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John Dwyer, dean of UC Berkeley’s School of Law, resigns
02 December 2002

Last week on Wednesday, Nov. 27, John Dwyer, dean of UC Berkeley's School of Law (Boalt Hall) announced his plans to resign as dean and from the faculty. Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl accepted the resignation in response to an allegation that he sexually harassed a law student in December 2000. That individual, now a Boalt Hall graduate, filed a formal complaint with the university's Title IX officer dated Oct. 11, 2002; the complaint was received by the university on Oct. 16. The university immediately began a formal investigation into the complaint, and the investigation is continuing.

Below are answers to questions that have arisen:

Q: What specific complaints have been received by UC Berkeley?

A: Under law and campus policies, details of the complaint must be kept confidential. In general, however, the former student said that following a December 2000 social event attended by the dean and several law students, Dwyer engaged in a single instance of sexual contact with her in her apartment. There is a dispute over what transpired at the apartment, where they were alone. Dwyer maintains that the sexual encounter, which both agree did not involve intercourse, was consensual but was inappropriate on his part. The woman, in her Oct. 11, 2002 complaint to the campus, said she did not consent and that the incident had a negative effect on her personal and academic life.

In her letter she requested that her complaint be treated as a complaint under the Faculty Code of Conduct and as a general sexual harassment complaint.

Q: How did the university respond to her complaint?

A: On Oct. 17, the day after receiving her letter, the administration launched a confidential investigation into the incident headed by a faculty investigator from outside the law school. Within days conversations were undertaken with the complainant, her attorney, the dean and campus lawyers. In these discussions, her attorney raised additional issues not included in the original complaint, alleging that the campus was not in compliance with federal and state law under Title IX, which addresses sexual harassment and complaint procedures.

Q: In a press release the lawyer has charged that at the time of Dwyer's appointment "a group of Boalt Hall students sent a letter to Chancellor Berdahl expressing their concerns about Dwyer's sexual behavior, but that the concerns were not investigated." Is this true?

A: No. The chancellor did receive a letter from Boalt Hall student groups, but it made no reference to Dwyer’s sexual conduct.

Q: Prior to her formal complaint, did the student contact the campus about her concerns?

A: Yes. She said she spoke with three members of the law faculty and met with the campus's Title IX officer. Her discussions with the faculty members occurred in the semester following the December 2000 incident. She did not file a complaint at that time.

Later, on May 23, 2002, days before she graduated, she visited the campus's Title IX officer and requested information on sexual harassment policies and procedures. She declined to give her full name, but explained what had occurred in December 2000 and said it involved a dean at the university.

She was told that under campus policy when someone is accused by name of sexual harassment, the Title IX office is obligated to launch a formal investigation. She declined at that time to name the individual. She chose not to file a complaint.

At the meeting with the Title IX officer she expressed her concerns about retaliation if she filed a complaint. She was told that UC Berkeley has very strong policies against retaliation and was informed what steps to take if she believed it occurred.

The woman was given in writing UC Berkeley's Title IX policy on sexual harassment and complaint resolution procedures. The eight-page policy is online or can be found by typing "sexual harassment" into the Berkeley home page search form.

The student also was informed of the Faculty Code of Conduct and the rights of the accused under university policy. The following day, according to the Title IX officer, the officer telephoned her and provided more detailed information.

Q: The complainant’s attorney has charged that the campus tried to keep the issue quiet. Is this true?

A: Under UC Berkeley policy, the campus attempts to reach a resolution that is agreeable to both sides, is consistent with the Faculty Code of Conduct, and that protects the privacy of all involved. Dwyer had sought a confidential resolution. That request was under discussion with the complainant's lawyer when Dwyer resigned, as word of the incident was becoming known at the law school. The campus has kept the identity of the former student confidential.

Q: What further action is UC Berkeley taking?

A: John Dwyer has chosen to resign from the university voluntarily, citing a serious error in judgment. Separation from the university is the most severe sanction that would have resulted from a finding of faculty misconduct under the Faculty Code of Conduct. Thus no further personnel action will be taken.

The campus is investigating the specific procedures and actions taken related to this complaint to ensure that Title IX policies were followed.

The university will review the effectiveness of its sexual harassment policies and education for students, staff, faculty and administrators. Currently, deans and department chairs each year are given information on sexual harassment policies. Further, the Title IX officer provides additional training on request to any member of the campus community and in a typical year will conduct 70 to 80 training sessions.

All students receive sexual harassment policy information annually in "Safety Counts," a handbook on campus safety and security. And at Boalt Hall, law students receive information on sexual harassment policies from the school’s Dean of Students office.

Related information: