her sexual orientation was apparently fairly open, at least in that law firm, as well as in DC. This might possibly be a better explanation of why she ruled the way that she did.

traditionalguy said...

Unnoticed Lies are fungible and can be spent doing favor of a cover up for deeds done by ones in authority. But when seriously exposed, the Agency Head can claim the power of a re-do that usually over does it.

This is Bureaucracy 101. That is what Napolitano and all of the Academic and Obama appointed women in charge do this act every day.

And then there is the Governor of Alabama.

Rick said...

what's the example?

Guilt is determined by your identity group's position in the victim hierarchy and not the circumstances of your case. Napolitano admits Choudhry needs to be punished harshly because others have gotten away with outrageous behavior. The implication is that while it's too late to get them as long as we get someone in their identity group equity is restored. This is group reparations, although unlike the case for Reparations at least he violated the rules.

Rick said...

Bruce Hayden said...
[Janet Napolitano is not too terribly bright.]

She was very well regarded in the law firm that she was with between the time that she graduated from law school and when she was elected to public office.

I agree bright is not the right term. The problem is she has terrible values, not that she isn't able to understand how to act on them.

Oso Negro said...

Sigh. It would have been so much easier for everyone if Choudhury had only been white.

Laslo Spatula said...

Sounds like the University of California should look into hiring the services of Mr. Jones, Diversity Seminar Instructor.

I am Laslo.

Bay Area Guy said...

It's a question of standards. The Left constantly wants to change the standard to fit a particular outcome it wants from a particular circumstance.

Here, liberal UC Berkeley emloyed a lax standard, because they didn't want to be embarrassed by their overly touchy/kissy/huggy Dean.

Napolitano, after the fact, says Darnit, you should have employed the strict standard!

In other cases, schools might employ a strict standard, if they want to expel a disfavored frat boy athlete (See, Yale basketball player, Montague).

It's really the opposite of the rule of law. The rights of the accused are variable, the due process rules are murky, the standards are flexible.

The only true outcome is that some Male is gonna be hammered. Maybe, this is bad Karma for all the Don Drapers in the past or hippie Professors who slept with their students.

Advice to men on college campuses: (1) Be friendly but very cautious around women, (2) Stay the heck away from Crazy Left-wing women under any circumstance, and (3) you probably will avoid potential headaches if you get a nice stable girlfriend and stay faithful to her.

Jim said...

Tuition in the 70's at UC Bazerkeley was about 1500 year.
Somehow the left manages to increase costs, reduce service, and avoid any responsibility.
The answer is always more of other peoples money to 'fix' things.
Competency and individual responsibility used to be important.
Politicians and bureaucrats, especial under the PC code of conduct, are always excempt.

The Drill SGT said...

As I recall fees at UCD in the 67-74 range, the quarterly fees were $54 * 3. By the time I left it was $250 * 3.

The article was silent on three players, the UC B Chancellor, his Counsel and the UC B PR person. WTF, it was the Law School Dean. Those 3 failed in their Fiduciary duty to the UC President

virgil xenophon said...

@Michael K/

LOL. Got you beat. I entered LSU in fall of 62 on a tennis scholarship. Being out-of-state, although I didn't pay any tuition I always saw the tab on the registration forms. IIRC out-of-state tuition was $50.00/semester! By the time I graduated in '66 it had risen to the "ungodly" amt of $150.00/semester. (Of course the Student Union didn't have any climbing walls, nor a weight room better that of the Athletic Dept and the dorm rooms didn't look more sumptuous that a NYC 5th Ave Penthouse, lol. Such "progress" we have made in "higher ed!" )

Michael K said...

The UC schools are preferentially accepting out of state students because they pay higher tuition. It is already a bit of a scandal.

The same was true of U of Arizona where my daughter graduated three years ago. Tuition went up by about 20% each year.

Michael K said...

