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Cal State Chancellor Faces Investigation Call After Report Says He Ignored Sexual Harassment Issues In Previous Job

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California State University trustees appointed Fresno State president Joseph Castro as system chancellor on September 23, 2020.
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A recent USA Today report raises questions about the leadership of Joseph Castro, the former president of Fresno State who is now chancellor of the California State University system.

And in response, on Friday, Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) called on the CSU Board of Trustrees to launch an investigation.

According to the USA Today report, Castro, the university’s human resources department and the office that handles allegations of sex-based discrimination, received at least 12 complaints about Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Lamas over a period of six years. Those complaints include touching women inappropriately, making sexist remarks and retaliating against employees.

Castro also allegedly paid Lamas a full year’s salary of $260,000 to leave the university after an employee accused the latter of implying that he would promote her in exchange for sexual favors.

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And the report also alleges that Castro never formally disciplined Lamas, and instead praised him in annual performance reviews and even endorsed him for a lifetime achievement award.

'More Complex Termination Procedures'

In a statement issued Thursday, Castro said “nothing excuses Dr. Lamas’ behavior, and I’m sorry for those who experienced it.”

“The unfortunate reality,” he added, “is that public universities face more complex termination procedures and significant civil liability in terminating an employee without documented evidence.”

Castro followed up that statement with another, longer letter Friday night, restating that he acted once a formal Title IX complaint was filed.

Leyva, who serves as chair of the Senate Education Committee, wants the CSU Board of Trustees to “determine the accuracy” of the USA Today report. If the information in the story is corroborated, she said in a statement, she’ll ask Castro to resign.

On Thursday, shortly after the USA Today report was published, CSU Board of Trustees Chair Lillian Kimbell issued a statement lauding the chancellor’s “willingness to be apologetic and reflect candidly on his own actions.”

“In many instances,” she added, “settlement is the most ironclad way to ensure we’re protecting students and employees by guaranteeing that a separated employee isn’t able to ever return to a CSU campus.”

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