UPDATE on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m.: Cal State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro has resigned amid scrutiny over his alleged mishandling of multiple incidents of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment involving Frank Lamas, former Fresno State Vice President of Student Affairs.
“I have been honored to serve the California State University for more than eight years, including as its eighth chancellor, and the decision to resign is the most difficult of my professional life,” Castro said in statement. “While I disagree with many aspects of recent media reports and the ensuing commentary, it has become clear to me that resigning at this time is necessary so that the CSU can maintain its focus squarely on its educational mission and the impactful work yet to be done.”
Castro’s announcement comes after an hours-long closed-door session with the Board of Trustees.
Board of Trustee Chair Lillian Kimbell said in a statement: “We appreciate Chancellor Castro’s cooperation with the Trustees and his decision to step down for the benefit of California State University system.”
The trustees will finalize plans on who will succeed Castro, but in the meantime, Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer, Steve Relyea, will serve as acting chancellor, the Times reports.
A petition set forth by Cal State Long Beach Faculty and staff calling for Castro’s resignation has reached over 200 signatures.
“Our Chancellor’s behavior speaks clearly to faculty, staff, and students — Castro does not care about sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or the safety and well-being of those of us who are most likely to be the targets of predators like Lamas,” the petition says.
In response to allegations accusing Lamas of sexual misconduct, Castro authorized a $260,000 payout and retirement package for him in addition to a letter of recommendation that spoke of his “bold leadership.” The letter failed to disclose findings that supported allegations of sexual misconduct by Lamas, following a 2019 complaint by a female employee alleging that he moved his hand up her thigh while discussing job prospects in a car.
Frank Lamas’ appeal against allegations was denied in February, to which he responded in a statement to FOX26 that “Fresno State and the California State University system conducted investigations into allegations made against me that I maintain lack legitimacy and are false.”
“I continue to maintain my innocence. My positive track record throughout my career speaks volumes for my professionalism, integrity and character spanning four decades,” Lamas continued. “I have cooperated fully with all investigations and subsequent mediation. In the end, with the assistance of a mediator, we agreed to a settlement and amicably decided to end our work relationship. I chose to retire from Fresno State December 31, 2020. I received an outstanding letter of reference from my supervisor then President Joseph Castro and positive evaluations every year I was at the university.”
Just weeks after Castro approved the settlement agreement, he was named chancellor of CSU, the largest public four-year university in the nation.
Lillian Kimbell, Cal State Board of Trustees Chair, said earlier this month that she would ask the board to follow through on an investigation of Castro’s actions following calls to do so by Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside) and state Sen. Connie Levya (D-Chino).
The Long Beach chapter of the California Faculty Assn. believed that Castro’s confirmation of his involvement in the settlement agreement meant a CSU investigation was not warranted.
“We already know those facts. We already know what Castro did. We already know that he admitted that he reacted how he did, which was not to react and basically reward this individual,” Cal State Long Beach professor Emily Berquist Soule commented on the investigation. “To us, that’s all the facts we need. We don’t have confidence that he would protect ourselves or our students from violence and sexual discrimination.”
Castro previously told the L.A. Times that he would not write another letter after feeling regret for his actions.
CSU has not yet responded to Los Angeles magazine’s request for comment.
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