Resignation of Dean Leads to Policy Evaluation

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UC Berkeley's response to two-year-old accusations of sexual harassment, which led to last week's resignation of Boalt Hall School of Law dean John Dwyer, has left many questioning the effectiveness of university policy.

The attorney representing the former Boalt student levying the allegations against Dwyer said her client feared retaliation if she had come forward earlier.

Though she reported the incident to a university officer following the 2000 encounter and sought advice from three female faculty at Boalt, the student did not issue a complaint until after she had graduated and taken the Bar Exam.

Her fears drove the university to waive its usual sexual harassment procedures, which require incidents be reported within 90 days.

Clinical specialists said it is not "unusual" for victims to wait before making formal statements.

"If students don't feel safe and can't be protected, they aren't going to come forward with complaints," said Paula Flamm, social services manager at the Tang Center.

But experts argue UC Berkeley's policy should still have been designed to address these concerns in a timely manner.

"The thing that is really significant is the obligation of the institution to deal with harassment," said Charllotte Fishman, director of the higher education legal advocacy project at Equal Rights Advocates. "There is something wrong with procedures that don't permit the process to be resolved promptly."

Boalt faculty received copies of the university's sexual harassment policy prior to Dwyer's resignation. No special training sessions were given to sensitize members to the issue.

UC Berkeley law professor Linda Kreiger said her own knowledge of the university's sexual harassment complaint procedures had been inadequate when she counseled the student, according to media reports.

But many said it was odd that tenured faculty did not know how to respond to these types of situations.

"The women are keenly aware of the problem," said UC Berkeley law professor Kristin Luker. "The idea that tenured women with legal training do not know what to do or were intimidated, on the face of it is quite ridiculous."

University officials said they are evaluating the effectiveness of their policies and education regarding sexual harassment on campus.


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