Women who accused CSU official of misconduct appalled by outcome

Two women who alleged improper behavior by a California state vice president said they were appalled that he was not disciplined or suffered of corrective action from Sonoma State President Judy Sakaki after an investigation found he engaged in inappropriate touching and made unwanted sexual comments to women while working at another university.

Wm. Gregory Sawyer started at Sonoma State University in 2018, shortly before a Cal State Channel Islands woman complained about his behavior while he was longtime vice president of business female students on the Ventura County campus. The woman was a student when she came across the alleged behavior years before, according to investigation records released by the university.

Sawyer said he did nothing wrong. The inquest concluded in 2019 that he made inappropriate comments about women’s appearance, unwelcomely hugged one woman and called another ‘feisty’, ‘punchy’ and ‘saucy’, according to archives. Channel Island officials determined that Sawyer’s conduct was unprofessional but did not constitute sexual harassment.

Sakaki communicated his expectations to Sawyer following the investigation, a campus spokesperson said, and told him “he must conduct himself in a manner that would never question his behavior.” She then congratulated Sawyer in a 2021 letter announcing his retirement, offering a glowing public assessment of his “invaluable leadership” and described him as “a trusted and beloved campus leader who has had a profound impact on the culture of our campus”.

“We are indebted to him for his vision, leadership and commitment,” she wrote.

Sakaki declined to say, through campus or personal spokespersons, whether she had read the investigative reports to the senior administrator. She declined to comment further on Sawyer on Tuesday, saying it was a confidential personal matter.

One of the women interviewed in the investigation said Sakaki’s response to the findings was particularly egregious because Sawyer remained on a CSU campus after leaving the Channel Islands. The second woman said she viewed Sakaki’s actions as negligence.

“100%, more should have been done. Something should have been discussed – something should have happened,” said Raquel de los Santos, who previously worked for Sawyer. Sakaki “did a disservice to all those students and staff she had to protect as president. … She turned the other way.

In an email to a Times reporter, Sawyer called the investigation’s allegations “baseless.”

The Times reported that Sakaki signed a legal settlement agreement this year with former provost Lisa Vollendorf, who reported sexual harassment allegations against the president’s husband, Patrick McCallum, then alleged that Sakaki retaliated against her. .

The settlement prepared by California State University cost the university system $600,000, records show. It was finalized weeks before former Chancellor Joseph I. Castro resigned following outcry over his handling of allegations of sexual misconduct and bullying against a former vice president when Castro was president of the University of ‘Fresno State.

The revelations about the settlement rattled Sakaki’s leadership of the Northern California campus, prompting a vote of no confidence from the faculty and calls from two state senators for her to resign. Sakaki’s spokesman, Larry Kamer, said Tuesday that “she has no plans to resign at this time.”

It was unclear if she would be attending the next start of college – ceremonies she would typically preside over.

Shiwali Patel, director of justice for student survivors and senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, said employers sometimes take corrective action even in cases where an accused employee’s behavior does not meet the definition of harassment. sexual. Just because someone walked away from the people who filed the complaint doesn’t mean the conduct will stop, she said.

“People can change, but that doesn’t mean having a conversation with a president is enough,” Patel said.

A third woman who was interviewed during the investigation and who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity said she did not “trust the Title IX process” or that she believed CSU had the best interests of the complainants or witnesses in mind.

“It’s about protecting the university,” she said, declining to discuss the specifics of the case.

De los Santos worked as Sawyer’s executive assistant from 2006 to 2010. She told The Times and investigators that Sawyer called her his “work wife.” She said he called her after hours and commented on her appearance. On one occasion, she told investigators and The Times, he took her pants off to check her waist after he mentioned she had lost weight. On another occasion, he threw her a Victoria’s Secret catalog and inquired about her lingerie preferences.

“It was before the Me Too movement and I didn’t know how to characterize it,” said De los Santos, who had previously filed lawsuits against Sawyer. “It’s so disgusting and disheartening to know that he can get away with it. … He changed the trajectory of my life in a way that was really difficult.

Sawyer had spent 16 years in the Channel Islands and was a powerful figure on campus.

‘If you wanted to go anywhere in the Channel Islands you had to know about it,’ said another woman who told Channel Islands investigators that Sawyer acted inappropriately and spoke with the Times on condition of anonymity.

Sakaki’s letter to the campus community when Sawyer retired upset her, she said, but she was not surprised; he had not been held accountable for his actions before, she said.

“Here we go again,” she said.

Los Angeles Times

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