Virgil, that was a state school. USC has been private since founded in 1880. I started on a scholarship but had too much social life and paid my own way until medical school where I got a scholarship again. Medical school then was $500 a semester.

exhelodrvr1 said...

"Why did you only hear of the case through the news reports?"


HoodlumDoodlum said...

The example is that problems of management competence will be addressed by shifting blame and attention to some lower level employee while moving the conversation to some more general theme/argument the Left favors.

Hey, it "worked" for the VA, it "worked" for the IRS, it even "worked" for the Obamcare rollout...why wouldn't it work now?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Is undervalued really the correct word here? If you undervalue something I get the sense that you think it should have more "value" and therefore if it is more desirable to have more of it. More value....we want more!!!

I'm pretty sure that isn't what is meant. That we should have more sexual harassment. You would think that people in a professional education setting would be able to chose a better wording.

Perhaps...We don't give enough "weight" to the instances of sexual harassment ...yada yada yada.

Next...perhaps some exact definitions of what sexual harassment consists of. Asking your assistant to get you a cup of coffee or patting her on the ass. Not exactly comparable. So....what IS sexual harassment, really?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

People who favor larger government (and government taking over/doing more things) don't seem willing to admit that management in government is often incompetent. I don't mean that the personnel and skills are all worse in gov. work (although quality-wise I'd want to see some #s), but even if the skills are the same the motivations and incentives that demand and promote competent management & leadership in the private sector just don't exist in the same form in gov.

The Media seems to genuinely not understand that problem, by the way. The Prof. immediately picked up the problem with Napolitano's response re: first hearing about it in the news. Why would a reporter not ask "why is that the case? What breakdowns occurred in your mgmt structure to cause that lack of communication and how are you going to fix them?" She's essentially admitting that she and'or her mgmt team aren't doing their jobs (if their jobs include being aware of situations like this one). That's a problem! It's her problem, and a deficiency in her office.

"I first read about a problem in the news when I should have been aware of it much earlier" isn't something one should be happy to admit, President Obama's example notwithstanding.

eric said...

She only heard of this through news reports? Gee, where have I heard this excuse before?

She actually used this excuse many years ago when she was first elevated by Obama. There was an ICE raid on a business here in Washington State where a few dozen illegals were caught and set up for deportation. Everything went smooth and the media was involved. Janet was in her first year of the job and was asked about it. Her response was, she was only learning about it from the media.

After that, no more raids were allowed on businesses without express permission from her office. Which lead to no more raids. Or at least, very few.

Victor Ulmer said...

To say that “our society at large has undervalued sexual harassment”, makes my head hurt. Since when do we “value” sexual harassment, or since when should we “value” sexual harassment? To thus use the word “value”, is an awkward way of saying that our society is too tolerant of sexual harassment.

Owen said...

Prof. Althouse: Full marks for your critique of Napolitano. She appears to be doing as good a job running the UC system as she did running Homeland Security. It is curious that her experience at DHS did not better prepare her to handle garbage like this, but I guess some people are too smart to learn.

David Begley said...

Where was Cal's general counsel on this matter? That office surely has known about this for a long time.

Amadeus 48 said...

Napolitano is guilty as charged here, but she was no more effective at Homeland Security.

Althouse has to have had some experiences in her career that inform her views on this topic.

I was a partner in large law firms in a 40 year career. This is what I saw: most people behaved in a professional way most of the time. A few people (mostly men) routinely acted in a predatory way, particularly in the early years (the '70s). As the years went by, predatory behavior got squashed by firm management, but a few people continued to engage in office romances, sometimes breaking up their marriages in consequence. By the time I retired, the office standard was professional behavior, but people are just people. I had a number of female clients who treated me as a social friend--general counsels of companies who were former colleagues-- who would give me a friendly hug on greeting or exchange air kisses. What would younger colleagues make of that today? I certainly would never expect a social greeting from a younger colleague, and would never offer one.

