What there is to know
- The resignation coincided with a closed meeting to discuss policies related to sexual harassment.
- The meeting followed questions about how Castro handled complaints against an administrator while he was president of Fresno State University.
- The resignation takes effect immediately.
California State University Chancellor Joseph Castro resigned on Thursday, coinciding with a closed meeting to discuss policies related to sexual harassment, following questions about how Castro has handled complaints against an administrator while serving as president of Fresno State University.
The resignation takes effect immediately. A succession plan to replace Castro is being finalized by the board. Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Steve Relyea will serve as interim chancellor until an interim chancellor is selected for the Long Beach-based system.
“I have been honored to serve California State University for more than eight years, including as eighth chancellor, and the decision to step down is the most difficult of my professional life,” Castro said in a statement.
“While I disagree with many aspects of recent media reports and ensuing commentary, it has become clear to me that resigning at this time is necessary so that CSU can continue to focus on its educational mission and the impactful work that remains to be done.”
Board Chair Lillian Kimbell said, “We appreciate Chancellor Castro’s cooperation with the trustees and his decision to step down in favor of the California State University system.”
The board also intends to begin an effort to “strengthen the institutional culture ‘across the system’ and bring CSU to the forefront of innovation, accountability and response. of Title IX,” said the statement announcing Castro’s resignation.
Trustees intend to seek a vote at their March 22-23 meeting to hire Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Gomez, president and vice president of Cozen O’Connor’s Institutional Response Group, to conduct a comprehensive assessment. system-wide, with the goal of providing insights, recommendations, and resources to help advance training, awareness, prevention, response, compliance, accountability, and title support systems IX and Civil Rights CSU. The evaluation will begin in March at Fresno State University.
Kimbell called Thursday’s meeting call Feb. 4, a day after USA Today published a lengthy report questioning a 2020 settlement deal that Castro helped negotiate with the vice president of student affairs and management. of Fresno State Enrollments, Frank Lamas.
According to the USA Today report, no less than a dozen harassment complaints were filed against Lamas over a six-year period, including allegations that he stared at women’s breasts, touched women inappropriately, sexist remarks and berated and retaliated against employees.
Despite the allegations, no action was taken against him until a 2019 complaint that Lamas offered to promote a female employee in exchange for sexual favors, the newspaper reported.
This complaint triggered an academic investigation which found the allegation to be credible. And that led to the 2020 settlement agreement, in which Lamas received a $260,000 payout and left college with a glowing reference letter from Castro, according to the report.
Kimbell said in a statement following the USA Today report that she plans to ask the council “in the coming days” to support an independent investigation, “because I know it will help us improve practices and policies for the future”.
In a letter sent to the CSU community following USA Today’s report, Castro said the main purpose of the settlement agreement was to remove the Lamas from the campus community. But he said he regretted writing a letter of recommendation to Lamas.
In his letter, Castro insisted that the university “acted immediately” when the complaint was filed.
“To protect the campus community, he was expelled from campus within four days,” Castro wrote. “We then entered into settlement negotiations for two basic reasons: to permanently separate Dr. Lamas from campus as quickly as possible — without a protracted legal battle — and to permanently bar him from future employment at Fresno State or any other CSU campuses.
“As part of the settlement agreement, which was negotiated by a respected retired federal judge, I had to provide Dr. Lamas with a letter of reference. I did, and I included wording mentioning the progress the campus has made toward student success and In retrospect, when my motives were to expedite Dr. Lamas’ permanent removal from CSU, I regret accepting this aspect of the settlement, knowing that he has caused additional pain.
Castro apologized for “any additional hurt and understandable frustration caused by aspects of the mediated settlement agreement.”
“I want you – the entire community of the State of California – to know that your health, safety and well-being are my first priority,” he wrote. “This includes promoting and maintaining an environment that is free from sexual harassment and any other form of sexual misconduct. And it also means respectfully and intentionally keeping space for anyone impacted by this behavior.”
Castro noted that CSU has begun a system-wide review of Title IX compliance.
“But of course, we need to do much more – to strengthen our support services for survivors; to refine the tools we have to respond quickly and effectively to incidents that do occur; and to appropriately remove legal, administrative and procedural that can impede action,” he wrote.