Many California State University faculty members are calling for the state Legislature to launch a separate investigation into how the 23 campuses handle sexual harassment complaints and allegations under Title IX. The petition declares “no confidence” in the board of trustees investigating “these systemic problems thoroughly and transparently.”
The faculty association at Cal State East Bay started a petition last week calling for the Legislature to conduct an investigation in the aftermath of former Chancellor Joseph I. Castro’s resignation after a USA Today investigation revealed he failed while Fresno State president to take disciplinary action against a former campus administrator accused of sexual harassment.
Following Castro’s resignation, the chancellor’s office announced that it would launch an independent investigation into how Fresno State officials handled sexual harassment reports between 2014 and 2019 and assess how Title IX complaints and allegations were handled across the 23 campuses.
“I don’t have confidence in a chancellor’s office investigation,” said Eileen Barrett, an English professor on the East Bay campus. “They’ve shown us that these internal investigations don’t work.”
Barrett said internal investigations at Fresno State into former administrator Frank Lamas, who was accused of sexual harassment, “didn’t work.” San Jose State’s internal investigations in 2009 and 2010 also failed to expose sexual harassment committed by a former sports trainer against student-athletes, she said.
“The best way to shine a light on this is to have an open legislative investigation, so we can see what’s happening on all of our campuses,” Barrett said.
Sen. Connie Leyva, who chairs the state Senate Education Committee, declined to comment on the petition but referred to her March 1 comments responding to CSU’s decision to launch an investigation.
“I look forward to reviewing the findings of this investigation,” she said in a tweet. “As Senate Education Committee chair, I will then assess the need to hold a hearing to delve further into what happened during Chancellor Castro’s time at Fresno State, as well as what actions may be needed moving forward.”
Assemblyman Jose Medina authored a bill last month that would require colleges and universities to complete an investigation into a complaint or sexual harassment allegation committed by an employee against a student or colleague regardless of whether that person resigns or is fired by the institution. Assembly Bill 1844 would also require that colleges disclose any settlement agreement between the institution and the employee that was subject to a criminal or Title IX investigation for sexual harassment.
The way colleges and universities handle sexual harassment complaints and investigations is “probably a larger problem than just the one or two incidents we’ve seen of late,” Medina said, referring to Fresno State and San Jose State.
The CSU board of trustees is expected to discuss an investigation next week during its meeting. The trustees also announced they would revise a policy allowing an administrator to retreat to a faculty position if they’ve resigned or been fired from their management position. The new policy will prohibit administrators from taking on faculty positions if they have been found to have engaged in sexual harassment or certain other types of misconduct.
Castro holds faculty retreat rights to become a professor at the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus.
“Our faculty are very concerned at the possibility that former Chancellor Castro may choose to exercise his retreat rights to become a tenured professor in our Orfalea College of Business,” said Lewis Call, a history professor and president of the San Luis Obispo faculty association.
Castro doesn’t have a degree in any of the disciplines offered in that business college, Call said. Castro received his bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in public policy from the University of California Berkeley and a Ph.D. in higher education policy and leadership from Stanford University.
“More importantly, granting Dr. Castro a tenured professorship after he resigned for mishandling a Title IX case would send a very troubling message about Cal Poly’s commitment to creating a safe, respectful environment free of sexual harassment and abuse,” Call said.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Cal Poly community fought the welcoming of an administrator for mishandling a Title IX case. In July 2020, the campus hired Paulette Granberry Russell as the diversity and inclusion vice president. Granberry Russell had been Title IX coordinator at Michigan State University during the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. Call said she eventually decided not to work at the campus following an outcry from faculty, staff and students.
“If Castro decides to come to Cal Poly, I think the community might be even more outraged,” he said.
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