California State University adopts series of reforms after sexual harassment scandal

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The California State University Board of Trustees, as seen in this undated image on the university's website, met on Tuesday and voted on a series of reforms in response to a sexual misconduct scandal.

In its first public meeting since the resignation of its chancellor over his handling of sexual harassment complaints, the California State University’s Board of Trustees on Tuesday unanimously voted to adopt a series of reforms and reviews in response to the scandal.

The vote took place after a public comment period during which students, faculty and staff heavily criticized the board and CSU leaders for betraying their trust and awarding lucrative settlements to administrations who resigned or retired in disgrace.

The meeting comes six weeks after a USA TODAY investigation revealed then-Fresno State President Joseph Castro’s mishandling of six years of sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation complaints against then-Vice President of Student Affairs Frank Lamas. 

Castro repeatedly declined to discipline Lamas, USA TODAY’s investigation found, even after an outside investigator found Lamas responsible in 2020 for sexually harassing an subordinate and engaging in “abusive workplace conduct.” Instead, Castro authorized a settlement with Lamas that gave him $260,000 and a clean record in exchange for his retirement. Although the agreement banned Lamas from working at the CSU again, it promised him a letter of recommendation from Castro to help him find work elsewhere.

Joseph Castro, who resigned as chancellor of the California State University on Feb. 17 after a USA TODAY investigation, said stepping down "is necessary so that the CSU can maintain its focus squarely on its educational mission."

Three weeks after the settlement, Castro was promoted to chancellor of the 23-campus CSU – the nation’s largest public university system with nearly half a million students and 56,000 employees. He held the position from January 2021 until his resignation on Feb. 17 amid mounting pressure from students, faculty and staff after USA TODAY’s investigation.

Kevin Wehr, a professor at Sacramento State University for two decades, criticized Castro for having “covered up for and paid off a serial sexual harasser” and the board for giving Castro a “golden parachute” after his resignation.



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