So what happened with the dean? I can't tell from the articles about this case. Was he a serial groper or just trying to be too friendly with co-workers? The consequences would indicate that he was perceived as predatory, but the cast of characters here gives me no confidence as to the real facts.

virgil xenophon said...

@Michael K/

Funny true story about me & USC. At the time I made a decision to get out of the USAF in 1971 I was stationed in the UK and, as twas not possible to interview I applied to the then Univ of Southwestern La for its Masters program, having a fraternity brother who was a math major then in USLs computer engineering program (as they called it then--a field very much in its infancy) walk my paperwork thru and secure a TA job in the Poli-Sci Dept such that I flew directly from the UK, processed out, then flew to Lafayette and began teaching and attending classes virtually the next day.

Naturally USL was at that time almost invisible on the national scene (still is in many ways) and so when I decided to interview at USC (as my then to be wife was an RN working at LA County in burn therapy in the burn ward) in Jan of 73 one of my professors at USL cautioned: "Now, I just want you to be prepared so you won't be too shocked, but when you are sitting across the desk from the Dept head during the interview, at some point he will interrupt, lean forward and say 'excuse me, but where did you say your're currently enrolled again?' " LOL. It happened EXACTLY in that way, to inclu the forward body lean! Did that guy ever have it pegged! much for USC. I eventually ended up down-river in Tulane's PhD program as they had some grads at USL, so my MA wasn't seen as being bestowed by a "foreign entity." LOL

Curious George said...

"Janet Napolitano — who was President Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013 — is the president of the University of California system"

Is that what she's doing now. I figured she went back to hiding under her bridge...

William said...

There are several mitigating factors at play. The accused was an academic, a Democrat, and not white. You don't want to jump to any hasty conclusions about such people. It's like when Patton abused that soldier in shell shock. Sure, it was wrong, but you needed Patton's services for the next offensive.......Now if this was a case of some executive in the Trump organization, the issues would be much more clearly defined. Not only would that executive be guilty, but Donald Trump, who set the tone of that organization, would also be guilty. A stretch in the slammer would be justified for everyone involved.

Rick said...

Dust Bunny Queen said...So....what IS sexual harassment, really?

Sexual harassment is whatever anyone is willing to say it is. This reality is why institutions welcome and support screaming and crying student-activists. These people are willing to change the definition at the price of proving themselves idiots in public, which means the campus administrators don't have to do so.

laura said...

"said she was upset that she had learned of his case from the news media..."

this is a ridiculous pattern.

virgil xenophon said...

Yah got it all wrong, girl, Ah say, yah got it all WRONG! (hint: best voice of Foghorn Leghorn) An "exact definition" is THE LAST thing they want. This lack of specificity allows the maximum flexibility to produce the desired PC outcomes (Also in this vein, see Bay Area Guy, Trad Guy and Rick, above)

Owen said...

Rick said at 3/25/16, 10:18 AM:

"Dust Bunny Queen said...So....what IS sexual harassment, really?

Sexual harassment is whatever anyone is willing to say it is. This reality is why institutions welcome and support screaming and crying student-activists. These people are willing to change the definition at the price of proving themselves idiots in public, which means the campus administrators don't have to do so."

Bingo. The schools have every incentive not to take control of this issue. Let me count the ways. First, Title IX is being used by the Department of Ed as a bludgeon to serve its own PC agenda, and schools that resist are being beaten half to death with investigations and threats of funding suspension. Second, many of the school faculty and management have drunk the Kool-Aid and believe the culture is rotten with male supremacist sexism, so they actively support ever-more extreme policy and process, and outnumber or intimidate their colleagues into acquiescing. Third, there is no good PR in arguing with the cry bullies when they storm the President's office demanding yet more; much easier to capitulate; so stepwise it goes on and on. Fourth, those found guilty of sexual offenses are quickly and quietly sent out of the Garden with threats and promises that tend to keep them quiet, or unable to challenge the secretive process and often-weak evidence used to banish them. So the whole thing appears to be almost costless to the schools.

