CSU Chancellor resigns amid criticism over handling of sexual misconduct complaints

On February 17, California State University Chancellor Joseph Castro resigned from his position in the California State University system two weeks after an investigation by USA Today disclosed a variety of misgoverned complaints. 

According to USA Today, Fresno State received as many as a dozen allegations of sexual harrassment towards former vice president of student affairs Frank Lamas. The report also stated that Castro personally received at least seven of those complaints while he was president of the university.

Despite Castro being aware of at least seven of those allegations, he never disciplined Lamas. In fact, he continued to publicly praise him. Only after an official Title IX complaint was filed in 2019 did Fresno State put Lamas on administrative leave.

There was eventually a settlement between the university and Lamas, which ended with Lamas’ departure. The settlement also paid Lamas a full year’s salary of $260,000 and it ensured he would be written a letter of reference to find employment elsewhere. 

The investigation regarding Castro produced conversations amongst the Fresno State community. Students, faculty, staff and many more demanded for the former president to resign and/or requested an independent investigation. 

In his resignation letter, Castro wrote, “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. 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.”

Fresno State students shared their thoughts and concerns amid the scandal. 

Kendra Barton, a 20-year-old Fresno State senior stated, “The situation was handled poorly – it makes you wonder how much of this is going on here at Fresno State that we don’t know about. Someone who broke Titile IX rules and mishandled sexual assault cases for so long shouldn’t have a teaching or authority position in the CSU system. I think it’s also disappointing because the school really enforces the Title IX training every year for students, so there was no misunderstanding here. Castro had to know that this was wrong and an insufficient way to handle sexual misconduct.”

Fresno State senior Cody Hill, 22, commented, “I’m glad that such corruption is gone, but if he was covering something this serious up, it makes me wonder who else is in on it?”

Alexis Rios, a 22-year-old Fresno State senior affirmed, “Sexual assault is something that should have been handled and prioritzed a whole lot better, especially because there is so much of that going on.”

Based on a CSU press release, an assessment that will provide insights, resources, and recommendations will be voted on by the CSU Board of Trustees in the upcoming month and will begin at Fresno State. The comprehensive assessment is set to help navigate CSU’s Title IX and civil rights training, awareness, prevention, intervention, compliance, accountability, and support systems.

Below is what some of The kNOw’s youth reporters and Fresno State students had to say about the situation:

Ivan Villanueva (he/him/his)

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