Berkeley Moves to Fire Assistant Coach Over Sexual Harassment - Higher Education
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Berkeley Moves to Fire Assistant Coach Over Sexual Harassment

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by Lisa Leff, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO ― An assistant men’s basketball coach at the University of California, Berkeley, became the latest employee found to have violated the school’s sexual harassment policy, drawing swift and serious sanctions Monday after complaints that punishment was too lenient in previous cases.

Head coach Cuonzo Martin immediately moved to fire the assistant, Yann Hufnagel, and to bar him from traveling with the team during the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, the athletic department said in a statement.

“You’re talking about a guy who’s part of your staff and a family member,” Martin, who is in his second year coaching the California Golden Bears, told reporters during a conference call. “We continue to push forward. It’s not an easy thing, but we’ll find our way.”

The woman who accused Hufnagel of sexual harassment is not affiliated with the school, university spokesman Dan Mogulof said. It opened an investigation in August after she complained about a “detailed series of communications and behaviors” from Hufnagel between November 2014 and May 2015, Mogulof said.

The woman was in touch with Hufnagel as part of her work, and campus investigators concluded in a report issued Monday that some or all of the behavior she reported violated the university’s sexual harassment rules, Mogulof said.

Posts on Facebook and Twitter pages that appear to belong to Hufnagel say the charges are unfounded and that he planned on being cleared.

“My time to exonerate myself of a fruitless claim by a reporter will come,” posts on both sites said Monday.

He told ESPN that he was hiring lawyers and said he was surprised by the attempt to fire him.

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“I’m crushed,” Hufnagel told the TV network. “I can’t believe it. I’m blindsided. I never imagined this would be the outcome.”

Hufnagel, 33, is at least the fourth campus employee in the last year to face sexual harassment allegations that were substantiated during campus investigations. He didn’t reply to several emails from The Associated Press seeking comment. A public phone listing for him rang unanswered.

The university has faced criticism for what some saw as its light-handed discipline in the three earlier cases, involving the campus’ vice chancellor for research, a prominent astronomer and the dean of the law school. All three men initially were allowed to keep their jobs but ended up resigning under pressure.

In response to the mounting disclosures, University of California President Janet Napolitano announced on Friday that she is appointing a systemwide committee to review and approve all proposed penalties for high-level administrators who violate sexual assault and harassment policies. Previously, it had been up to individual campuses to impose sanctions on their own officials.

Napolitano, the former U.S. Homeland Security secretary, also took the unusual step of directing UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to ban former Berkeley Law Dean Sujit Choudhry from campus and to start disciplinary proceedings against him through the Academic Senate.

Sujit, whose former executive assistant sued him over sexual harassment and who resigned as dean last week, remains on the faculty because the university’s tenure rules say faculty members only can be fired by that panel.

Napolitano also ordered Dirks to remove former Vice Chancellor of Research Graham Fleming from the administrative position he has held since he resigned last April amid harassment allegations from the top assistant vice chancellor in his department.

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“Prompt and effective responses to findings of sexual harassment and sexual violence are key to changing behavior,” Napolitano wrote to Dirks.

She also is awaiting recommendations for strengthening the process for reporting, investigating and issuing sanctions in sexual misconduct cases involving faculty members.

UC Berkeley officials are holding off on releasing the written report on the Hufnagel investigation for a few days at the request of the woman who complained.

Hufnagel’s was in his second year as an assistant coach. He worked with the university’s guards last year and the team’s backcourt was considered one of the best in the Pac 12 conference, the school said.

Before UC Berkeley and a year at Vanderbilt University, Hufnagel spent four years as an assistant basketball at Harvard University. He was credited with helping develop guard Jeremy Lin, who now plays for the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.

Associated Press writer Paul Elias contributed to this story.

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