That calculus is beginning to change. More and more of the accused are pushing back, either before their eviction or afterward.

n.n said...

The liberal culture wants to have its cake and eat it too. Employment with benefits is an integral piece of the dysfunctional revolution. The new orthodoxy is struggling to reconcile its internal, external, and mutual discrepancies.

Big Mike said...

Why did you [Napolitano] only hear of the case through the news reports?

Well, she claims that she only learned about this case through the news media, and that excuse seems to have worked very well for her old boss. The four possibilities are (1) she's lying about having only learned about this case through the news media (which I rate as 80% probable); or (1-a) she knows all about the case but the evidence was that Ms. Sorrell was lying about or at any rate overstating the harassment, however the easiest response to the pushback she received is to throw Prof. Choudhry under the bus; (2) she is the type of manager who punishes the messenger who brings bad news so she never gets bad news until too late; or (3) she really is clueless about how to set up proper procedures to handle claims against administrators.

Note that (2) and (3) are not mutually exclusive, and I have to say that in my 45 year career in IT I found female managers who were every bit as bad as the worst of the men in not wanting to hear bad news and punishing the person who brought it.

If you're upset about how little you [Napolitano] yourself knew, and if the system over which you preside has been inadequate to handle complaints, what "example" should be set against yourself?

Good thing I wasn't drinking anything at the time I read that, Althouse! Hold a liberal or progressive accountable for results?!? Has anyone held Gina McCarthy accountable when the EPA (the EPA!) was responsible for the largest environmental disaster of 2015 at Gold King Mine? The families of the Americans killed in Benghazi are trying to hold Hillary Clinton accountable for lying to their faces. How's that working? Under John Koskinen the IRS is literally thumbing its nose at your precious judiciary, Prof. Althouse, and who is holding him accountable?

I never got around to reading Gwen Ifill's book Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, but are the politics after 7 1/2 years quite you expected, Madam Professor, when you pulled the lever for Barack Obama back in November 2008? Just thought I'd ask.

Sebastian said...

"Why hadn't you already figured out how to handle accusations of sexual harassment adequately?" I'll be the last person to defend Napolitano or any other Dem O flunky, but as that last person: on the basis of what evidence can we conclude that she hadn't figured out how to handle this "adequately"? Is the mere (supposed) lack of knowledge by a system leader of a complaint resolution pertaining to a particular dean "inadequate"? Is the mere fact of an accusation by some administrative assistant somewhere evidence of inadequacy?

Gahrie said...

While we are trading USC stories....

March 1983.....I am a high school senior attending an american high school on an air force base in England.

My high school counselor calls me in to give me the results of the test I have been given to see if I am "gifted and talented". I passed...and she told me that if I had been coming back to school next year, I would receive enrichment (read: extra schoolwork)

Then she casually asked me which schools I had been accepted to. ( even though I was a C+ student, I was a national merit scholarship finalist etc...I test very well, and I'm fairly intelligent, just unwilling to waste time on stupid assignments) They were expecting to be able to brag about me, so when I replied that I hadn't applied to any, and intended to spend a year biking and camping around Europe..she nearly had a heart attack.

My parents knew nothing about applying to college, and my lazy ass counselor had never called me in to work with me on applying to college, so I had managed to slip by.

So she called my Dad in, and I was forced to apply for school. I decided that about the only schools I wanted to go to were USC or Grambling (really...I thought I might actually be good enough to play football at Grambling, and Eddie Robinson was the coach at the time) They wouldn't let me apply to Grambling, and I told them they were being racist. (I'm White)

So I applied to USC as a C student in March of my senior year.......and I got accepted.

virgil xenophon said...


Re: white students at Black colleges. In the summer of 1966 while I was in summer school at LSU a guy and his family moved into our apt complex. He had been a football player at Colgate and was in their Sports Medicine grad program when it was discontinued on short notice mid-stream. The only program he could transfer into without losing a semester or credits was a similar one at Southern Univ in Baton Rouge. (An all-black school--except no-one had told him that--imagine his surprise when he walked onto campus for the first time, lol) Good thing he had been an offensive lineman. :)

Sammy Finkelman said...

