Boalt Dean Quits Under Sexual Misconduct Cloud

Elana Fiske is a contributing writer and Wendy Lee is a staff writer for The Daily Californian.

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The dean of UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law resigned Wednesday amid allegations that he sexually harassed a former law student.

John Dwyer

John Dwyer, who became dean in 2000, admitted to having a single consensual encounter with a student two years ago but denied charges of sexual harassment.

"I acknowledge that this reflected a serious error in judgment on my part and was inappropriate," Dwyer wrote in an internal memo to the Boalt Hall community. "I believe I can no longer effectively lead the school."

Dwyer, whose resignation goes into effect Jan. 1, also leaves behind his tenured faculty position.

In the memo, Dwyer, 50, stressed "there is no allegation any form of sexual intercourse occurred." He added the student involved had not taken any of his classes.

The law student filed a complaint with the university Oct. 11, according to media reports.

UC Berkeley officials initiated an investigation into Dwyer's involvement with the former law student as soon as the allegations were brought to their attention, according to a university statement.

Campus sexual harassment policy requires complaints be filed within 90 days of an incident.

Some faculty were wary a single complaint, issued years after the admitted incident, could lead to Dwyer's resignation.

"I hope the administration has a good explanation for this," said UC Berkeley law professor Stephen Barnett.

A Stanford University human resources officer who wished to remain anonymous said it was strange for Dwyer to have relinquished his faculty position.

"(Tenured professors) essentially have lifetime employment if you will," he said. "It's unusual for them to give up their position for anything."

Dwyer's resignation came to many of Boalt Hall's faculty unexpectedly, just before Thanksgiving break.

"I'm really sad and shocked by this," said UC Berkeley law professor Charles Weisselberg.

Dwyer will be remembered as someone who was "very scrupulous about the performance of his duties," said UC Berkeley law professor Michael Smith, who had an office next door to Dwyer's in 1992.

Smith added Dwyer spent "a very, very great amount of time" working with students, and it was common to see a "bunch" of students in his office.

In accepting Dwyer's resignation, Chancellor Robert Berdahl "recognized the law professor's accomplishments as dean," according to the university statement.

Barnett said Dwyer has done an "excellent job" recruiting new faculty and raising money for the school.

"Ironically he's been good at trying to heal some of the gender divisions of the faculty," Barnett added.

Before resigning, Dwyer had a highly successful career. He worked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and was a public defender for two years in Washington, D.C.

An authority on environmental law, Dwyer joined the law school's faculty in 1984. He was the second Boalt graduate to take the position of dean.

"As a teacher he was pretty good," said UC Berkeley law student Alex Lee. "In the classroom he seemed pretty professional."

The university will appoint an interim dean while it searches for Dwyer's replacement.

The UC Berkeley press office was unavailable to The Daily Californian for comment Wednesday.


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