California State University Chancellor Joseph Castro resigns

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Former Fresno State President Dr. Joseph I. Castro is shown in this Bee file photo from 2018.

Fresno Bee File

California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro has resigned Thursday amid a conviction and calls for an independent investigation into his handling of sexual harassment allegations when he was Fresno State President.

“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 carried by the CSU Chancellor’s Office. “While I disagree with many aspects of recent media reports and ensuing comments, 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. .”

Castro in the statement added, “As I know from my own lived experience, the diverse and talented young people of our state and our nation – especially low-income and first-generation students – deserve access to power. transformative higher education that can so often seem like an elusive dream. I remain forever committed to ensuring that these students – our future leaders – are able to achieve this dream for themselves, their families and their communities. .

A succession plan to replace Castro is being finalized by the CSU board. Steve Relyea, Executive Vice-Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, will serve as Acting Chancellor until an Acting Chancellor is selected.

Fresno State Issues

Castro has been under fire from critics for two weeks, after USA Today detailed up to 12 allegations of sexual harassment against Frank Lamas when he was vice president of student affairs at Fresno State.

A formal Title IX complaint was filed in October 2019, later triggering two separate investigations and prompting the university to place Lamas on administrative leave.

Among the allegations, which Lamas has denied: he stared at women’s breasts, touched women inappropriately, made sexist remarks and created a hostile or abusive work environment.

Castro provided personal advice and brought in a trainer, but despite the allegations, he continued to give Lamas positive performance reviews and annual merit pay increases.

Board did not hear of concerns prior to appointment

CSU’s board of trustees were not made aware of concerns about Castro’s handling of those claims or the mediated settlement between the university and its former vice president of student affairs, prior to his appointment as chancellor. in September 2020.

This settlement included $260,000 and a letter of recommendation for future employment.

The board, in its statement, said it learned of concerns about Castro’s handling of the allegations against Lamas in early February. He gave notice of a closed session on February 7, and that meeting was held via a Zoom teleconference on Thursday morning. Castro resigned later that day.

The settlement was authorized by former Chancellor Timothy White, and council standing orders delegate authority and responsibility to resolve claims and settle disputes to the chancellor.

Castro’s base annual salary when he was hired as chancellor was $625,000. His terms of employment include tenure as a professor in the CSU system.

CSU administrators also announced plans to launch an initiative to strengthen institutional culture throughout the 23-campus system. At board meetings scheduled for March 22 and 23, directors also intend to seek a vote to engage Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Gomez, president and vice president of Cozen O’ Institutional Response Group. Connor, to conduct a comprehensive system-wide assessment with an objective to provide information, recommendations and resources to help advance training, awareness, prevention, response, compliance, CSU Title IX and Civil Rights Accountability and Support.

The evaluation will begin in March at Fresno State, according to the CSU statement announcing the resignation.

“We appreciate Chancellor Castro’s cooperation with the trustees and his decision to step down in favor of the California State University system,” said board chair Lillian Kimbell in the statement.

Growing pressure before resignation

Castro had said in an interview with The Bee that he would not step down, but the pressure on the beleaguered CSU chancellor continued to mount.

The Fresno State University Senate drafted a statement of no confidence in Castro to lead, direct, or administer his duties in the California State University system and called on the Board of Trustees and Legislature of the to conduct an independent investigation even if he were to resign.

“It is clear that our faculty feels the need to make an official statement regarding these recent revelations about Chancellor Castro’s handling of Frank Lamas,” Raymond Hall, president of the academic senate, said in an email.

Fresno State students also protested, demanding his resignation. State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, and Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, were among a growing list of public officials who called for an investigation into Castro and the handling of allegations of sexual harassment at university.

This story was originally published February 17, 2022 7:47 p.m.

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