How could dealing with something involving administrative personnel be an example?

It's only when it concerns students that a university had to take allegations seriously, in fact super-seriously, but not when it concerns employees.

Since when are employees the same as students? They are not covered by Title IX,

And the university is not doing or not doing anything because they think it's right! did you think so, maybe? They're doing or not doing things because that's what their lawyers advise them to do.

Their lawyers advise them to do the maximum to protect themselves from lawsuits.

With students, that means always satisfying the complainer, or at any rate the federal government that could be looking over their shoulder; and with employees it means admit as little as possible.

The federal government is not looking over their shoulder when it comes as to handling allegations of sexual misconduct by employees.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Sebastian said... on the basis of what evidence can we conclude that she hadn't figured out how to handle this "adequately"?

2 things, really: 1.) If she had to step in and impose a sentence/consequence on the accused that the system she runs had not done (and assuming her imposed punishment/conditions are the correct ones) then that's evidence that the system in place did not adequately respond to the problem when it arose. If the system had worked the way she thinks it should she should not have had to intervene after the fact. Her having to go back and take care of it herself demonstrates that, to her at least, the procedures in place/carried out prior to her intervention weren't adequate (or were not adequately carried out). Since SHE runs the show and presumably SHE's responsible for managing the administration of these people/issues then it's clear she hasn't figured out how to effectively handle the problem (in the sense that her dept didn't, and she sets and enforces policy/mgmt actions for her dept).
2.) As many have pointed out her admission that she wasn't aware of the situation demonstrates problems within her chain of command/management structure, so even if we're very generous and assume that having her step in and order the actions that were ultimately taken is how the system is supposed to work, the fact that she didn't know about this problem means that she hasn't figured out how to run or oversee that system (and that's certainly part of any "response").

The fact that the prof. was initially given a warning and only later booted off campus shows that either the relevant people didn't respond correctly the first time or that the top Admin. people haven't set the policy to what they think it should be. In either case responsibility rests with the people in charge.

To put it succinctly: if the initial response was by the book then the fact that she went back and changed that original response shows that the policy is inadequate (in her judgement). If the initial response was not correct (by the book) then that fact shows that her management failed and the policy-enforcement controls she has in place are inadequate.

Michael K said...

"So I applied to USC as a C student in March of my senior year.......and I got accepted. "

I got a scholarship to SC from my high school in Chicago. The school had no idea what USC was (we alumni call it "SC" not USC which is South Carolina) and sent my transcript to UC Berkley. I got a letter from Berkeley accepting me and asking me to send an application.

We finally got it straightened out. I had wanted to go to Cal Tech and was also a National Merit Scholar but in 1956. My father got a financial statement to fill out from the NMSC and threw it away. I got a letter telling me that, since I did not need financial aid, I was just getting the congratulations letter. I had no money so the SC scholarship was all I had.

He didn't want me to go to college. He was a high school dropout.

Sammy Finkelman said...

There's alot of pressure to ay attention to sexual harassmenbt clams by students so much so that privacy is not respected.

glenn said...

Sujit Choudhry?

Tyann Sorrell?

I sense dueling PCness here.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse has to have had some experiences in her career that inform her views on this topic."

No. I've never accused anyone of sexual harassment. I've never been accused of sexual harassment and I've never worked around or been close to anyone who's been accused of sexual harassment.

I have been in situations where I've felt that there was physical contact that wouldn't have happened if I'd been male, such as a colleague holding his arm around me. I observed the situation and kept my own private opinion about it.

Michael said...


Have you ever seen a male colleague put his arms around another shoulders in a moment of camaraderie?

Gahrie said...

(we alumni call it "SC" not USC which is South Carolina

I get chewed out for calling it SC or SoCal.

Jonathan Graehl said...

What a magnificent example of the species: school administrator.