California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro said he welcomes an independent investigation into allegations that he mishandled sexual harassment allegations while president of Fresno State University.
“While I followed CSU policy and took the steps to ensure this individual could never work on a CSU campus, I recognize that certain aspects of the process should have been handled better — this is especially true of the hurt caused by my communications to the community during that time,” Castro said Friday.
CSU Board of Trustees Chair Lillian Kimbell said she plans to ask the board to support an independent investigation.
“My expectation is that an independent investigation will not only help me in my growth as a leader but also strengthen the work of the entire Cal State system,” Castro said.
Kimbell’s and Castro’s statements come just hours after state lawmakers called for an investigation into those allegations.
“I was greatly troubled to read the article in USA Today regarding Fresno State University and CSU Chancellor Castro,” said Jose Medina, a Riverside Democrat, who chairs the Assembly Higher Education Committee. “The California Legislature takes allegations and investigations of sexual misconduct very seriously, and situations like this must be handled with the utmost care and consideration for survivors. I share the call to action of others, and I am formally asking the CSU Board of Trustees to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter immediately. It is imperative that we determine the accuracy of the allegations and ensure that our leaders of higher education are truly prioritizing the safety of students, faculty and staff.”
State Sen. Connie Leyva, a Chino Democrat and chair of the Senate Education Committee, also called for an investigation.
A USA Today report claims Castro mishandled allegations against Frank Lamas, the former vice president for student affairs at Fresno State.
“If those allegations are proven to be accurate, I would then ask Chancellor Castro to immediately resign from his position since it would call into clear question his ability to lead the California State University system and its thousands of employees,” Leyva said in a statement.
The legislators’ calls for an investigation follow a statement of support for Castro from Kimbell, who said she appreciates his “willingness to be apologetic” amid the allegations. “I appreciate the forthright nature with which Chancellor Castro has addressed the allegations and concerns raised in the recent USA Today story,” she said in a statement released Thursday. “Dr. Castro’s track record and deep support of Title IX are clear. As president at Fresno State, he acted in accordance with CSU policy in this case and used the management tools available to him to address the situation.”
According to the news report, when Castro was president of Fresno State University, he received at least 12 complaints about Lamas over a six-year period. The complaints included allegations that Lamas stared at women’s breasts, touched women inappropriately, made sexist remarks and retaliated against employees.
The report alleges that Castro never formally disciplined Lamas and that he paid Lamas to leave the university after an investigation into an accusation that Lamas implied he would help an employee get promoted in exchange for sexual favors.
Castro released a statement Thursday in which he says he took all allegations against Lamas seriously but that the university could not formally investigate any of them until a formal complaint was filed in 2019.
“The unfortunate reality is that public universities face more complex termination procedures and significant civil liability in terminating an employee without documented evidence,” Castro said in the statement. “The bottom line is nothing excuses Dr. Lamas’ behavior, and I’m sorry for those who experienced it. For any actions or words that I offered that exacerbated the pain felt by survivors of his abuse, I’m so deeply sorry.”
Kimbell said that in many instances when responding to Title IX concerns, a 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.”
Castro is launching a systemwide review of Title IX compliance and community awareness of Title IX rights and responsibilities, Kimbell said.
“I’ve also asked Chancellor Castro to look at developing guidelines for appropriate circumstances for providing recommendations for separated employees,” she said. ” I look forward to continue working with Chancellor Castro to further address all of these challenges and to make the process stronger for the future.”
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