A powerful member of the California Assembly is calling for an investigation into CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro’s handling of sexual harassment complaints while Castro was president of Fresno State.
“I was greatly troubled to read the article in USA Today regarding Fresno State University and CSU Chancellor Castro,” said Assemblyman Jose Medina, a Riverside Democrat who chairs the Assembly’s 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.
“As chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, I promise to engage with the CSU to gain transparency and accountability. Moreover, I invite my colleagues in the Legislature to join me in conducting legislative oversight into this issue.”
USA Today Breaks Story About Frank Lamas
USA Today broke the news on Thursday that Frank Lamas, a former Fresno State vice president of student affairs, sexually harassed several women while at the university from 2014 through 2020.
Despite receiving many complaints, Castro recognized Lamas with a lifetime achievement award in 2018. He also applauded Lamas in an email to the campus community when the vice president retired after an investigation found “credible evidence” Lamas engaged in sexual misconduct.
In conjunction with his departure, Lamas received $260,000 and full retirement benefits and agreed to never work again for the CSU. Castro also gave Lamas a letter of recommendation at that time.
Lamas denied doing anything wrong, according to USA Today.
“First and foremost, I apologize to anyone in the Fresno State community who was impacted by Dr. Lamas’ behavior,” Castro said Thursday in a statement issued by the CSU system. “I recognize how difficult this entire process was for the Division, especially those who were individually impacted by his actions.”
The California Faculty Association, which represents 29,000 CSU professors and other employees, says that what happened with Lamas at Fresno State reflects a lack of transparency atop educational institutions.
“This is a problem with the culture in academia. Administrators are more interested in protecting other administrators and allowing them to save face, rather than doing what’s best for students and their well-being,” the association said in a statement to The Los Angeles Times.
CSU Board Chair Supports Castro
Lillian Kimbell, who chairs the CSU Board of Trustees, told The Times that she still supports Castro.
“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,” she said.