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Following Castro’s resignation, Cal State launches investigations into system’s handling of sexual harassment complaints

EdSource

CSU Board Meeting March 22

The California State University Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to assess Title IX practices across the system, review complaints of sexual harassment at Fresno State University, and launch a task force to review separation agreements with managers.

The administrators’ actions came after a meeting filled with condemnation and anger from CSU students and faculty members over former Chancellor Joseph I. Castro’s mishandling of sexual harassment allegations at the University. of Fresno State and details surrounding Castro’s separation agreement with the nation’s largest public university system.

“Trust has been shattered within our campus, with scars much deeper than we realize,” said Isaac Alferos, president of the Cal State Student Association and student at CSU Fullerton. “Our students have been let down by our most trusted leaders and are unwilling to rebuild together.”

In February, a USA Today report revealed that Frank Lamas, former Fresno State vice president of student affairs, had been accused of sexual harassment “at least a dozen” times. Castro, who was campus president at the time, took no disciplinary action against Lamas and wrote him a positive letter of recommendation.

CSU administrators also expressed outrage at being “kept in the dark” about Fresno State’s allegations and Castro’s involvement before he was hired as chancellor in 2019.

“I am very disappointed and angry that as a board we have been kept in the dark,” said administrator Adam Day. “But today, we are asserting ourselves as leaders of this system and providing clear and decisive direction on the changes that are needed.”

These changes include hiring Los Angeles-based labor attorney Mary Lee Wegner to launch an outside investigation into how Fresno state leaders responded to Title IX complaints and reports. . The council ordered that the investigation be completed within 90 to 120 days, or less. The board also decided to:

  • Engage Philadelphia-based law firm Cozen O’Connor to conduct an independent assessment of Title IX practices at all 23 campuses in the CSU system.
  • Develop a system-wide policy on the right of departing or removed administrators to step back into faculty positions, along with letters of recommendation.
  • Constitute a task force to review CSU’s executive transition program and end “transition rights” for newly hired executives until the board considers the task force’s recommendations. The trustees requested a report in May.

“The board is not sitting still and is going to aggressively push for change,” said administrator Douglas Faigin. “It would have been very helpful if we had known about it, but we weren’t, and we’re going to change that.”

Castro told USA Today he consulted with then-Chancellor Tim White on the settlement that allowed Lamas to receive $260,000 and full retirement benefits.

The newspaper reported that Castro and White “agreed that this was the best way to avoid a potentially costly lawsuit from Lamas, who had threatened to sue. It also prevented Lamas from exercising a clause in his contract to job – known as “retirement rights” – which Castro said could have allowed Lamas to hold a professorship as an assistant professor even if he tried to fire or discipline him.

Under pressure from faculty and students, Castro resigned as CSU chancellor last month, but the board has come under fire for agreeing to pay the former chancellor $400,000 as part of the transition package frames. The program also allows Castro to become a professor at the system’s Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus.

Faculty groups have expressed outrage at the settlement agreement and are calling on the Legislature to conduct a separate investigation into CSU.

“When he was president of Fresno, (Castro) covered and paid off a serial sex harasser and now this council has done the same by providing Castro with a golden parachute of $400,000 and a year as an adviser principal of the board,” said Kevin Wehr. , vice president of the California Faculty Association, the union representing about 29,000 instructors. “Who the hell would take advice from someone who lied, covered up bad behavior and then paid off the abuser. It’s absurd; it is a misuse of public funds and a violation of public trust.

Evelyn Nazario, vice chancellor of human resources for the system, said the Title IX assessment will include a review of Title IX complaints to identify cases that have been dealt with appropriately and will include interviews with students, Title IX faculty, staff, coordinators, and administrators.

Title IX is the civil rights law that prohibits discrimination and harassment based on sex in any education program that receives federal financial assistance.

Alferos, the student union president, said the board’s actions are just the “first step” in a long process to restore trust within the CSU community.

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