Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that California State University’s negotiation of a settlement agreement with former Chancellor Joseph Castro was for him not to exercise his retirement rights. The university is negotiating a deal, but it’s not yet clear if Castro will exercise his right to retire.
California State University and its board of trustees have revised a key policy and called for an external investigation into Fresno State officials’ handling of complaints of sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation against a senior administrator, a announced the council in a press release Tuesday evening.
The announcement comes four weeks after a USA TODAY investigation found that Fresno State President Joseph Castro mishandled complaints over a six-year period, resulting in a lucrative settlement agreement for the administrator, Vice President of Student Affairs Frank Lamas, days before Castro’s promotion. to the Chancellor of the CSU system.
Castro resigned as chancellor on Feb. 17, two weeks after USA TODAY’s investigation sparked outrage and pressure from lawmakers, students, professors, union leaders and newspaper editorial boards, many of whom have called for his resignation.
Read the full survey:Castro mishandled complaints of sexual harassment. Now he leads all 23 colleges in the state of California.
“It is important that we understand how campus leaders at Fresno State have responded to workplace concerns about Dr. Frank Lamas,” CSU Board Chair Lillian Kimbell said in the announcement. . “We will investigate the past to reveal potential new facts, learn and take appropriate action.”
The chancellor’s office is also finalizing a new system-wide policy aimed at preventing administrators like Lamas from keeping their jobs after being found guilty of gross misconduct, said Steve Relyea, who took over as chancellor from acting after Castro’s resignation.
Although an internal investigation in 2020 found Lamas responsible for the sexual harassment of a doctoral student who worked for him, Castro said he chose not to fire or discipline Lamas because he had “pension rights”. in his contract. Retirement rights are intended to provide faculty members who step down to occupy administrative positions, such as dean and provost, the opportunity to “retire” from the faculty if the administrative position is not functioning.
Lamas was not a tenured faculty member when he accepted the vice president position at Castro’s request in 2014, but he negotiated retirement rights in his contract.
In response to questions from USA TODAY, Castro and Fresno State Attorney Darryl Hamm said retirement rights in Lamas’ contract could have allowed him to return to college even if Castro tried to send it back. Instead, they said, they chose to quietly negotiate a settlement agreement with Lamas to avoid a potentially costly lawsuit on his part and ensure he never returned to CSU.
The settlement gave Lamas $260,000 and a clean record in exchange for his retirement, USA TODAY’s investigation found. Although the agreement prohibited Lamas from working at CSU again, it promised him a letter of recommendation from Castro to help him find work elsewhere.
Hamm and Debbie Adishian-Astone, Vice President of Fresno State Administration, told USA TODAY on Feb. 2 that after news agency reporting exposed the issue, the campus would include “cautions” to remove rights language in future contracts. The new caveats state that pension rights will be revoked if a person is found liable in a Title IX investigation or other misconduct.
“Retirement rights are very important and valuable to our community,” Relyea said in the press release. “This possibility of retirement should be extended to people in good standing with the CSU, and not to people who have committed serious misconduct. The policy needs clarity, consistency and system-wide modernization, which is why we are reforming it.
Despite resigning as CSU chancellor, Castro has retirement rights at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the board announced on its website Feb. 18, after USA TODAY began asking about them. Castro has not yet informed Cal Poly whether he intends to exercise them, according to the announcement.
Mike Uhlenkamp, a spokesman for the CSU Chancellor’s Office, told USA TODAY he expects the board to reach a settlement agreement with Castro.
The board’s announcement is the latest step it has taken in an attempt to rebuild trust with the CSU community after USA TODAY’s investigation.
The Board of Trustees previously announced that it would engage the law firm Cozen O’Connor to conduct a comprehensive assessment of Title IX practices, training, and services across CSU’s 23 campuses, beginning with l ‘Fresno State. Title IX is the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.
According to the board, the purpose of the system-wide assessment is to “provide information, recommendations, and resources to help advance UHC Title IX and other systems for training, awareness , prevention, response, compliance, accountability and support for civil rights”.
“CSU is launching a Title IX assessment in the nation’s largest four-year public higher education system to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff,” Relyea said. “We will continue to reinforce our commitment to be leaders in Title IX innovation and response.”